Some Monday mornings I am emotionally hung over. I get home after midnight, and try to process some really hard moments, often until 3:00 am. At the kitchen table, usually in the dark, while my boys sleep soundly upstairs. One of them talks in his sleep. He sometimes calls out,”Mama….Mama.” This cues me to stop thinking so much and go console my half-asleep little boy. They wake up revved up and ready to go. Like every other morning. They’re running around. Now they’re out of school. They could ask me to do just about anything and I would say, “Yeah. Yes.” A hundred times, yes. My eyes hurt from crying, especially the right one. I wonder if I may be getting pink eye again. Or if it’s just exhausted, dehydrated and sore from over crying. My accidental exfoliation with the mascara that bled down my face may have something to do with its over-irritation. It serves as a visible reminder this morning of a painful, draining night.
Hard, awful stuff happens sometimes at the end of a really long shift. Normal people don’t want to hear about it. I get it. Last night I walked out of work hating that place. The halls seem never-ending when you’re ready to vanish, escape, get out of there as quickly as possible. You crave the ability to erase your eyes, your heart, and your mind from seeing what you’ve seen. Will five days off really be enough? My husband called to help talk me through my drive home. I could barely speak. Overthinking, sobbing, attempting to process the unfathomable. My chest physically ached and I wanted to throw up. There was nothing in my belly. I had last eaten “resigning or going away” cake hours before to honor an amazing co-worker. I envied her last night. Who wants to know about and experience firsthand the awful, painful, incomprehensible stuff that can happen to kids? Why would somebody choose to work here?
After the cake eating and goodbye party, it got crazy busy. Up and down the halls, popping in and out of rooms, hold your pee for hours kind of busy. I left a trail of spinners, bubbles and other toys in every room that I entered. Except the last room. That last room will forever scar my heart. I will remember the faces of the nurses and doctors. The faces that can not hide the deep gut punching unfiltered reaction to devastating, mind jumbling, heart piercing hurt. Everybody wanted to cry. Everybody. Paralyzed. Daniel Tiger played on my iPad. I turned it off and left to go get some warm blankets. I made eye contact with a nurse outside of the room. She saw the hurt and the pain in my eyes, the same way I saw it in all of my co-workers faces that stood around her bed.
It’s a heavy tugging hurt that weighs you down. Consumes you. Smothers you. If you don’t put up a fight. It makes you think this world is full of awful, cruel people. Sick fucks, for lack of a better word. It scares you. It makes you overprotective, under trusting, and hold those you love extremely close, like always within arms reach. Piled on your lap. By your side. You’re always doing everything in your power to secure their safety. Knowing, deep down that even that may not be enough. It’s so hard to understand if you’re not in those rooms, in those breath robbing moments. Trying to inhale. Then exhale. Just breathe. Don’t cry. Not yet. Soon. When you leave, no one is in the halls so you give yourself permission to cry while you clock out, while you ride the elevator, while you look at the Kansas City skyline and walk to your car. The whole drive home.
The doorbell rang this morning. I still had my pajamas on, I had not brushed my teeth, my hair. It was almost noon. I came to the door. My sweet neighbor stood there holding dinner for us. With the most genuinely kind and caring look on her face. She said that she knew that Monday mornings are really hard. She wanted to help. Pay it forward. She was right, especially today. Perfect timing. Just too perfect. God’s timing. I started to tear up, especially that right eye. She gave me a hug. And she unknowingly did something so much greater than providing dinner for us tonight. She proved that there is a world full of truly kind and loving people who are working around the clock to make it better. I hope that God will nudge me to do something as thoughtful and unexpected as paying attention and showing up for someone when they least expect it, yet need it the most. Thank you, Leslie.