Thursday, April 8, 2010

What My Hands Remember

My hands are mannish and rough. If the rest of me were not visible you would name me as Crone rather than Mother. But even as Maid I had old hands. My hands are wizened by years of hand washing and hand holding and they are not strangers to work or dirt or other hands. They have been the first hands held by countless new humans, fresh from the peaceful lair called womb. Tiny hands gripping my mawkish, oversized crooked index fingers. I hope my hand was the first of many held, for safety, strength and passion. The trust those new humans put into my hands was pure reflex response: put something in a baby’s palm and watch how the fingers close around it. One of the many subtle signs of fully functioning human-ness: you can hold hands at birth.

My hands are care worn, like my heart. My heart and hands are covered with sunspots, wrinkles, finely etched crevices from the burdens they have carried. These Icabod Crane fingers are part of a last hand held. Ugly but strong they sought the hand of the dying to offer up comfort or courage to take those last breaths. A human touch to ease the passage but whose ease is still unknown: mine or theirs? Some have gripped with powerful strength afraid to let go of this familiar plane of consciousness no matter how hostile it has become. Others offered me a quiescent clasp of mottled warmth more to assuage my own regret and sense of loss knowing they must travel to the next place and reunite with near forgotten hands, eager to welcome them and love them once more.

That’s a meditation I wrote as a response to Luis Alberto Urrea’s writing prompt he offered on his fan page at Facebook. What a gift to have a 21st century master respond to my writing. I don’t even care if he tells me to never ever EVER write anything aside a shopping list, my name or a mortgage check again. This prompt: “What My Hands Remember” could be the first step towards moving my life’s work into the right brain place of the metaphysics of Care, and away from the left brain place of tasks and deadlines. The weight of burn out I’m suffering threatens to reduce my patients to disease states rather than fellow human beings who are suffering. I hope this sticks because I am rapidly becoming the nurse I have absolutely no respect for and frankly hold in contempt: The nurse who doesn’t care. Yeah, the job is done, it’s done correctly but it’s done by an automaton and not a flesh bearing warm blooded human with a soul.

“Today's Blessing: ‘I have come out of that landscape, that mud, that silence, to roam, to go singing through the world.’ Neruda”

Naruda always manages to say it just right and I stumbled on this lovely line today which describes how I felt last night contemplating the prompt. Only I’m not a poet and couldn’t frame my emotions in such a beautiful image.

I’m not sure if I’m to the point of “singing through the world” but I’m humming and the tune is catchy.

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