A Lesson Learned
I spent my afternoon yesterday with a wonderful neighbor-friend of mine, Debbie, who recently retired from a 40 year nursing career, the last 20 as an End of Life Nurse Practitioner at a large local hospital. She’s extremely happy that she is now retired, but it took a lot of pushing and pulling to get her there.
It all began last spring. Debbie confided in me that her recent visits to her primary care doctor hadn’t gone very well. Even with medication, her blood pressure was still climbing. She had been getting lightheaded and was retaining a lot of water. The doctor told her that she should retire, or at least find a different, less stressful position at the hospital. Her husband, who had already retired, wanted her to retire in the worst way so they could start traveling and golfing together. Her kids wanted her to retire and spend more time with the grands. I nagged her constantly to just retire already!
Yet, Debbie kept working and spending her days holding the hands of the dying while waiting for their families to arrive and always making sure they were comfortable. Many days she was the one who had to explain to family members why it’s time to discuss taking away the life support systems. I remember her story one day about a family member that began assaulting her for the loss of his loved one, as if it was her fault, not the heart attacks or the strokes. She had one really hard, emotionally draining job.
I don’t know about you (unless you are a nurse) but I can’t imagine facing that kind of stress day after day after day. For 20 years. No wonder why her blood pressure was getting dangerously high, but she repeatedly said she loved being a nurse, loved her job, and was not anywhere near ready to retire. So I finally left her alone on the retirement issue.
Then, about a month and a half after we all got off her back about retiring, Deb came home from work in the middle of the day. I went out and asked if everything was okay. She looked me in the eye and burst into a huge grin and whispered loudly “You’re the first one I’m telling, so keep it quiet, but I retired today!”
I think my jaw was on the sidewalk as she quickly explained how her Department Head was laying into her for not being at a budget meeting at the same time that she was taking a patient off life support. So, she let him go all crazy on her and when he finally stopped ranting she told him that as soon as she packed up her desk, she was officially retired and right then and there, she packed up and left the building. Right in the middle of the day.
Debbie said while she was driving home it started to sink in. She was smiling all over the place, even while she filled me in on what had happened there was excitement and joy in her expression. I was so happy for my friend! I gave her a big huge hug and we jumped up and down together hugging and squealing like two little girls out on the front walk. The neighbors must have thought we had too much wine with lunch!
So, I guess I wanted to share this story with you because I learned something valuable from this experience. See I’ve noticed, and also heard similar complaints, that as we women are aging, everybody starts trying to mother us. Even husbands are guilty of thinking that because we now have hot flashes, we no longer can think for ourselves. Mine is forever asking me if I turned off the stove, or that he’s driving me to my appointment whether I want him to or not, like I’ve forgotten how to drive! I am sure it is well intended, but I just keep thinking he is being a jerk. (FYI – He’s even older than I am!) My grown children are the same way. Every loving reminder I gave to them as children, they now give to me. I desperately want to remind them that I was the one who taught them these things, and I don’t need to be reminded to put on my seat belt, wear a warm enough jacket, or eat something before I leave. But I don’t, because I know they mean well.
We women even mother each other. We mean well.
Just like Debbie didn’t tell me to shut the you-know-what up and she’ll retire when SHE wants to retire — not when we want her to retire. I got it. She just wanted it to be her decision. Debbie’s a very intelligent, strong woman and entirely capable of making her own decisions. I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide my shame. I was treating her exactly how my family treats me, and I feel so humiliated being treated like that. I owe Debbie a big apology, that’s for sure, and maybe even a good bottle of wine.
So the lesson learned should be clear…we may be menopausal, but we are not feeble minded, not yet anyway!
Enjoying Life after the Big M,
PS – Have you been treated like you’ve no mind of your own lately, just because you are a little older? Any Boy Scouts offer to walk you across the street? Please leave me a comment below so we can all share some of the craziness that we have to deal with — you know, misery loves company and all that fun stuff! Thanks!
About Ann Sandretto: With over 10 years of research behind Hormones-Beauty-Health.com. Ann created alwaysnewyou.com. Ann’s mission is to inspire women to continuously reinvent and renew themselves by providing trusted information, expert advice and a community for supportive interaction. Together with her panel of expert contributors, she shares health and beauty tips with women navigating menopause.