This post goes out to my blogger buddy @medicthree - (http://www.medicthree.com) whose been having a few rough shifts lately. If you’ve been having a few rough ones lately, this one’s for you too. It’s kind of a rambling, disjointed post about emotions in EMS. It made me feel better to write it. Here’s hoping that it makes you feel better to read it.
Cruising down the interstate has always been a Zen-like experience for me. I do it a lot due to living here in the rural Midwest. I like it. It’s a quiet time for me to be alone with my thoughts… which can be both good and bad I guess. It’s not uncommon for me to point my car in the direction of some commonly travelled to destination and be exploring the depths of my subconscious mind the whole way. It’s my meditation time, my time to reconcile the goings on in the world with my opinions on them. I’ve had some of my biggest epiphanies with my foot on the gas pedal. Give me the radio, the open road, and a not-so-specific time to be somewhere and I can solve almost any problem I’ve got.
This morning’s cruise home from my Northern job was no different. Today the world was subtly shining with a brilliant white coat of ice. The icy fog that had lingered all night had coated each individual twig, blade of grass, and exposed surface with tiny fernlike diamonds giving the quarter-mile or so of visibility around me an eerie, ghost like quality. It was beautiful. I wonder if anyone else calls this stuff “Ice fog”? I do. At least today I do. My father taught me that pilots call the small ice that builds up on the leading edges of airfoils and antennas “Rime Ice” and it was forming on my antenna as I cruised down the highway. It made me remember my dearly departed dad and smile to myself as I did it. Remembering things he taught me tends to do that. I’ve found that as I progress deeper into my own path of fatherhood I remember the things he taught me more and more. I try to pass that on to my own son but I suppose that I’ll always worry about not being able to live up to the task.
See what I mean? Just thinking about the drive time tends to make my thoughts ramble. Perhaps everyone does this, perhaps not… but I would think that everyone has their time alone with their thoughts. My time is my drive time. Perhaps it is yours as well.
Being a paramedic who thinks while driving affects my rides home from work the most, I believe. If you’re in the business, you know about the peaks and valleys of emotion and the human condition that we witness on our shifts. My drive home is my place to sort them out and reconcile the lowest valleys with the highest peaks so I can be more balanced. There’s been times where I’ve gone through a toll booth with tears streaming down my face, trying to regain my composure to give the toll-booth guy my patented “You ‘ave a good day, my friend” as I hand him my eighty cents. Other days I’m laughing like a fool while blaring European techno, country western, or whatever tripe the pop station’s playing repetitively these days. Sometimes I’m sullen, thinking about some stranger’s death that shouldn’t have happened. Sometimes I’m elated, thinking about something that’s just full of EMS win. Whatever the case, my thoughts tend to run down the calls I had over the previous day’s shift and I dissect my decisions and the circumstances that lead me to make those decisions while I’m sitting there alone in the car. I think that it makes me a better paramedic to do this, I also think that it keeps me only borderline insane. Someone once sent me an e-mail with tips on how to keep oneself with “A Healthy Level of Insanity” and I love that term.
I’m sorry that this post is just a bit of rambling on about emotional stuff, but I hadn’t posted in a while and this Sunday just felt like a good day to let my fingers put something out there. I’ve always believed that EMS people experience the world differently as they live their “Life, under the lights”. Our experiences and the viewpoint they give us make us just a bit different than our neighbors. We laugh at inappropriate times, our thoughts sometimes wander, and we take some things more seriously, and some things less seriously than others. While collectively we EMS people are a diverse lot, we share a common bond that could make me comfortable sitting down to throw back a cold one with almost any of my colleagues. That is, until we get onto a debate about some minor topic and both of us are right beyond the shadow of a doubt. I’ve told students that in the decade or so I’ve been doing this, working in a high-stress environment, surrounded by type-A, ADHD personalities who make their living on making the “right” decisions every time, I’ve ticked some people off along the line. If I hadn’t, I’d have been doing it wrong. I tell the students that they’ll tick some people off too and that they should have fun with it while trying to be as nice as they can and realizing that they can disagree with someone without having to dislike them… and vice versa.
Sometimes, this job sucks. Sometimes our best isn’t good enough… and sometimes we think that we weren’t able to our best for whatever reason. Those times are low times that can consume you in total darkness. Sometimes it’s just the opposite and your shift full of EMS Win leaves you full of inflated confidence. The lows are days when I drive the speed limit, the highs push me over a bit. My advice is to just remember what’s important to you and what your end goal in life is. You’ll get there if you keep travelling in that direction, no matter the speed you’re going at the time. Remember that this profession is like a sine-wave with peaks that can thrill you and valleys that can um, kill you if you let them get to you too much. Just remember, my friends. Someone up there has a purpose for all of this that we’re not meant to understand. Just keep doing your best, honestly putting forth the effort that leaves you honestly convinced that you’ve done your absolute best for everyone you’ve been charged to take care of and you’ll survive this stuff out there.
And keep driving.