Sorry Eyes Cut Through Bone

Done with finals?

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Considering joining the circus?

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…maybe I should’ve gone the circus route…wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between that and nursing school anyways…

So how was your year?  If you were here with me I’d make you recount your “high and low” of the past two semesters (or year, if you are a functional adult not bound to college semesters).  OR maybe I’d have to write down a six-word sentence to represent your year.  Those are fun! No really, I’m getting you to do this next time.  Totally different topic: do you listen to Frontier Ruckus?  I just started listening to their new album ‘Eternity of Dimming’ and am really digging it!  They have kind of a Neutral Milk Hotel+Avett Brothers+Folky bent Manchester Orchestra hybrid sound.  Let me share:

“Junk-Drawer Sorrow”

I Met Rebecca” (come ON I can’t resist! 🙂 the song doesn’t start till 2:40 of this video though)

“Eternity of Dimming”

The Rest of Today’s Soundtrack:

“Dreams Today”–Efterklang

“Lost Cause”–Beck

Pale Green Things”–The Mountain Goats

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This is a revised piece I wrote as an assignment earlier this semester as part of a memoir, and it mirrors a post I did a while ago, so just thought I’d share it from the What-It’s-Worth Dept.

I awaken to the shriek of the alarm, it’s 5:00 in the morning.  ‘Awaken’ is the incorrect term, I was never really asleep that night. I’d lain in restless angst, driven by the steady thrill of subconscious panic, denying my brain any peace and rest before clinical.  Panic and dread of all possible scenarios flooded my mind through the night and dragging myself out of bed before the sun was like continuing a nightmare awake.  Somehow I’d be discovered as the pathetic incompetent I was and dismissed from the nursing program, or worse, I’d be the worst memory a patient had of their hospital stay.  Hobbling down the dimly lit street in the box-like white shoes and navy blue scrubs I pray silently.  The car pulls up and I reluctantly slink it as if I was a criminal going in for my 5 years on lock-down.

We arrive at the hospital a few minutes later and head up to the floor where we are assigned a patient. Getting my assignment from the instructor, I tiptoed up to the nearest computer and crossed my fingers as I opened up the patients file.  “What do I say to them?…How soon will they ask for a real nurse?…Oh my gosh, what are these?!”  The voices in my head touting my insecurity and fear at the career-demise that was surely to happen that morning after proving I didn’t know how to take care of people.  Taking a deep breath and finding no other excuse to prolong avoidance of the duties at hand, I edge into the room and awaken my patient gently.  My patient is a woman in her late sixties with short dark hair and weary eyes.  She seems friendly, not too talkative, but her weary contentment permeated her demeanor.  We spent the morning going about the routine assessments and tasks, making light conversation.  I was still mainly guessing at which caretaking tasks I was expected to do, however the highlight of the morning what when when I asked her about how she met her husband.  The weariness briefly fell out of her eyes and was replaced with a warm glint; opening a window to look back into such a story was better medicine than any pill she swallowed an hour ago.  The rest of the day continued with me stumbling through tasks, but gradually feeling at ease with this lady.

Later on that day I walked past her room and heard quiet sobbing behind the drawn curtain. Turning into the room and softly pulling back the curtain, I peered at the figure on the bed.  Not a patient, but the figure I saw was a broken spirit.  Physical ailments alone do not break a human spirit; the body is merely a vessel of such a magnificent creature.

Physical suffering is a catalyst for fear at the unknown, fear of what cannot be controlled.  That fear is what rips at our soul’s seams, what will happen to us? To our family? Who will love us? Are we loved? All questions, that if left unconfirmed leave an emotional cancer.  The unaswered questions will matastasize to unsuspecting parts of your soul and may lurk a while, undetected for what they really are.  By this logic, I should’ve come to the hospital by ambulance.

So there we were. Two broken spirits unable to see past the clouding of fear and uncertainty in our respective circumstances.  Quietly walking in, I gently pulled the curtain behind me and knelt down by the head of her bed.  I asked if the therapist, who’d just been in for a psychological assessment, had upset her?  She responded with an anguished “they think I’m crazy”, and continued to cry.  I stayed there and prompted her to tell me about the choices she was facing; by the end of our conversation she was tired, but tear-less.  Talking didn’t take the hurt and despair away.  Having someone not only listen, but purposefully “pull back the curtain” on her life, was temporary relief.

Sometimes I wonder how many people don’t know or remember what being truly listened to feels like. What does it mean that someone is ‘Listening’?  Listening is not letting someone start a story and then taking over with your own “oh that same thing happened to me” (for the record, it didn’t!)  story that will surely solve their problem.  Listening is not telling the person how they should think, or telling them it’ll all be ok (or my personal least-favorite/least-helpful answer: “just do what you think is best!  try to be happy/fun, do what’s best for you…..lalala” aka “just numb yourself and take care of No. 1 while your at it” Sorry if that’s a tad cynical, and that answer is certainly appropriate at times but don’t just throw it out there to end the conversation).  How do you know that?  Just be quiet, and attuned.

The people who most desperately need to be listened to are often the last people to initiate The Conversation (the conversation that they need to have, not always want to have). In the midst of our own suffering it can be difficult to accurately look at a person without self-righteousness, insecurity or jealously clouding your vision.  It takes a lot of practice, but when we start trying to pursue others in their brokenness we are given eyes capable of seeing people with discerning compassion and love.

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