Here I sit; grumpy, disgruntled, famished, cheesed off, and ready to lash out at SOME ONE…ANYONE! I have been fasting for my blood work and I have lost the ability to be hungry with dignity. Darn those, ‘Save-My-Life-Meal-Plans’ that have been imposed upon me. Why is someone always trying to get me to gain weight? I have had to eat more food, and everyone knows, the more you eat, the hungrier you get. Now when it comes time to abstain, an activity I am a master at, I am unable to shut down the pains emanating from my belly because I have been forced to ‘three-meal-two-snack-a-day-it’ for some time now. Where is the pristine elegance of my posture when the cleansed feeling I associate with an empty stomach envelopes my body? I am hunched up and cramping, and almost howling from hunger! But where am I and how did I get here? I will use my journal to record the events of this day thus far.
I experience a rare case of road rage on the way over to the clinic with a white van emblazoned with the message, ‘Sunnnyside Wellness Centre – Where Old Becomes New Again!’ It is packed full of elderly people who seem to be enjoying a leisurely drive through the city. Talk about crawling along! I bark and growl at them as I putt, putt, putt behind them, my stomach sounding its own alarm as I angrily pound on the horn in my car. But to no avail! The van meanders along the road, oblivious to my menacing threats. When at last it pulls over to the curb to park, I speed by shaking my fist with one hand, while the other hand white knuckles the steering wheel. I careen by ineffectually.
I screech into the parking lot and yank up the emergency brake. I am terrified I am going to be late for my appointment, which the nurses will NOT hold for you, and that I will have to go through this blasted fasting once again. I run up the stairs in the building, clutching my achingly empty tummy as it gurgles and yowls angrily, throw open the heavy glass door, and dash into the office. I nearly run headlong into a pregnant lady who is standing in the doorway nursing her baby. Throwing my shoulder to the right, I lunge sideways to avoid bumping into her. My ankle twists and I stumble uncontrollably into some empty waiting room chairs. My body and the chairs crash loudly against the picture window. My forehead meets the glass with a resounding thunk, and my knees collapse into the plastic seat of one of the chairs that I am in front of. I slowly swivel around to face forward, as my left hand clutches at the bump that is fast forming on my head, and my right hand reaches down to rub my aching right foot. I open my eyes, which I didn’t realize I had closed, and see the pregnant lady shoot me a dirty look before she turns her back on me and continues nursing. At least somebody’s hunger is being satiated.
Slowly I stand up and limp across the floor to stand in the roomy space provided for waiting patients. I am the only person in line. The only other people in the waiting room are the pregnant lady and her baby. I look across at the counter and there are four nurses seated at stations down the line. The first one is talking loudly on the phone to someone about the bursitis flareup she is experiencing in her left leg. She uses extremely colourful language to describe the amount and placement of her pain, and then she stops talking to listen to the response on the other end of the line. The second person is chewing a tunafish sandwich and flipping through an Enquirer magazine, which is also utilized as a napkin when some of the mayo from the sandwich squirts out onto her lip. The far two seats are inhabited by a man and a woman who are having an in-depth conversation about a topic I can’t discern. I wait as patiently as a person with a throbbing head, a strained ankle, and a burning pit of fire in her stomach can. After a bit of time I clear my throat audibly, although I am positive anyone in the waiting room cannot deny my presence because of the resounding noises radiating through my belly and out into the open air. At last, the lady with the tunafish sandwich closes her magazine, after wiping her fingers on the last open page she has been reading, and tosses the baggie that had held her sandwich into the garbage can across the room. t is an impressive shot, as the crunched up baggie sails through the air, bounces off the arm of the male nurses’ chair and kerplunks into the wastepaper basket several meters from where she sits. She reaches into her purse and draws out a tube of cerise lipstick, which she then artfully applies without the aid of a compact mirror. Once this operation is completed, she pops the lipstick back into her bag, turns around and looks at the huge LED screen that displays a large red number and calls, “718.” When she turns back around, I smile weakly at her and move awkwardly towards her window.
“Number please.” I look at her blankly.
“Excuse me?” I ask. She peers at me over her glasses and points towards a ticket machine that stands to the left of the doorway. I had completely missed seeing it on my way in because the pregnant lady had blocked it from view.
“But I am the only person in line,” I counter.
“I need the ticket,” she intones dryly. I stare at her, my mouth twitching unattractively. Then I very deliberately turn on my left heel and hobble over to the ticket machine. I have to ask the pregnant lady with the baby to move aside so I can access the machine. She scowls blackly at me and steps way out of the way. I tug on the paper, rip off number ‘718’ and then make my way back to the Tunafish Lady’s window. I hold the numbered tab up and say in my most pleasant voice,
“Name,” she states. I tell her my name.
“Health Care card?” she asks. I hand my card over. She writes some information down, and then looks at a list of names on a schedule.
“You’re early. Go take a seat and we’ll call you when it is your time.”
“Early?” I gasp in disbelief. I look wildly at the clock on the wall.
