the work comes — it goes every call is torture to the bones. we communicate with vigor, yet with ease. patients want to know listeners can schedule their appointments and offer empathy too.
a doctor’s office landed in my teammate’s queue — their issue crept in without cause. a 3-month-old showing symptoms of a virus meant for adults and the elders in the early stages, but really did they know who it would attack and who it would leave alone?
when we start scanning babies with machinery doling out radiation because their lungs are about to collapse, the world is truly at its end. I shout at the screen housing messaging tools and the software we need to scan through thousands of accounts.
it doesn’t shout back.
I can tell my days are beginning to blend — Monday is Friday. Tuesday is Thursday. I don’t know what weekends are anymore. and the lovers of this world continue on, sampling pain in little festive bags — afraid to share their happiness.
who will appreciate it?
“I am spent,” I say this to my mom as she breathes on the receiving end of the call. she’s breathing . . . breathing. how often have we taken this for granted? breathing . . . she hears me — pauses for effect. she tells me she is afraid to go outside and I understand.
I spend many of my days arguing with God — telling him how I really feel. he knows. I know he knows. but, I tell him anyway. I want to wade through waters less choppy and with each passing moment, the hardness comes and my face has bruises I no longer hide.
soliloquecame to me in a dream — it will be a space for my thoughts; both personal and private. After closing A Cornered Gurl to future submissions, I realized, I too . . . had outgrown the space I created in January of 2017. I dreamed of another — one that would speak to my growth over the years and would also be a space with more vulnerable writing — raw details; whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or through verse.
I am a person who speaks to herself often. I have brief conversations when trying to figure out something or if my creative side kicks in strongly, trust that many brief monologues can be heard if anyone is within earshot. soliloque is a space for me to speak my thoughts aloud — to all of you.
Are you listening? Can you hear me?
soliloque is my new publication on Medium. This space will be more of a therapeutic one for me. If you are a user on Medium, I hope to see you there. Peace and blessings.
Working from home isn’t supposed to be painful, too. Is it?
For those of you who have followed me through some recent transitions, you know I changed positions last November. I shifted from working in an imaging facility to schedule patients for their imaging services and invasive procedures instead. The change came with a “Get Out of Hell Free Card” and I happily jumped at the opportunity to be safe at home while still working for an organization that has consumed my life for over three years.
At my previous job, I began as a Patient Access Specialist, assisting patients during their check-in process and showing them to various departments within our facility. My job also included accepting their payments and explaining their estimate printout to them for their services.
And then, there was COVID-19 . . .
And our world changed. We had to prepare ourselves for what was quickly shaping up to be a royal pain in the ass. Our facility needed screeners for Coronavirus COVID-19 symptoms. And since I was my team’s Patient Experience Innovator, I felt obligated to volunteer for this task.
We started off with four screeners. Soon after dealing with a few irate patients and the possibility of contracting the virus, we dwindled down to two. Because of the influx of patients we began seeing for chest X-rays and chest CT scans, it was obvious we needed all Patient Access Specialists at the front desk to assist with the check-in process, but a screener had to remain. That screener was me.
The job . . . was a mind-numbing, heart-crushing, soul-deadening position, but it had to be done. And I am glad my time doing that — screening people in the depths of a deadly virus for the actual symptoms of that virus, is over. But the pain of it all has followed me to the safety of my home.
Although I have no physical contact with any of the patients with who I communicate, I am still there with them. I feel their pain. I try to understand their concerns and their worries. With the Delta variant of this virus scooping up the lives of many, answering the phone to schedule patients for hundreds of imaging scans and invasive procedures is becoming a full-feature film, completely immersed in the lives of others.
Many of the conversations I have with patients now include the following phrases or some variation of them: “I’m sorry, but I have to cancel my appointment. I’ve got COVID,” “Hey! I have to reschedule to a later date. My husband tested positive for the virus,” “I can’t make my appointment. My child’s school sent them home,” or “I’m sorry . . . I’m going to have to bury my mother soon, and I can’t think about anything else right now. I need to cancel.”
And this is my daily interaction — speaking with the sufferers or suffering and my heart is about to explode!
I am often told by my patients who I schedule I make their scheduling experience easier — lighter. I’m easy to talk to and efficient and thorough. My supervisors commend me as their voicemails pile up from little snippets of recorded calls from these interactions. This is all fine and well, but . . . I thought I would feel differently at home.
These are the times in which I am glad I am not completely alone. Many of you know of how I have spoken about and still speak about the healing powers of my little Chorkie, Jernee. She has truly been a godsend. I can feel myself cracking — breaking away slightly, but I can take one look at this being in between calls, and something in me settles, sits back, and realigns itself.
The tears stop flowing. The pain slowly subsides. Life feels fresher — freer again, if only momentarily. Those few moments are necessary throughout my workdays.
What do you say to someone who is going to bury their mother amid a raging virus? How do you comfort a worried parent who has to take time off work to quarantine with and care for her child? How do you comfort a wife who will now be her husband’s caretaker as he wades himself through the various symptoms his immunocompromised body will endure? What do you tell a mother/grandmother whose adult daughter had to be rushed by an ambulance because she couldn’t breathe on her own?
