Keep calm and eat knishes


Telling me not to worry is like telling the tide not to come in, the wind not to blow, bears to stop pooping in the woods, and my dog to stop barking like a maniac at the chickens when they get food scraps that she thinks belong to her. Worrying is an integral part of my DNA. Woven into my genetic make-up is the message “if it lives, moves, and breathes, it is worth worrying about”.

I worry about feeding people. Have they eaten enough? Did they like the meal? Is there enough dessert? I worry about people who are near, and those who live far away. I worry about whether I have done enough for the patients that I am responsible for. I worry about research commitments- did I read enough papers? In short, I worry about BEING enough for all who desire a piece of me. It’s not that I don’t want to give….it’s just that by being as thinly spread as I am, the jam on the toast is but a scraping. A ghost of the flavour.

So what is the solution? Surely it is not to tell me “Stop worrying”. I’ve tried that, and I worry that I’m a failure at ceasing to worry. Perhaps just an arm around the shoulder, and a squeeze- just enough to say “I understand; you are not alone; you are doing a good job, making a difference”. Love is sometimes tangible. But sometimes love has to be ethereal. Especially when one of the patients happens to be one’s own sister. I have to entrust the care of her to other nurses. Resist the temptation to cross boundaries. It is a sacred barrier. I must give up- lovingly give up the controls over her life and comfort. Perhaps her being there on the hospice unit makes me a better nurse. I treat every patient as if he/she were my brother/father/sister/mother. And then I eat knishes. The food that makes me feel as if I have been fully embraced by maternal Yiddishkeit. All of the worry melts away for a magical hiatus, as if time and space were swallowed up by a billowy, yeasty pillow of potato goodness.

So the solution? Keep worrying, and eat knishes PRN.

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