“By forty minutes. Go take a seat and we’ll call you when it is your time.”
As a person who used to be perpetually late for ALL engagements, I have designed a complex system wherein I trick myself from knowing the actual time. I cleverly write down the wrong time in my schedule book! By the time the date arrives for me to go, I have forgotten the original times scheduled. This ensures that I will arrive early to all of my engagements. But I’ve never been FORTY minutes early before!
Numbly, I shuffle over to the bank of chairs across from the nurses’ windows and slump into a hard one. Forty minutes early! How could that be: And here I thought I was running late. Oh joy. I am early. Now I have to wait in this antiseptic prison with an elephantine hunger that has left my tummy swollen and reeling with stabbing pains that intermittently jab my insides when I least expect it.
As I sit there, my eyelids begin to droop and become heavy, and I struggle to stay awake, despite the pain in my head and my ankle. I had taken a sleeping pill late last night, which is unusual, because I am on so many other medications I try not to add any more to the particular cocktail I ingest on a daily basis. My alarm woke me early, as I had a list of things to get done before I came to this appointment. I foggily realize I haven’t slept off the effects of the sleeping pill, and I begin to doze in the chair.
“Do not drool,” I keep repeating in my mind, as my head bobs down and then up again when I discover I am sleeping. Suddenly a young man enters from the hallway where the blood is taken. He sees me in my dazed stupor. I try to smile at him, but I stop midway because the excess amount of saliva I have in my mouth threatens to cascade through my teeth and spill out onto my chin. He frowns slightly at me, and then moves towards the pregnant lady with the baby. They share a kiss, and then exit the room.
I groggily look up at the clock on the wall. My eyes take a moment to focus and then I can see the display. Twenty-five more minutes of this agonizingly long wait before my appointment time arrives. Finally, I give in to my exhaustion and close my eyes. Doing so immediately lessons the pain on the left side of my head. I rearrange myself in my chair and doze off accordingly. I am awakened by the doorbell that sounds when a patient enters the room. I am unaware of the time, but I know they STILL haven’t called my name.
“Hey…listen people! The frumpy, middle-aged woman with the belly bursting from famine and the eyes slightly crossed and rotating in their sockets due to a drugged and sleep deprived state is getting ornery over here. Call my name, dammit!”
My eyes fly open widely and I grip the chair with both hands. Did I just say that? Have I lost it and gone postal in the blood clinic? I can feel the suffocating sensation in my chest, as my throat begins to close, that signals the beginning of an anxiety attack.
“Breathe,” I say in my head. “Deep breaths.” I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to block out the inevitable fallout that will occur when I am admonished for my outburst. My body is completely tense and my toes are wriggling in my shoes like they always do when I am stressed. And then…nothing. I wait for it. Nothing again. I open my right eye. The clinic is running exactly as it has been since I arrived.
That was my inner monologue! I didn’t speak that out loud! Relief and euphoria wash through my body in gigantic waves that leave me feeling breathless. I collapse back into my chair, and my toes stop doing their manic dance.
“Number 718, please.” A friendly nurse stands in the hallway holding a clipboard against his chest. I jump out of my chair and dash over to him, the pain in my injured right foot all but forgotten.
“Yes! It’s Me! I’m Number 718!”
“All right then,” the nurse smiles. “Let’s take you back and we’ll have you out of here in a flash!”
I let him lead me away. Somehow, all the anger and frustration I have been experiencing dissipates. He genuinely takes an interest in me, and asks how my day has been going, I release a gigantic, jagged breath of air, and look deeply into his smiling eyes.
“Well…funny you should ask,” I reply, and I find that I am smiling, too.
January 28, 2018
It is amazing to me how the power of a smile can turn my day around…or make it that much better. Whether I give a smile, or I get one, the endorphins in my brain are turning somersaults, high-fiving each other, and generally celebrating life. It’s easy to share a smile when I am happy, but much more difficult to dredge one up when I am feeling low. Yet that is when I need to use those muscles in my face that turn everything upwards, the most.
When I am experiencing difficulties, the last thing I want to do is to look at myself in the mirror. What I see reflected in the glass is not a person who I would consider successful. My image during those times is a constant reminder of how inadequate I feel. How unattractive I view myself to be. But what if just once I stared at myself in the mirror and dared myself to smile? To really exercise my face muscles and come up with the happiest grin I could muster. Would I feel foolish? Probably. Would I inadvertently giggle after I watched my face struggle to remain morose, despite my brain directing it to do otherwise? Most definitely! Would I feel better after doing it? You betcha!
I realize that sadness must be respected and given its due. I grieve at times when it is necessary, and at times when it is not. It is truly important to experience those feelings in real time. But when I am just feeling out of sorts, or when I have had a hard day, I am going to challenge myself to face the mirror and give it my most dynamic smile! The one where I can see both my top and bottom teeth at the same time! And then, if it’s possible, I’m going to share my beaming face with another individual. I’m smiling right now! Go on. Use those face muscles in a positive manner. Take my challenge and see where IT takes you!