Sunday, October 08, 2006

In Which We Honor Our Limits

The amazing Kim has put up yet another medical carnival, Pediatric Grand Rounds. There are some very moving posts here, and I've now added two new bloggers to my "heroes" sidebar: paramedic Drug-Induced Hallucinations, and neonatal nurse Ants Marching.

I have a friend who volunteers as a NICU chaplain. I couldn't do it. Just looking at photographs of those tiny babies makes me cry. I'm in awe of paramedics, too. As far as I can tell, their job is the medical equivalent of combat duty: long stretches of boredom punctuated by bursts of sheer terror. I couldn't handle that kind of stress.

Okay, so I'm pretty much in awe of all medical people, largely because I couldn't do any of their jobs. Various people who love me get cranky when I say things like this, and tell me, "Oh, nonsense! Of course you could, if you wanted to!"

No. I couldn't, really, for at least three reasons.

1. I'm a physical klutz. You do not want me trying to start an IV on someone, honest.

2. I don't have the necessary knack for math and science. There's a reason I majored in English, and it's not just because I love books.

3. I don't have the physical stamina required for twelve-hour hospital shifts, especially under high-pressure conditions. Sometimes I can barely handle my tiny four-hour volunteer shift.

When I tell people at the hospital that I could never do what they do, they often say something like, "You have a hard job, too." And sometimes my job is hard, but it's hard in a different way. If I make a mistake, no one will die. Even the hardest parts of my job don't seem as hard to me as the simplest parts of their jobs.

I take this as a sign that I'm in the right place.

When I was younger, I thought that I should be able to do anything; if I couldn't do it, I wasn't trying hard enough. I no longer believe that. It's okay not to be omni-competent. At this point, I think I have a pretty clear sense of where my gifts are, and also where they're not. It's important to recognize and honor limits.

I'm doing some of that this weekend. As I write this, our annual diocesan convention is winding to a close in in Fallon, Nevada, about ninety miles from Reno. I usually go to convention, but I'm not required to be there this year -- I'm not a delegate -- and I really needed some downtime at home. Also, one of my goals this semester is to reduce time spent in meetings, since I have a heavier committee load than usual. Convention's basically one long meeting.

Because all of our parish clergy are in Fallon, we aren't having the Eucharist this morning. Instead, we're having Morning Prayer. Morning Prayer's nice, but it doesn't feed me the way Communion does. This afternoon, I'll be doing my monthly Communion service at an assisted-living facility. This evening, I'm going to the hospital. If I went to church too, I wouldn't have time to swim. Swimming is my number one sanity saver. So instead of going to church, I'm going to go to the gym and pray while I do my laps.

Today's ministries are another reason I decided not to go to convention. If I'd had to drive ninety miles to get back to Reno to do the afternoon service, I'd have been completely wasted by the time I got to the hospital.

If I have a choice between meetings or ministry, ministry will win every time.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true. I think there must be a switch in my brain that is set to the "do more than you should" setting some days. What you're talking about here is something I learned to refer to as the spoon theory. That's one way of explaining energy levels for someone with chronic pain, but I really think it has broader applications than that.

    I'm glad you've chosen to honor your limits today. Feeding yourself spiritually is so incredibly important, and so is taking care of our earthly bodies.

    I hope this day is all you needed it to be!


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