Hundreds of scenarios pass by my ears. Hundreds of people hurting, worried, scared, and counting down the days before death slips them a calling card. All of this . . . and then, Jernee. And then, Jernee. And then, Jernee . . . again and again.
And I have to tell you, I am a bit on edge. She must know this. She sees this. And she doesn’t care. The only thing she knows to do is approach me with love.
And right now, during these dog days of living, I need that love — her love. Right now, I am grateful it exists. She’s not judging me for breaking down. She’s not telling me to be stronger. She is simply being here for me.
Working from home isn’t sheltering me from any pain. It only keeps me safe. And really, is that enough?
I hear of stories from my team members who are still at the facilities, still trying to make caring for patients work and people have gotten beyond rude. I am told patients hurl objects at the Patient Access Specialists or screeners who ask them the COVID-19 screening questions. It gets worse when someone questions if they’re going to follow up with their second dose of the vaccine (really, if you knew how many people actually only received one dose and are simply avoiding the second dose, you’d raise an eyebrow, maybe two).
Is this living? Are we living? When did it ever become acceptable for healthcare workers to be abused based on someone’s fucked up sense of “freedoms” and “rights”? I seriously want to know. Do any of you have the answers?
I sit at home, stare off into space in between calls or I say a prayer or two or three, and I look to Jernee to get me through each day. As time plows on, I hope this is enough.
I hope it is. I really hope it is.
Musical Selection: Michael Jackson, The Lady in my Life
I have been meaning to burn your letter. Not letters, no . . . I’d written you hundreds, maybe thousands, over the years, yet I received one in return. One . . . I’ve kept that letter for nearly eighteen years. I move. It moves with me. It knows every space in which I’ve dwelled. It has its own personality, still reeking of you. Still holding you within its lines.
I thumbed over it the other day as I was going through my file, discarding decades-old greeting cards and tossing meaningless utterances from my gullible years. I almost threw it away. I looked at it and instantly, the pain that comes with having that letter slapped me hard on my face.
I should have listened to the harder me negotiating the benefits of letting it go. But I didn’t. And now, I am debating on if I want to waste lighter fluid and purified water on words that have lost their meaning.
I move. It moves with me.
Have they lost their meaning, though?
If I were to send a quick text message to you and inquired about the beats of your heart whenever I was around, would it be accurate in its detail? Were you always nervous — butterfly-bellied? Did I really . . . really make you feel alive? More alive than he did?
It doesn’t matter anymore, right? What is past is the past. But I go dumpster-diving into my past every so often and I meet you there. We fool around with our garbage — failing to clean it up.
I told one of my best friends I finally deleted your phone number — removed your photos from my bookshelf, stashed that stuffed frog somewhere I can’t find it, and she said, “Oh, really? Now, that is something I never thought would happen. How do you feel about all this?”
Were you always nervous — butterfly-bellied? Did I really . . . really make you feel alive?
I couldn’t answer her then and I cannot answer her now. I don’t know how I feel. At first, I felt relief. It was refreshing to take back my heart — my life. It seemed gratifying.
Now, I just . . . I am not numb. It is not the proper word. I am desensitized, maybe? I am no longer taken with you, but I still want to hold on to you. Does that make sense? And since I can’t have you — something from you, something genuine from you, will do.
I am stuck in this maze. I know the way out. I’ve been here before. You are always at the exit and I stall on getting there — knowing the toll I’ll have to pay will cost me everything.
You blew me away. I was dust. Mere particles for you to dispose of and dispose of, you did. Yet here I am, coming across an old letter that ruminated for nearly two decades and it’s still intact. What would love analysts say? Would they dissect this instance and talk about it during their “You Must Move On” podcasts or prime-time television shows? Are these still relevant nowadays?
I am stuck in this maze. I know the way out. I’ve been here before.
My mind tells me I shouldn’t harbor something that has so much of you in it. I shouldn’t. I said you would remain in these walls — I wouldn’t take you with me, not again. But this letter . . .
It’s really all I have left of you, and I’m not ready to let it go.
*Upon discarding some old things, and trying to declutter for the upcoming move, I came across a letter from someone I truly loved (still love) and one I struggle sometimes, to forget. In a way, I’d forgotten about it because it was hidden. It sparked this piece. Thank you for reading.
The song you will have a chance to listen to below is the reason we have this particular challenge today, beautiful people. Every time I hear this song, my heart gets incredibly happy. I can’t help but smile and The Flamingos’ version is my favorite. I was sitting in my breakfast nook and the song tapped at my head and I had to pull up YouTube and give it about two to three listens. It never gets old. NEVER.
It’s truly a classic that makes me think about love and how powerful love can be when you’ve found the one with whom you truly “only have eyes for”. It settles into my spirit, reminds me of the great times during love, and gives me hope that it does exist and can exist again for me.
So, the challenge? Tell me about what love means to you or how you show love to others or what you love most about love, but do so using five words only.
Unburdened love sweep me away
Okay, writers. Please bring it! This is your challenge. What does love mean to you or how do you show love to others or what do you love most about love? Tell me using five words only. And have fun!
Sway with me . . . The Flamingos, I Only Have Eyes for You