8 Aug 2012
I graduated with a BSN in 1991. I was 43. I worked for 7 years in the 20-bed ICU of a local community hospital. I was CCRN certified and the nurse other nurses asked for when the ones they loved found their way to ICU. I was the nurse the surgeons asked for when their patients were coming back from OR split wide open with chest retractors in place. Career on track.
I am normally pretty easy going except when it comes to stupidity. I do not suffer fools gladly. The environment is ICU for God sake. Patient's lives are on the line. Step it up a notch people. David was one of the people. David wasn't supposed to be an ICU nurse but apparently no one told him. Therefore, I did not suffer David gladly. David was completely incompetent but insanely competitive. That's an oxymoron of sorts isn't it? Anyway, he determined that I was his biggest threat in the vertical climb so he started laying the groundwork for my extraction. He watched me like a hawk and badmouthed me every chance he got and he ratted me out no matter how trivial the infraction. Really, it was only a matter of time before we squared off.
That day arrive. David was on me from the moment I stepped through the doors... just pickin' and jabbin' and dancin' around me and my module. I could feel my pressure valve hissing and knew, absolutely, what came next. So did David. He'd been working towards this moment for months. He cocked his head to the right, skillfully reached in and pressed the final button.
Now... David's god was one of the heart surgeons. He followed him around like a little lost puppy. How better to exact the final blow than to attack his hero. I tightened up the space between us, then opened my mouth and out it came... a raging river of completely inappropriate and slanderous remarks about the good doctor. Then I just stood there waiting for David to spontaneously combust. David did not disappoint. His face went beet red, the veins on his forehead and neck bulged and he started spitting on me as the raging left his mouth. "Take it back", he said. I countered, "F*** you". And so it went, back and forth. Nothing more. Just those words. We sounded exactly like a cracked CD until David finally struck the desk with a seismic blow and screamed, "You're goin' down".
He meant what he said. He went to the manager and unit director. He told everyone in the unit plus the good doctor himself and I was summoned to the office. I was told to rebut the charges in writing. I did it. I owned it. I wrote the truth and I was quite unceremoniously fired for it... as I should have been. All that was left was the aftermath of consequence.
I clearly remember the drive home. I was sobbing and shaking. Somewhere along the route, I blew a stop sign and was pulled over. My explanation, "I was (sniff, sniff) just fired". Did the officer cut me a break? Of course not. Why should he? My mess. Not his.
When I got home I was relieved that no one was there. In those moments alone, the faux peace of denial settled on me like a sweet salve. I lived in these sunny days of abnegation for a week or so and then the rage began to spew out. This was real. David was to blame and I wanted some payback. And conjure I did. I called my nursing buddies from the unit to see if David was being crucified. He was not. My nursing 'buddies' began shutting me out by refusing my calls one after another..
So I turned to God. "Please God, fix this. I stand contrite before you. I swear I have learned my lesson... please, please, please, please, please". But God isn't in the business of removing consequence. Thus bargaining gave way to depression? I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't engage. I just laid there festering in the cesspool I had created. And finally, when I'd learned all the required lessons, I limped my way into acceptance.
It was only then that I felt shame for my words and behaviors and responses. One evening, I called David to apologize. I told him I didn't want this 'thing' suspended in time and space above us and I offered an apology. He did not response. He couldn't. He was only a phantom of my past... a place that was no longer accessible to me. My vision at this moment was 20/20 as I stared through the shattered pane of regret.
We have all known consequence and regret. At these times we 'wear' the expressions and body shapes that mirror it.
On our way to Chicago, our friend and owner of the condo where we stayed called to tell us that one of the balcony windows was broken. After we unpacked, I went out on the balcony to relax. The shade was down and from where I was sitting, it looked like water had seeped in between the layers of glass. It wasn't until I opened the shade, day 2, that the cracks were actually visible.
The sun was setting and the golden hour was flowing through the cracks creating prisms and all sorts of strange shadows. Instantly, the photographer kicked in. How cool is this. Shoot it backlit from inside. I have wanted to submit an image to 'Create a Filter' for a long time but was just too lazy. But this, THIS was a filter... original and beautiful, so I snapped away. Then I ran inside and uploaded. I was right. The images were every bit as cool as I'd hoped they'd be. Still, something was missing. The shots needed a person. So I drug Tom out on the balcony and directed the scene through the open door.
After I uploaded the people version I was even more excited. So excited in fact, it took me a couple hours to fall asleep as an additional shoot was taking shape in my brain. Tom indulged me the next morning before we headed out. Later that night I viewed them quickly, was really pleased with the work but did nothing more with them until we returned home.
As I started processing the images, I saw a story within the collection. The lines and shapes and sunlit cracks were powerful. Normally, I make an instant image connection to something in my brain hoard... a song, a quote, a bit of prose, a memory. But with this, I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It was so incredibly familiar... so very personal but I just could not connect the dots. I wrote two stories and even posted one completely, then deleted it along with the images. None of it was right. Frustrated with myself, I finally just put it away.
Then, one morning on a Starbucks run it occurred to me that the poses I asked for and shot through the shattered window were the expressions and shapes of the consequences, grief, and losses I have known. I struggled to name it because it was something I had lived but not observed. I have many, many stories about my part in consequences. I think we all do. I feel no shame in sharing them. The aftermath of each consequence has always included personal growth.
I see myself within these images. Perhaps you will as well.