When I first started out in nursing around 30 years ago, I found it hard to imagine being able to do this kind of work after the age of 50. I thought the work would be too physically demanding and while what I do now is not as arduous as working in a hospital, I find myself fatigued all of the time. It's a different kind of tiredness that's robbing me of a good quality of life.
I'm so exhausted that it seems on many days, I feel like I'm walking through mud that's knee deep. The nature of my work is also emotionally challenging and while I find great satisfaction in my particular specialty, lately I find it hard to recharge my batteries. Instead of enjoying my time off on the weekends, I find myself counting the hours until I have to go back to work. This is not a good frame of mind.
It's not really the work responsibilities that are a problem--the straw that is breaking the camel's back is again a worry about my safety. I've had 3 incidents in a month that have shaken me up. Even though I have an escort who is fully equipped and trained to see to my safety, I still feel so vulnerable.
The first event was on an evening I was sent to a house where the next door neighbor had a never ending train of visitors coming and going the entire time I was in that patient's home. If it wasn't a drug house, I'm a monkey's uncle. The second, more frightening event happened last week when my escort and I were leaving a house. Two city police cars raced down the street and pulled up with a screech three doors down from where we were standing with our mouths hanging open. Four cops jumped out with their weapons drawn and I about shat myself thinking I was about to get caught in the crossfire between the police and the neighborhood thugs. The next day, my security escort called to tell me the police were closing in on suspects they thought responsible for a home invasion where the criminals had kicked in a door 5 doors from where I'd been, beaten the elderly occupant and stolen her car. The very next night I was sent to a home in the middle of a neighborhood of abandoned houses. One house after another was a boarded up dilapidated mess. As we were leaving the patient's home, two men were exiting the abandoned home right across the street. They startled and worried me and I couldn't wait to leave that neighborhood.
What in the hell is wrong with me that I continue to put myself at risk night after night, and is it any wonder I feel the way I do?
These incidents aren't uncommon for me and this safety issue is the source of my anxieties that keep me awake at night. It's also at the core of all my agida. I'm pretty close to thinking I've had enough and it's all over--decision wise--except the planning. You know, it only took me two years to finally hear what the therapist told me when I told her what my job and territory were like: "Quit! What are you waiting for? A tragedy?"
The hows of doing this are what I've spent my weekend discussing with my family and friends. You know, can we afford this? Will I do well without a schedule? Can I still work as a contingent employee with more say over my assignments? How will I pay for my yarn or vacations? Can I bear the thought of not nursing? It's so much a part of who and what I am that I'm not really sure, but I'm not losing any sleep over this. In fact, I've slept more peacefully these past couple of nights with the knowledge that I'm close to a decision that is likely right for me and for our family.
Maybe I could be a barista in my next life--I hear Starbuck's gives its employees a free pound of coffee every week. Or maybe I can finally take that class in bread baking at Zingerman's Bake House. Mmm. Perhaps I could finally work on that knitting certification and teach knitting. I could combine them all by opening a store that sells yarn, coffee and artisan bread. The list of things I want to do--if only I had the time--is fairly long.
I'm going to dare to dream of how to reinvent myself and that alone feels good.