And this does not refer to the kind you think I mean. No, what I'm talking about now is the other kind: that feeling of helplessness as you watch someone go down the tubes and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it.
In my other career as a critical care nurse, I've watched many triumphs and failures in the past thirty years or so. People who should have died that lived, people who should have lived who died, and everything in between.
Last night, I took care of a patient who, not many days before, had been reasonably healthy, but a virus of some kind had severely damaged her heart muscle, and I spent the wee hours of the morning hours watching it fail. That is impotence; the knowing that it was happening, and not being able to intervene.
I was on edge, watching her every breath, every movement, looking for a sign to prove that my sense of foreboding was incorrect.
Sometimes I really hate being right.
Not long after that, we admitted an overdose; the screaming, combative kind that makes you wonder why they couldn't have traded places with some others who really wanted to live, but didn't.
I have to remind myself that we only see a very small percentage of the population come through our unit, but sometimes it's hard not to come away with the attitude that this whole world is just plain fucked up.
Is it any wonder, then, that I write fiction? The happily ever after kind of fiction? Actually, viewing the world through a nurse's glasses is probably why my heroes are such sweeties--not arrogant, belligerent assholes--and my heroines are strong, just like nurses have to be. I avoid brutality in my writing as much as I can, but unfortunately, that threat of danger keeps pages turning even better than the anticipation of a hot love scene. I wish it wasn't so, but, unfortunately, it is.
Why are we so fascinated with the horrors of this world? Don Henley put it best in his song "Dirty Laundry", a satirical view of news broadcasting, when he observed that "It's interesting when people die." Well, let me tell you, it's not interesting when people die. It's a waste.
If all the the resources in this world were spent on promoting life and health rather than death and destruction, we would have reached so much further as a civilization.
But what do I know?