I was invited back to my alma mater today to spend an hour or so speaking with nursing students, giving them a “real life” perspective, answering whatever questions they might have.  It was informal, there were about eight or so students there, and it was actually very fun.  I tried to give them honest answers while also being subtly subversive, and not totally toeing the College of Nursing line.

(por ejemplo:  One of them asked, “So, the summer between my junior and senior year — should I apply for an internship?  How should I do that?  Should I just apply as a nurse?  Or should I take an additional class?”

The other nurse who was there, very nice girl, said, “Well, it depends on your career goals, and what opportunities are available to you, and….” on and on and such, and then finished with, “So you have a lot of different options for that summer.”

They looked at me.

I said, “Go to Costa Rica.”

Mouths collectively dropped.

I shrugged.  “You’re going to be doing this for the rest of your life.  You will not have problems finding a job.  You will always be a nurse after graduation.  So this is your last summer as a student, not an adult.  Go!  Travel!  Get the hell out of dodge.  Or just sit around watching TV and eating bonbons.  Whatever makes you happy.”

Ha, I liked that answer.)

Anyhow.  I digress.  About two thirds of the way through, a student from the back of the room asked, “What was your most stressful moment?  I mean, have you had a moment where you just fell apart?”

The other girl didn’t have an answer.  I couldn’t believe it.  She and I both agreed that our work is stressful and we’re always anxious when we walk in the door (you’d be a fool not to be steeling yourself for a difficult eight hours), but she actually could not think of any experience that caused her to describe herself as, say, a puddle of heartache and tears.

So I told them this story.

And as I finished it, I realized that I was crying.

I also realized that I have never spoken about this before.  I summarized it with my parents, but they had already read the journal account of it.  I had never told the story, out loud, before, remembering everything as it happened, speaking the words out loud, “And then I saw the sheet over her head.  She was dead.”

Speaking is different than writing.

That day isn’t clear to me anymore.  My memories of it are more like pictures, still-life images and hazy impressions of what happened that day.  I don’t re-live it, I don’t dream about it.  I don’t think about it much.

It’s snowing today, just a little.  It’s cold and icy out there, and Adam and I are both inside, curled up in different rooms, each writing and watching the world through our computers.  And I look out my back window and see watery sunlight, a white sky, the grey tangled branches of trees.  And I can hardly remember Kayenta.  Still-life images and hazy impressions.  I can’t believe I lived there.  I have no memory of who I was then, and I certainly don’t know who I am now.  I am still adrift.

But people, in general, search for anchors, search for connections to other people, looking for something strong and tangible, and I end up getting pulled in.

The man with nine fingers still has his hand — they were able to save it, and he was discharged home with home care nursing for dressing changes and antibiotics.  We parted with a fierce hug, and he gave me his business card so I could keep in touch.  I don’t know that I will.  Today, two students approached me afterwards, and we talked at length about particular fears and weaknesses that I had shared about myself, and that they identified with.  They both have my e-mail address, and I’m sure one of them will write.

I am comfortable drifting, for now.  I feel safe as a ghost in my own life, just existing in the day, in the moment, trying not to be pulled in any direction.  But people pull me back.  I almost resent them.  The difference is, they see me as alive.  I see myself as a shadow.