It's quite a bit to do with working in an environment that is happy and is beautiful in a lot of ways, but also kind of sucks.
The other day I was involved in a meeting with a family who are just so dedicated to their Mum. So dedicated. But cancer is slowly taking over her brain in a relatively literal sense and they can't let go. And another guy vomited everywhere and concurrently lost control of his bladder while we were moving him; in a moment, vomit was forcing its way out of his mouth with real speed and ferocity, he was also really drowsy, but through the fug of drug- or disease-induced haziness and the violence of projectile vomit, and the slippery wetness beneath him, he was also trying to apologise for not being able to control what was happening. Apologise.
I wanted to be able to be wonderfully in control and help move him with as much ease as possible, but it wasn't particularly graceful. (I also wished along with sedatives and anti-emetics and analgesics, it was possible to put a dose of Dignity in patients' syringe drivers- pharmaceutical corporations: I'll give you rights to that free of charge.) And I wanted, with the family, to feel I was saying things that implied “I fully understand your situation and what is going on for you Mum, but at the same time, I have strong conviction in my clinical judgement and voilà my knowledge...”. But I don't think I really did do that, or say that.
I'm always unsure as to whether I'm doing the best thing, and I'm pretty sure the nurses think I'm a bit of a waste of space at times. And really I feel often I'm not adding anything new to the mix. The nurses and the assistants are so very much the beating heart of the hospice, and I sometimes I feel like a fraud. Walking around in my bright shirt, assuming a sort of self-important walk that is partly to do with the design of the shoes I'm wearing (you know how a pair of shoes can really change the way you walk? Well my Rocket Dog flats impose self-important bounciness), and partly to do with The Fear of Being Found Out: “Ohhh, you don't actually do anything, you make it seem like you have some knowledge base but really just help people stand up and wear flowers in your hair and a smile on your face.”
But then you know what?- the things in my brain making me feel sad?- not cancer. It's not a growing mass inside (or outside) of me telling other cells that were just doing their thing, minding their own business to Fuck Off Thanks Very Much, I'm Taking This Space. It's not gripping me with pain that keeps me awake all night, or nausea every time I think about moving. It's not stopping me from talking, or stopping me from stopping my waste products exiting my body in a socially-acceptable and comfortable fashion. It's not making me unaware of what's going on around me, or unable to get into my own house because of a couple of little steps.
So a little woe-is-me-this-is-sometimes-difficult-to-know-if-I'm-doing-the-right-thing moaning session, whilst being a good way of saying “shh, there, there ego”, or working as a kind of therapy or something, also makes me want to smack myself upside the head a bit, too.
Shut up, Claire. Put your flower in and give someone a hand to stand up.