You know how frustrating it is when you are suffering, and everyone else is just be-bopping along?
Well, they aren't.
Reader beware: Yes, I am a humorist. No, this blog post isn’t that funny. On this blog, I “free fall” and lay down my burdens—whether they be academic, cynical, laughable, or painful. Endure/enjoy, but at least relate?
I got cocky, and endured two unnecessary weeks of anxiety. Here’s a tip for the rest of you who suffer from anxiety disorder, situational depression, seasonal affective disorder, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder: If your doctor offers same-day screening results, STAY and get them! I have dense breasts with lots of cysts and scar tissue, so I always must get an ultrasound after my mammogram. It causes me to be at the medical office ALL DAY LONG. Well, this year, I had a lunch appointment at 11:30, and did not want to miss it. Plus, I felt like I “knew the drill.” So, I got a little overconfident and told the mammogram lady that they could call me with my results. Bad idea. (Ironically, my lunch date was with my buddy Baton Swiper, who is the chief fundraising guru for our local Susan Komen office.)
Writers love irony, yes, but this writer HATES anxiety. It is my constant companion and arch nemesis. I believe the Bible 100%, but anxiety/depression are real, too. Sir Winston Churchill referred to his bi-polar disorder as his “Black Dog.” Anxiety growls at my brain’s gate daily. I memorized these verses long ago:
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:27
They help. My Black Dog growls. They help. He growls. I recite and pray. He growls. I pray. I live. He growls. I pray.So, the nurse called me back and said, “As you know, you have dense breast tissue, so we typically do an ultrasound.”
“Okay, yes.”“Also, [he growls] the doctor saw a change from last year on the right breast. We need more pictures in addition to the ultrasound.”
I thought, Matthew 6:27. Geez, why didn’t you schedule this all on one day, Bug? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I’m dying. I’m dying. Matthew 6:27.Why in the helk would I put myself through that? Because, reader, I exalted myself thinking I knew my future and would be fine. Here’s another Bible verse.
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:12Before my “abased/humbled” self began to rough draft my eulogy and instruction book for life for Sharky, Gnome, and Tall Child, I did call the doctor to make the first appointment possible, two weeks away.
Does anyone else out there imagine her own eulogy? I think it’s dang thoughtful. I offer my writing services to help others write them, so why wouldn’t I write my own eulogy to help MY family avoid the arduous task? I already gave them my funeral plan in my last book, Theories: Size 12, Go On, Get Mad, But You Know You Agree. Maybe I’ll do the eulogy as a blog post, but I don’t want to tempt fate. See? There I go again, trying to control my life.
Anyway, I humbled my mind for two weeks, and certainly did NOT add one day to my life. I texted my “inner circle” of friends: Lifestar, Frisky on Water, and OMGG. Frisky actually had breast cancer. She brought that hell home to all of us 40+ ladies. She rallied and recovered and set a stellar example of guts and faith for all of us. She replied to my text with a picture message that said:
Not once does the Bible say, “Worry about it,” “Stress over it,” or “Figure it out.” But over and over it clearly says, “Trust God.”
Good stuff. I cried. She helped me. The growls sounded less frequently. I told God I trusted Him, but as Margaret Thatcher once said, “I’m extraordinarily patient, provided I get my way in the end.”
Those 14 days gave me ample time to reflect on anxiety and pensiveness. Where do you do your best thinking? I do mine three places:
1. Exercising (I don’t work hard enough to lose my thoughts)
2. 2:30 a.m. – 4:00 a.m. Every DAMN morning. As my favorite doctor and one of the best daddies ever says, “Mama’s wake up in the middle of the night and try to solve every problem in the world. Do you need Ambien?” He’s awesome, and the father of two of my Owls (as in squad). In his office for my first time, I looked up to see their photos on the wall. I said, “You know I am best friends with [Daughter 1] and [Daughter 2].”
He said, “Oh, I can’t discuss them. HIPAA LAWS."
Huh? Their picture is on HIS wall in his office. I think HIPAA prevents him from discussing me with them, not vice versa. Still, I was there to see about Sharky’s hearing, but the super doctor turned and asked, “Okay, we’ve got him figured out. How about mama?”
Folks, my father died in 1993. In that moment in the doctor’s office, I couldn’t remember the last time a man asked me how I was doing. I immediately got emotional, and said, “I’m tired.” He talked to ME about ME for a while. I’d tell you what he prescribed, but he’s big on HIPAA, and I’m big on him, so you’ll have to guess.
3. Hands down, I do my best thinking in the grocery store.
My office is in my home, a ’56 rancher with quirky parts from the crazy lady who lived here before Tall Child and I bought it. My office contains hundreds of books, hundreds of photos, Tall Child’s desk from grade school, tables, bookshelves, paintings, stuff, stuff, stuff. NO curtains on two huge windows. A Bird feeder I can see from the inside is suction cupped to the left of my computer. There is almost no blank space, except for the floor, where I roll my estate sale $40 leather chair from corner to corner to expedite my work and keep my train of thought intact. In more concise terms, I need LOTS Of stimulation to think.So, anywhere I go that has lots of stimulation helps me think. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s bad. During those two reflective, self-loathing weeks, I went to the grocery store twice. I thought of this theory. Whatever we carry, we carry into the grocery store, so: We shouldn’t suffer alone, especially at the grocery store.
