“Art raises its head where creeds relax.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche.
One of the rewards of working as a nurse in the hospital is the schedule. To some it may not seem so rewarding, but if you play your cards right, you can end up having four days off every week! Of course you have to work long shifts in order to do that, you may even have to work when the world is asleep, but then you are off! It wasn’t always that way. When I started work as a nurse in the US many years (many decades!) ago, we all followed a set schedule. We worked eight-hour shifts, 6 days in a row, off for two. That meant that every six weeks we had a four-day weekend. Too bad if you had something you wanted to do on a weekend you were scheduled to work.
Then there was the time of the ‘Baylor plan’. You could elect to work Monday to Friday only (eight-hour shifts) with every weekend off, while others chose to work weekends only (twelve-hour shifts). Those who worked the weekends (with an optional extra eight-hour shift during the week) could be paid for 36 or 40 hours, even though they only worked 24-32. Since many nurses are working parents, there were benefits to working either schedule. Then there were those who would do both, by taking jobs at two different hospitals. It must have been West Indian nurses they were thinking about all those years ago when they did that skit in the show ‘In Living Color’. ‘Mi have four jobs!’. This was in the era before what I call the ‘mad Covid money’, but nurses could make good money and buy that big house that they then never saw. The Baylor Plan died a long time ago. Probably the Finance department got tired of paying those extra dollars. Nurses have always been the largest item on the debit side.
Even if you didn’t have two or three jobs, there was always overtime to be had. There would be a call from the staffing office on your day off, begging you to come in, or to stay over if you were already at work. Whether you did it out of a sense of duty (‘we have no one to work!’), or for the extra dollars in the paycheck, which may well be erased by taxes, you’d end up pulling that extra shift. Sleep deprivation became a habit, not an exception. Switching from one shift to another made your body permanently confused. Studies even showed that working nights beneath fluorescent lights increased shift workers risk of cancer.
It has been many years since I worked those long shifts, those night shifts, those weekend hours. I remember my youngest looking at the schedule on the fridge as I got ready for work one evening. He listed off all of the other names he saw, and asked why they couldn’t go to work instead of me. The guilt of the working mother.
Whether we get into a high stress, demanding field like nursing because of our personalities (codependency being a big factor also), or the field nurtures us into becoming over-committed, learning to relax when away from the job is not an easy thing to do. They say that there are those who are under so much tension at work (not just in nursing, of course), that when they do take time off, the act of loosening those neck muscles results in a severe headache, spoiling the first day or so of the break.
Last weekend my family and I gathered together in Kissimmee, Florida, to meet up with my nephew and his family who had traveled from the UK. Thanks to Airbnb we could live like the other fraction do, staying in a villa we could never afford to buy. Six bedrooms, four bathrooms, a pool, an open-plan kitchen, dining, family room. The primary bathroom with walk-in closet and huge bathroom was larger than the ‘tiny houses’ that I love to watch on TV. Put a kitchen in the walk-in closet and you have everything you needed! In the upstairs family room there was a ‘fuze-ball’ table that allowed my grandkids and I to square off against each other. Outside attached to the pool there was a ‘warm-tub’, jets like a jacuzzi but without the heat. And those jets of air forced water against your back like a high-powered massage.
But the ‘piece de resistance’ was the water park in the center of the resort, which featured curling slides, a pool, and best of all, a ‘Lazy River’. Florida being a land mass filled with rivers and canals, a true lazy river activity involves floating on huge inner tubes from one spot to another downstream. And since Florida is so flat, there are none of the challenging white-water rapids to overcome, just a gentle nudge from a friendly alligator or two! But this Lazy River was man-made, meandering around the water park, with no particular place to go.
Since it was my first time, once I clambered on to the ring I was a little lost, swirling around in a purposeless circle. This was after my daughter and I had realized that this water was not heated, and it being Florida in October, there was a distinct chill to it! But once it had numbed your nether regions (the only portion of you consistently submerged), it was quite pleasant!
The Lazy River, like the natural one it mimics, flows in one direction, so there was no oncoming traffic to look out for. However, once you had figured out how to maneuver yourself, and avoid logjams or little kids, it was very relaxing. My daughter (not her first time) suggested we hook our feet together, and like a mother elephant leading her baby, I was able to keep us mostly out of the way of others. But of course there were the occasional collisions. ‘Sorry’, I would shout. Until my daughter informed me that Lazy River etiquette allows for bumping into total strangers without apology. It was expected, she told me, you are supposed to bump and nudge each other along. That is what helps to propel each other along the way.
What a philosophy! Letting yourself go with the flow, not worrying about other people, knowing that even if you did hit an obstacle, you were actually helping to provide forward momentum! I got it, but needed several reminders as I tried to move out of the way of others, or tried to boost us ahead of a clump of floaters who were indulging in adult beverages and going nowhere fast! Just relax.
It is a shame that we have to learn to relax, to be lazy. In a society that measures you by your ability to be productive, we are driven to work harder. We feel guilty taking time off, and have a hard time disconnecting. We spoil the family time by thinking about the things we have to do. We have forgotten how unhealthy it is when your work/life balance is off. We need to implement the Lazy River Etiquette.
On this Friday morning I am realizing that I need to practice what I preach, as I am guilty of all of the above. I hope that you are better at it than me! For there are consequences, and often life has a way of reminding you when you least expect it.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family! May you learn to let go, and go with the flow!