Sometimes the poison picks you
There is a lot we get to control in life.
But I'll argue that there is a LOT that we don't get to control. That's simply what it costs to be complex creatures living in a world shared by other complex creatures and complex situations. We kind of operate in this strange, delicate equilibrium (on our good days) that's surrounded by a chaos that we often just kind of shrug off and merely understand as "normal". Or maybe that's just me - maybe for some people, everyday just plain sucks?
One thing I've learned from working in the medical field is that you can do everything right in life and still find yourself in one of our hospital beds. Sometimes in life, we don't get to pick our poisons and instead the poison picks us. Situations like that have inspired particularly popular bumper stickers and moments in movies like Forrest Gump.
When I was a newer nurse, I worked on a medical telemetry floor. On a given night shift, we would have 5 patients under the care of 1 nurse. A lot can happen with 5 patients on your watch!
I had made friends with a new patient on our floor, Mr. F.
Mr. F was not terribly healthy - his liver was messed up from a lifetime of drinking. But I liked him - he was kind to me, easy to talk to and get along with, and just had a nice way about him. Because his liver was so sick, the doctors put him on an incredibly restrictive diet in hopes of seeing some improvement in his situation before they could ease things up on the restrictions. I remember on one of these restrictive days, a pizza commercial came on TV and the man was salivating and fixated on it - talking about how good a pizza sounded.
As soon as they lift his dietary restrictions, I'm buying this man a pizza, I thought to myself.
The next day, I was in his room taking care of some work when a doctor entered to update Mr. F. The conversation quickly became serious.
Your liver isn't getting better...we can't fix it. So we can either continue with the restrictions to buy you as much time as possible, or we can lift the restrictions and we can focus on whatever comforts you like.
Mr. F, at first appearing paralyzed, had now begun to sob. My hand had found his during the talk between him and the doctor, and all I could feel was fear in him through our touch. I held his hand for a long time after that. He couldn't let go.
He would later decide to focus on comfort. So the next day I came in with pizza for him.
Even when he wasn't assigned as a patient to me, I would still come in and spend time with him. He was alone in his room. And he was slowly slipping away while alone.
I was assigned to him the night I knew he would pass. I had decided to knock out all of my tasky things ASAP, so I could be with him as much as reasonably possible. I didn't want him to be alone. But it was a particularly busy night. If memory serves correct, one of my other patients was delirious from alcohol withdrawal and I couldn't get a free minute away from the mess being caused by that.
Mr. F died alone.
Sometimes the poison picks us. I kind of think of it as the price for being alive. There's so much we don't get to control in the world around us.
I can't end this blog on this note, though. It wouldn't feel right to me. So maybe I'll add a few final thoughts.
When I can't control things, I always try to take a moment to think about the things that I am thankful for and how good things have been despite whatever hardship it is I'm facing. Everything in life is temporary, including the bad. The bad is not exempt from being temporary. When the poison picks you, my hope for you is that you can continue to move forward and get through whatever it is that you are enduring in this moment. And that life afterwards is something worth loving and appreciating. I do believe that we all deserve happiness and fulfillment.
And that includes YOU, dear reader.