My mom made a comment to me the other day as I was maneuvering my grocery cart around the store and talking into the headpiece for my cell phone. I most likely looked: A. like I was talking to the air; B. like I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going; and C. like a pretentious d-bag. She said that I seemed the happiest I’ve been in months, no a year, no a year and a half, okay, since before the tumor diagnosis. She said it was like I was back to my old self – still cynical, and sarcastic, but decidedly more peppy about my cynicism instead of sounding like a deflated balloon. As she started to tell me that, the words struck me as so true that my eyes started tearing, in the store, supposedly talking to the air, looking like a pretentious d-bag.
The truth is that I have been feeling better. So, so, so, so much better. Yes, I’ve run into some *cough* minor snags at my new job, but I’ve been feeling, dare I say it, happy?
If you are the type of person who believes in any sort of fate (I count myself in this category), regardless of its form, then you may or may not care to know that I finally feel like I can see why I had to go through that mess. I see an inkling of sense in it. This is positive. This is progress. It only took 14 months…
That was until my cell rang this morning at 9:00 am. It looked like a local number and I figured it was something work related so I answered. It wasn’t work related, not in the slightest. Suddenly, before I was aware, I was transported back six months, back to South America, back to speaking Spanish, and back to defending why it is I do what I do.Needless to say, the conversation was short, but it left its intended mark. I sneaked outside and cried on our patio.
When I finally plugged the snot and tears to a stopping point, I put on my glasses and walked back into the building. Many of my coworkers know that the fluorescent lights make me sick, so it’s not unusual to see me working in my sunglasses. However, the receptionists at the front desk change periodically as we get new volunteers and the new one did not know me. I had left the building quickly without my name tag, or keys. As I walked past the desk she clucked at me, “Well, what’s YOUR name?”
“Oh is it now?” Her tone was dripping in disbelief, “And I bet you work here.”
“In the clinic.”
“I don’t know you and you aren’t wearing a name tag. I have implicit instructions not to let anyone in who ISN’T wearing a name tag.”
“And I can’t even see your face with those HUGE sunglasses.” She put such an emphasis on the word “huge” it could probably have shattered glass.
I shrugged, “Sorry.” And I pushed past the gatekeeper to my desk where I hoped no one would bother me.
I was wrong.
My boss found me immediately and wanted me to speak with a patient. I fixed my makeup and proceeded to the patient with my little pen and notebook. After speaking to him for less than five minutes, he started crying. His story is not an uncommon one, but it made me realize that every time you feel bad about your life, there is someone who has it worse. Sitting right in front of me was one of those examples. I spoke with him for ten more minutes and instead of merely listening to him, I understood him, I empathized with him. I HAD BEEN THERE. If you believe in an omnipotent, benevolent force that watches over us, then there was no clearer message it was trying to send me: “Move on already. Your time to moan about it is over. Take what you learned and do something more productive.” So I did…or I tried to.
It took months, thousands of miles, and thousands more minutes on the phone with a handful of close friends (did I mention what amazing friends I have?) analyzing and analyzing and analyzing everything ad nauseam to get even this far.
Back when I had been searching for a magic pill to make it all feel better, idiots kept telling me it just took time. Conclusion: Maybe I shouldn’t have preemptively called them idiots.