A bad day, or two, or a few you can cope with. Shrug it off. Find some distraction with family and friends.
But recently the bad days at work had been ongoing for weeks with no relief. Bad shifts, bad outcomes, bad people, bad, bad, bad. There was no additional help for the increased volume. Exhausted and frustrated, nurse call-outs were at a record high and we were all getting 3-4 requests a day to come in on a day off or a vacation.
With the relentless strain at work, I also had a lot on my plate at home. Just after the holidays we put our house on the market, downsizing into our dream home condo in less than 2 months. If you've ever sold a home, I don't have to tell you how nerve wracking that is…we had a LOT of showings before getting an offer less than 2 weeks on the market. It certainly seemed much longer. My husband took on the lion's share of responsibility, running around with the dog during showings, coordinating inspections and repairs. He went well above and beyond his fair share and coping with the idiotic demands from the Buyer's Agent from Hell (please, rot there. You know what you did). The final straw was the one thing I had been looking forward to. I had booked a weeks' vacation 7 months prior, before we had any thought of moving whatsoever. Instead it was another source of anxiety with the mechanics of moving house a couple of days after we returned home. I was overwhelmed. Every day brought a new problem to be dealt with at home, and I was brining my work home with me. I didn't complain much, but felt angry and sad and withdrawn.
After a particularly horrific night, staying two hours after the end of my shift with a critical and dying patient, I didn't sleep well. I was up early the following morning, mechanically let my dog out, set out her food, made coffee. I was in another world with my still-racing thoughts when I realized that she didn't come back right away as is her habit. I saw her out in the marshy area behind our house, circling, wagging her tail, darting about. She had found something...or something had found her. "Please let it not be a skunk" I mumbled as I set off through the brush in pajama pants and rain boots to retrieve her.
What had captured her interest was a deer. She was lying in some brush behind a log, sitting up in plain sight. She looked at me, back at my dog, then at me. "Well, she is either hurt or protecting a young one" I thought. I ordered the dog home.
About an hour later I went out to see if the deer was still there. It was. This time it attempted to get away and tried to jump over the log, but was stuck half way across it. I could see it had an injured leg and knew I had to contact someone to take care of it.
I started with a call to local police, who suggested I notify Fish and Game. This was no easy feat on a weekend. About 1/2 dozen calls later I managed to find a number for dispatch.
The warden who returned my call said he would be there in about an hour.
In a little while I went back out to check on the deer. She had settled back into a spot near the log. Unspooked, she gazed at me steadily. I felt very sad as I stood quietly watching her from 20 feet away. We were both helpless. She, injured and in pain, me unable to help. "I'm sorry," I whispered. "It will be over soon".
When the warden arrived I led him to marshy area. The deer was still, lying in the brush, alert, wary. She did not try to run. "I'm going to have to put her down, she's got a broken leg at least and is not in good shape. I'll have to shoot her"
"I know, it's what I expected. It's for the best"
I didn't want to, but felt a responsibility to stay where I was. I was not ordered away. The warden walked back into the brush; he withdrew his handgun and fired two shots. It was over.
I got a good look at her injuries as he dragged her to his truck. Not one, but two broken legs, clearly not new injuries. She had suffered a long time. "There are people in need who can use the meat", he said, glancing at me and seeing my eyes were shiny with unshed tears. "She won't go to waste".
"That's good", I choked out. I thanked him and stumbled back through the brush as the deer was loaded into the truck.
When I returned to the house, I buried my face in the coats in the hall closet and sobbed. Sobbed out all the emotion I had been suppressing for weeks.
My husband didn't understand. It was not about the deer. Not really. I felt like I owed it to that deer to be with her when she died. I do it for people all the time.
I just don't always cry for them.