Today I may have experienced every emotion I can think of.
It was my last day as a nurse today. Well, I’ll still have a nursing license and call myself a nurse, but it may have been the last shift I ever actually look after people. Directly. Many mixed emotions.
I approached this day with a lot of trepidation. People kept asking me if I was excited, but the truth is, I am not, I am apprehensive. I was feeling very comfortable in my job, confident that I knew what I was doing, or how to find out if I came across things I didn’t know. I don’t feel like that so much right now.
So the anxiety associated with this particular day set me up for a bit of a roller coaster from the start.
First off, I had trouble finding an outfit to wear which would mark the occasion appropriately. Once that hurdle was crossed, I set off for work, dropping Aimee at day care on the way. I paused in the parking lot and she hopped out, tossing “Bye, Mommy!” over her shoulder as she ran to the front door. She looked so small and so grown up all at the same time. So independent, but still so needful of parental support and guidance. Utterly typical of her age, I suppose. Anyway, I watched her trot off into the school and felt a melancholic tug in my gut, remembering when she was small and fat, innocent and full of wonder. As she entered safely into the school, I drove away, reflecting on her remarkable maturity and my feelings of parental guilt for not wanting to stay home with them to watch it happen first-hand. A feeling I have essentially come to terms with, but energy-sucking nonetheless.
So as I was driving along, I examined this feeling in my gut, and tried on the idea that emotions all feel physically the same, but their identifying tag is the only difference between guilt and anxiety and sadness. So to make myself feel better, I tried attaching a different label to my guilt/melancholy/anxiety. I tried pride. I decided I should be proud of Aimee’s confidence, and the fact that she really is growing into a smart, industrious, resourceful girl. That thought lead me to think of other things I am proud of, like the fact that I drive a stick shift, and I am smart and educated, and my marriage is still happy after 11 years, and that I have managed to maintain my young adult weight despite a marriage, two pregnancies and the subsequent children, a full-time job, university courses, a hundred pee-wee hockey games, and some bad nutritional habits (thank you genetics). I am proud of what I do for a living, that I do important work,that I make a difference to people, and that I do it well enough to have earned the respect of my colleagues. There are a lot of things that I like about me, and the things I don’t like, I am working on. I think that means I am mentally healthy.
By the time I got to work, I had reframed my earlier angst and was all set to see where the day went. I had quite a hilarious coffee break with my favourite colleagues, and settled in to save some lives. I saw a few patients, joked around with my doctor, assisted with a nurse-ish procedure. I enjoyed the feeling that I know what I’m doing, and tried to savour it, knowing there were only a few more hours of that likely to be experienced in the next few months.
At the end of the day, I returned to my desk to find a card and a gift from my doctor. The card had a very nice message from him, offering me congratulations and best wishes on the new job. I was touched. Of course he was nowhere to be found, when I went looking for him to give him thanks and a big hug, so I sent an email. Which was probably just as well, since I was feeling just a little tearful, leaving all that was familiar and comfortable, and seeing the evidence that I am well-liked and respected. A little despair. A lot of anxiety.
So I managed to keep it together and drove home, to my comfortable little house, with my loving and affectionate millionaire’s family, and dinner almost on the table. Now, hours later, and after a chance to engage in my therapeutic rambling, I can list a very large number of acutely experienced emotions that I’ve been through today… anxious for the unknown, grief for the losses – my childrens’ infancy, a job that I have enjoyed, sad at the death this week of a favourite patient, proud of my accomplishments, joy in the company of my friends, touched by the thoughfulness of my colleague, embarassed at the extra attention, unsure that I made the right decision, at loose ends, not sure if I made the reight decision, comfort in a well-known role, loved, liked, respected. I can’t say it’s every day I get to experience such a range. It was an interesting exercise to consciously observe my own mental and physical reactions to the events that happened throughout the day. And in the end, my observation that emotion is all the same physical sensation, no matter what its label, was accurate. It’s how you spin it that makes it a good feeling or a bad feeling.
How’s that for philosophy?
Further to the last entry, I thought that I should make sure you knew that we didn’t call the new puppy by Jack’s suggestion, Asshole. We called her Jinx. It seems to fit.
And further to the cute things they say, I thought I would share a little gem that Jack came home with the other day. No longer the cute innocent little comments like calling the syrup in the bottom of the fruit cup “peaches water” like he did when he was two – this time, he solemnly informed us, “My friend says girls taste like chicken”.
I asked him how his friend knew but didn’t hear the answer for the roars of laughter coming from my own head. I thought I might offer him a taste of my arm, so he could confirm or deny his friend’s assertion with first-hand knowledge, but thought the humour might be lost on him. It about made me pee my pants, though (weak bladder muscled being yet another legacy of the darlings). I love those moments – they really do make you feel good.
So I suppose that the theory that girls taste like chicken may remain untested in our family for now – probably for the best. I’ll let you know the results of any scientific experiments, though.