Wednesday, December 22, 2004

So Tired

I’ve had enough. About noon yesterday, I packed my care book, filled out Paid Time Off forms and clipped my unfinished work onto a clipboard and left for home.

Three funerals in two weeks is plenty for me. I couldn’t stand the idea of looking at another dying face. The feeling that I get is like some inner tank is sucking air and there is a sort of sputter in the engine. There’s no power and it reminds me of the greasy shops that I’ve worked in where mechanics said stuff like, “She’s starving fer fuel.”

I cruised on home genuinely relieved that I didn’t have to share in any more grief until after Christmas. Some of is my own stuff. My own Dad died at Christmas and that anniversary is tomorrow. I need space to do my own grieving. I know that I can’t be with patients when I’m “starving for fuel.” I made a terrible mistake one time while doing a rotation in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) where I was the resident chaplain for over thirty babies and their families.

One day I was exhausted from work on another unit and I decided that I needed to get a break. It occurred to me that the NICU energized me so it might feel good to be with the babies. After I was in the unit for some time I was called to the bed side of little one who was in crisis. I’m not going to relate the whole story because the upshot was that the family read the tired set of my face and my demeanor to mean that I was convinced that their baby was dieing. The next day I was called into the nurse supervisor’s office for that unit and told that I was forbidden from going near the baby. It was like I was slapped. The family believed that they were protecting their child from some sort of magical influence in me and that my presence would kill the child. As my supervisor and I processed this insult, I realized that there are some things that cannot be hidden. When I’m tired, I just need to rest. I’m NOT Superman.

We are incredibly stupid about this in our country especially in the helping professions. We have this whacked out notion that we must never stop and that rest is a waste of time. I tell the people on my team the self-care is not selfish care. One thing that bugs me is the attitude from some of my fellow ministers that I’m weak if I rest properly and use my time off wisely. That gloating little smirk pasted on some nerdy little “man of the cloth” when I announce that I’m tired irritates me. A country lady who was a member of a Friend’s meeting I once pastored used to say, “I believe I can lay the Quaker down long enough to handle that.” I don’t believe the lady was really prone to violence but I thought the saying expressed my feelings exactly.

Well, I’m going to be and sleep late tomorrow. I believe that Monday I can see my patients with a full tank and a rebuilt carburetor.


At Saturday, 25 December, 2004 , Blogger Larry said...

Ken, you remind me of my last pastorate-- in Wilkes Co. Lovely people, I was always as lovable as possible around them, but I got "so tired". I had a rather lurid youth, what with World War II and the Korean affair, I was what you might call a retarded adolescent. And I cussed.

At Millers Creek I'd get to the point that I wanted to cuss. I'd pack the family in the car and head for the mountains.

But when I got there I no longer had the impulse; it was just an indication that I needed a change of scene.

Being a preacher for most people has to be a terribly artificial existence. In spite of that, the ones I really feel sorry for are those who fit the role like a glove, and become the persona.

At Tuesday, 28 December, 2004 , Blogger Nurse Mia said...

Hope you get reenergized!


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