“You have a lot of stuff going on,” the emergency room doctor announced to my father and me.
He was rather good-looking in a gruff, sarcastic, and dry way with slicked back dishwater blonde hair that was losing its hair gel glue so strands of his hair fell to the side to his side burns. He could maybe, just maybe, pass for a doctor actor on some soap opera, I thought to myself.
It was just another Friday night. I just happened to be in the emergency room. I must admit this was not my usual Friday excursion. My usual was gallivanting with friends for a delicious dinner (it always comes down to food for me) or lounging in my apartment munching on popcorn and watching movies. I had been in the emergency room for over 8 hours—more hours of sleep that I get in a day. I had intense nausea, every urge to puke my guts out, and flaring and screaming back pain. I had IV fluids going in the crook of my left arm and had undergone the drawing of vials of blood, a CT scan, and an x-ray. All in all, a probably most memorable and party-filled Friday in comparison to all my other Fridays.
I looked at the emergency room doctor without a hint of surprise. There was nothing he could say to shock me.
“Dehydration, low grade fever, compression fractures, abdominal free fluid, and urinary tract infection,” he proclaimed.
He did not even take a breath when he spouted all of those out. As for me, in the midst of my fog, I could not help but think what started this.
It started with a headset.
The headset for work was to arrive over a month ago. Two weeks after the headset was ordered, my body began gnawing at me with discomfort. I’m accustomed to daily bodily aches and soreness and have come to appreciate these to tell me that I’m still alive and kicking, for not feeling any hurt or pain means that I am dead. I dutifully continued to follow-up with only little to no regard as a response as my body slowly began to turn on me and rebel from gnawing to then talking to then shouting to finally screaming and throwing a massive temper tantrum for me to end up in the emergency room.
Out of all the findings that good-looking emergency room doctor announced, I was shocked about the spinal compression fractures and urinary tract infection. The abdominal free fluid was a bit disconcerting, but not too terribly surprising since I was monitoring cysts since the hysterectomy. It had been ages since I had a urinary tract infection. What the heck were these compression fractures? The irony of this all was just weeks ago, my aunt just had surgery for compression fractures. Out of every single person in my family, my aunt and I were the most eerily body similar when it came to our disjointed joints, rebellious and finicky bodies, and high tolerance for pain.
When the body is in distress, the fight or flight is ignited. For me, the fighter in me rises up over the flight. Suddenly, all the stress about work and a stupid headset meant little to nothing to me. Abruptly, the mantra I hold strongly to that “there is nothing more important than health” was shoved to the very forefront. Therefore, this past week was one doctor appointment after another, another vein punctured after another to draw vials of blood, multiple radiology scans, dealing with continued nausea and a poor appetite (completely unlike the foodie in me), struggling to walk, feeling lethargic and run down, and clutching my burning and aching back and abdominal areas in a natural inclination to protect my angry body.
How could something as simple and small as a silly headset turn so complicated and colossal? How is it that the littlest things can be blown out of proportion starting in our mind to then fallen pieces like dominos that clash and collide into one another? When has this happened to you?
In the midst of exhaustion, frustration, and trepidation, I am feeling something that probably scares and startles me more than anything else: Infuriation.
Infuriation at me for not taking care of myself sooner. Infuriation at people who made broken promises and do not acknowledge (aka: Do not care). Infuriation at the amount of paperwork that creates increasing barriers and broken bridges. Infuriation at my overly persnickety body. Infuriation at systems that are full of bureaucracy and are becoming exceedingly cumbersome and even corrupt. Healthcare is massively different now than years ago with it becoming more and more corporate than care.
For the first time, my idealism is being punctured and perhaps even a bit pulverized. I always believed in seeing the good in people and situations. I always believed that what goes around comes around. I always believed in good. I had believed that a silly and stupid headset was going to be delivered and that the managerial staff cared just as much about my health as all my past managers had when I underwent my hip replacement surgery and then hysterectomy.
For as long as I could remember, my Dad said that I was an idealist: “You believe in fair, justice, and that things and people should be a certain way, but life and the world does not work out this way. No perfect world. No perfect person.”
My friends say to me: “Look, you can’t expect anything from anyone. When you start to expect, you start to think you are entitled. You can only hope from people. It’s sad, but the good that comes out of it is that when you do not expect anything from anyone then you are surprised when they deliver and do more than you could ever imagine. There are evil people in this world. There are people who do not care. You have to accept that they do not care, care about yourself, and move on.”
It is very easy for me to play the blame game and point fingers at others at work and even more for not acting upon their spoken words, but where does blaming actually get anyone? Where does anger actually take us that can be anywhere good and only in the bad and even danger zones? It is easy for me to rewind in my mind to when I was younger and people gave me lots of passes and went out of their way to take care of me professionally and personally. It would be easy for me to feel entitled and say that I’m disabled and not work and give in and become all my health challenges rather than rise above them. It is easy for me to believe and say that I deserve good results when I work hard to earn my keep. It is very hard for me to look at myself and now question my positive perspectives that I always held on to that if you do good and are good then everything will be okay and good. It is even harder for me to ingest and digest this latest wake up call of my health to a loud and booming wake up call of flickering and changing colors of new perspectives that kindness can actually be seen as a weakness, good does not always overcome the bad, and what we believe should happen does not happen. I also cannot help but ask unanswerable questions as why certain people seem to live an un-ordinary and unpredictably unique life of ongoing challenges while other seemingly live a much more quiet and predictable life of marriage, children, and work. It is hard to deal with the real without becoming jaded, suspicious, angry, and mistrustful of others and of life. It is hard to balance this all.
As I sit here with a burning and aching back that is now forcing me to get up more frequently than ever, I cannot help but ask such even more burning questions from this wake up call as: What is the difference between expectation and hope? How can we hold on to the balance of idealism and realism without giving in to cynicism of people, situations, and the world we live in?
I tried to explain to one of my friends that expectation is measurable while such beauty as hope and faith are not but felt in the depths of us to not give up on ourselves and on people no matter how ugly and easy it is to give up on idealism rather than stay up when realism hits. I drank in the words of my friends that everyone wants everything to be free now and feels that they are entitled rather than earning their keep, but freedom comes at a heavy price. Essentially, nothing is for free. Most of all, I’m thinking the answer to all of my questions is gratitude. Great gratitude when the good happens and even greater gratitude when the bad happens to put in new perspectives and lessons learned. We learn much more and appreciate much more from the bad, the mistakes, the chaos, the hurt, and the pain. We recognizing and appreciate the select few earth angels that remind us of the kind and the strength of kindness over the weakness of meanness. We work to embrace our wake up calls that are filled with life experiences, questions, and new perspectives.
Are you an idealist or realist? Can realism and questioning idealism cause cynicism? Have you become more jaded and cynical of people? What is the difference between expectations and hope? When have your perspectives and values been questioned to not necessarily negativity but to realism? When was and what was your wake up call?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,