So I’m totally stealing the title from an email I received from a super smart person I know who “got” my last post, and took the time to answer my question, “What does it feel like to relax?” If you didn’t read the post Relaxed, do so now or this won’t make any sense.
Any-whats-it…the email arrived at around 5:00 am yesterday morning, four hours before my annual physical. Did you know that “they” make you have annual physicals after a certain age? I didn’t, but felt cared for by the appointment scheduler who called me last week and scolded me for not having done all the things a 50-year-old is supposed to do. I’ll take what I can get…care wise.
Yesterday morning I awoke earlier than usual to get my stuff done (the stuff I must do to feel ready for the day. If I don’t do my stuff it’s best to steer clear until the following day). The annual physical appointment was scheduled for 9 a.m. Between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. I had to read, pray, get my cardio in, awaken my daughter and get her dressed, feed her, brush her teeth and stretch her right ankle and find her glasses, and then wait with her for the bus to arrive while wondering if I’d have enough time to create my best Jane Fonda hairdo using my new $25 hairspray. Don’t tell my husband.
The email arrived and I had to make a choice. I could either relax and take great pleasure in responding to the wisdom offered, or I could shift it to the overfull to-do list for an afternoon response and use the immediate hour to get my 40 minute cardio session in before awakening the demanding 12-year-old asleep upstairs. That’s what I’d normally do.
But, given the main point of the post Relaxed, I decided to respond to my smart friend’s email and be happy with a shorter cardio session. At that point, 15 minutes wasn’t going to make any difference on the doctor’s scale. And on top of that, in a way, I had cleared something off my to-do list. Believe me, I recognize how weird it is to think this way, but when you’ve used “doing” stuff as a coping mechanism all your life, it becomes the main grid through which you see your life. Productivity means value, and value means self-worth.
I arrived at the medical office at the stroke of 9 am. The tiny little woman behind the desk made the noises of someone who can’t find your name on a list. “What’s your last name?” I told her. Her head nodded up and down as she broadened her search beyond the little slot for 9 a.m. “Ah, 10 a. m. There is no co-pay today but you can vote on up to five pumpkins.”
I followed her. Normally I wouldn’t have so easily complied, instead sucked into an internal tornado of self-berating insults and doubts about my mental acuity after having screwed up the arrival time.
“You might get in early…maybe someone will miss their appointment,” she said with a smile while leading me over to the pumpkin voting station. I followed her, feeling odd. Why odd? Because I wasn’t bugged. I took my wallet out to pay the co-pay and asked, “Did you say there is a co-pay or no co-pay?”
“No, there’s no co-pay for the annual physical,” she said, smiling. “You can go wait on that side and we’ll call you.”
The waiting area was about half full and I found a spot next to a table of magazines and up against the wall. I like to have a view of the room and limit the options for people to sit next to me. I know.
I’d thought about bringing my Kindle but what would have been the point, right? At least what would have been the point for a 9 a.m. appointment? But for a 10 a.m. appointment, it would have come in handy.
What to do? Oh, what to do? My smart friend’s email offered two pearls of wisdom. The first pearl is “BE where I am.” I had an hour to kill. Isn’t that interesting language? “An hour to KILL.” Why kill it? Why not be present to it? Seemed like a good idea, especially as an alternative to mentally re-planning my day’s schedule, a task with bittersweet results. Bitter because it puts me in an “It’s all up to me” stress trance, and sweet because I used to find time-boxing my day very effective in getting things done and now that I’m a domestic goddess with no control over my time, I continue to hold out hope that “today will be the day” I do something. If you’re following along, you probably see how this feeds into my narrative that productivity means value, and value means self-worth.
Oh, I think I have the Kindle app on my phone! Sure enough, I was enabled. I opened up Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy and began reading this week’s chapter while secretly wondering if the lady sitting two seats to my right was always so cheerful toward her obviously elderly husband. Was she cranky at home? Did she enjoy taking care of her husband? Why did she seem so peaceful? I thought I could probably learn something from her.
“Shannon?” the lady in the dark blue outfit called out from the entrance to the inner sanctum of the office. I nodded her way and stood up, obediently making my way through the door and to the second scale on the left. I decided to avert my eyes from the readout. Yeah…chicken. What would I do if there were a huge difference between the doc’s scale and my home scale? Scale dissonance is bad for the all-important body image.
It was 9:30 a.m.
Hmm. This is good!
“Okay, now we want to get your height, so step over here with your back against the wall and your feet together. And you’ll need to take off your shoes.”
I’ve always been 5’8, a tall woman but not too tall. When I’ve felt the need to be “big,” I’ve worn high heels to achieve a healthy towering stature.
“5’6” and ¾ inches,” she said as she folded the little head knocker thingee down against the measuring rod.
“You’re kidding! I’ve always been 5’8”. How could that be?” I thought for a second. “I had hip replacement surgery a year ago.”
She nodded. “Yep, that’s it. It’s mostly in the back.”
The aging process is a sneaky party-crasher. You don’t notice it until after midnight and by then it’s too late to ask it to leave. So you resign yourself to its company and hope it becomes a friendly companion.
I’d just settled into the warmth of my lovely robe opened to the back when the doctor walked in, and thus began the most unusual and longest doctor’s appointment I’ve ever had. Unfortunately I can’t share the details because of doctor patient privilege, but let me try to paint a non-disclosing picture. (Yes, I know the privilege thing is that she can’t say anything about my stuff…it’s a joke!)
The conversation started with our collective thoughts about big houses and how, after living in mansions for a time, both of us now love the cozy feeling of a smaller house where we can hear someone else sneeze without having to use the intercom. We then moved on to the topic of thinning fingernails and the importance of protein and what the best powders are on the market and how her kids think she puts too many vegetables in their smoothies. From there we talked about an upcoming test where I fear of becoming addicted to the pain meds and she assured me it was impossible for that to happen. And then I asked her for some advice and she got very serious and I felt cared for. At that point she began the exam. She looked at my ears, my nose, my eyes, and listened to my chest. The entire physical exam took about 4 minutes.
When she finished listening to my chest, she asked me about my kids and wanted to know the story of their adoptions. I told her. She sat down, gripped by the stories. At about 10:40, she apologized for having to wrap things up, asked if I wanted a flu shot, and left to go ask the nurse to come in and administer the evil needle’s serum into my left arm. Sucker hurt.
It turns out…ha ha…that the patient before me never showed and the patient after me cancelled.
I haven’t forgotten. I owe you my smart friend’s second pearl of wisdom. It is this: Take only “the next indicated step.”
Is this what happens when you let the day come on its own terms instead of telling it what it can and can’t do? Is this what it’s like to be present and only take the next indicated step?
I think so.
That’s it for today.