So this is going to be more of a story than a regular post, so take a pass or read when you can take five minutes for a beverage and a load off your feet.
I had a “God moment” yesterday while waiting for my first breast MRI since finishing treatment. Even if you’re not “religious” or “spiritual”, you’ve had one of these. It’s a fragment of time where, even while you’re experiencing it, you can tell that things are aligned exactly as they are supposed to be and whatever is happening was preordained and designed just for you.
I’ve been anxious lately, waking up with this minor feeling of all not being well, of uncertainty, sometimes real fear that things were spinning out of control. I’ve analyzed it to death; politics, my kids not completely where my judgment says they should be, work not being as busy as I like, my parents aging, me aging, the future. Gees you name it, I’ve worried about it lately. I can really let it spin out of control by second guessing every decision I’ve ever made that put me where I find myself today and reviewing all the “could’ve, should’ve” list. Maybe getting all the scans to see if I’m okay was also part of it, who knows? I’ve been trying to exercise and meditate my way out of it, but it has lingered. I’ve resisted pushing it away with food and wine, but believe me, they’re next up as a possible solution. I actually bought the ammunition; tea cakes, English candy bars and cabernet, only to have my kid take care of everything but the wine!
Last week I had two accidents (in my driveway) and a near miss, so clearly this anxiety has robbed me of my mindfulness, being present, which ain’t easy for my monkey mind on a good day. And yes, for those of you who care more about the Z than do I, there was damage to both bumpers.
So in my fog, I screwed up the appointments at BJC and got them backwards, which by the time I figured it out, made me an hour late for my MRI. I’m sitting in the women’s’ waiting room while they “work me in”, reading Health Affairs, God forbid I would just sit and do nothing, when this young lady walks in and sits down. I don’t talk to people in these situations, waiting rooms, on planes, in line; I avoid eye contact and keep doing whatever it is I’m doing. But this young woman began to engage, just small stuff at first; she had been an EMT/firefighter, just moved back to the area. A voice in my head said, “Be present, practice mindfulness, put down the damn magazine and pay attention.” So I did.
Heather had been having seizures, bad ones, and now excruciating headaches, that had landed her at a neurologist and with the knowledge that she had something going on in her brain; either a calcification in her skull or an aneurism. Scary news for anyone, but for a mother of a 2 and 6 year old, even more devastating. Heather had thought this through to the end, telling her husband to remarry if he found someone who loved her children. I remembered those moments; confronted by the distinct possibility of your own mortality, you begin to try and get all the ducks in a row. It’s not your own departure from the planet that haunts you, it’s the trying to get everyone you care about settled and taken care of, so you can leave with some semblance of personal peace.
While she cried softly, I listened to her try to reconcile her obvious deeply held faith, which told her this is God’s plan, with the need to resist and fight. I remembered how kind people, people who loved me and wanted to connect and say the right thing, inevitably said things like, “You’re lucky they caught it.” “It will be fine.” “God has a plan.” All the platitudes we fall back on when we just don’t know how to say, “This sucks and I’m scared as hell too.” There’s also the being strong and putting on a front so you don’t fall apart in front of your friends and family. Heather summed it right up, “You be positive, I need to be practical.”
I shared a bit of my journey, what I felt, how I coped, but mostly listened. They called her name and she left and in my own way I prayed hard for her, staring at a bloody motivational poster of a daisy. Who puts that kind of shit in an MRI waiting room, when if you’re even in there, humor and donuts are what you need. She came back after they had put in her IV and we continued talking. This woman had such strength, such grace, I was humbled. As she left for her test, she came dashing back around the corner, to give me her name and tell me she was on Facebook and would I look for her?
I left after my test feeling completely different. My anxiety gone, maybe not forever, but I don’t have it this morning either. In a few brief moments, Heather had put all my problems into complete perspective and made them the small abundance choices and problems that they really are.
I checked Facebook last night and Heather had friended me. Her children look just like you’d expect them to with a mother like her; radiant smiles, cute outfits and obviously secure that they are loved. She by the way is going to be fine: it was a calcification in her skull and although the seizures continue, they are being controlled by an implantable device. Her health journey is not over, but it is a little less dire.
I made assumptions about Heather; that our lives were very different; geographically, socioeconomically, religiously, politically. But in the end, we were two scared women, wearing hospital gowns and paper pants, sitting in a waiting room, wanting the best for our families, for ourselves and isn’t that what it’s all about for us all?