I took my self-pity and a list to Kroger. I also carried something “different in my right breast.” I’m on a low-carb diet with Tall Child, but I was starving, so I stopped at the deli. When I’m in one of my “states” my appetite leans toward easily digested carbs. I am sometimes too dang sad and nervous to chew. Amen? Is that why, at funerals, we eat casseroles and cake?
Anyway, I got a small container of forbidden pasta salad from the deli. And a fork. And a Diet Coke. I ate that as I shopped, then threw away the slimy container in a trash can over near frozen foods. I kept the top of the container so I could pay for the now digesting food. Not only was I cheating on my diet, I made a dumb move. I threw away the part of the container with the price tag on it. Ugh. So, when I finished unloading a week’s worth of groceries that would feed three gobbling guys and me, I said, “I also had this pasta salad. Here’s the lid so you can scan it.”
The young cashier said, “There ain’t a tag.”I said, “Dang. It’s in the trash over by the frozen foods.”
"Huh? I saved it."
“No. There ain’t. Where is it?”
"Huh? I saved it."
“No. There ain’t. Where is it?”
She said, “What do you want to do?”
I said, “Well, I could go to the deli on the other end of the store and ask them to make a new tag. Or, I could go dig through the trash. Or Kroger could just give me a cup of pasta. What do you think I should do? Dig through the trash?”
Reader, remember, my nerves are raw because I had that “different thing from last year” in my right breast. And, if you read my last blog post you know I was FIRED from my corporate gig (finance, not writing) in May. My life and self-esteem feel fragile these days. I wasn’t rude; I was sad and needed help. I didn’t have the energy to go to the deli. I dang sure wasn’t going to dig through the garbage. She said, “They can’t make a label without something in the box. I guess you’ll have to get it out of the trash can.”
I said, “I’m not doing that.”
She said, “I don’t know what to do.”
I said, “I think Kroger’s doing okay. I think you should just GIVE me that food so I can go home. I’m really tired.”
She sighed and walked off toward the deli. I looked at the bag boy, who was an old man. He shrugged, “She’s young.”
Meanwhile, the chick behind me is pushing her buggy right up my A$$. I did not make eye contact. No way. That would not be good for anyone. Cashier girl came back and said, “How much was your food?”I pounced on this ridiculous opportunity, and said, “One dollar and 85 cents.” Reader, I have NO idea how much that pasta salad was. It was like impromptu Price is Right! Pressure! She punched it in the register, and finished checking me out. I guess a non-kid employed his/her autonomy to my benefit.
I keep making mistakes. I keep embarrassing myself. Maybe I’m losing it, or maybe my Theory “If folks think you’re crazy, you can breeze through life” was bad karma.
I teared up on the way to my car. I tasted emotional defeat almost as strongly as the basil pesto from that salad. I don’t like basil. Why do I keep eating it?
Other people struggled through the grocery store that day. Let’s go aisle by aisle and think outside the barn. Every aisle contains triggers.
Flowers: Carnations scream death. Or, worse, wedding. Or, disappointment in men. When I finished graduate school, I bought myself a huge bouquet. The last time Tall Child bought my flowers, I was pregnant with Sharky (now 15) and it was TC’s mother’s idea anyway, so it didn’t count. Yep, I said it.
Deli – Divorced/Widowed, thus the appeal of single servings.
Diapers – Infertility or worse. Been there. Sucked at it. Wrote a book about it.
School supplies –Struggling student? Teacher who can’t get hired?
Candy – Diabetic? Fat? On a freaking diet again?
PASTA – Diabetic? Fat? On a freaking low-carb diet again?
International – Illegally living in the USA? I bet you think our American version of “ethnic foods” are terrible. I’m sorry. I know you are homesick and doing the best you can, more than most Americans can comprehend.
Meat – Broke? Been there. See you on the pasta aisle where you can feed your family for $2.00, but you’ll wreck your blood sugar and your low-carb diet.
Soup – Old? Taking care of someone old?
Wine – Alcoholic?
Family planning – Husband committing adultery? Should you make him wear condoms? Was your teenage daughter just here?
Cigarette/express lane – Bad habits suck, huh? Especially when you pass by a smorgasbord of temptation every time you need cat food.
I pondered this as I searched for snacks in the olive area and almost head-butted a college kid. An overweight man (likely there for the same foods), saw my flustered attempt to apologize to the kid, and said to me, “Ah, the humanity of it all!”
YES! Humanity is all up in that grocery store. But, there’s good news! Always.
We do not suffer alone. Once, years ago, when I was in one of my “states” after taking yet another negative pregnancy test (I took 65 negative tests altogether), I sat in the parking lot and cried for a good half-hour before I sucked it up, put on lipstick, and left my car to enter the store. When I returned, I saw a white paper on my windshield, and, of course, thought it was an advertisement. It was no such thing.
It was this note from a stranger, and it immediately changed my spirit.
That was at least nine years ago. I keep it in my wallet. That scrap paper helped me then, and does so now.
LUCKILY, my mammogram results were good. I had another cyst, probably because of the toxic combination of items from all the aisles listed above. I informed my circle; we all praised Jesus.
The news could have been drastically different, and I respect that. Reader, if I could put that note on your windshield at the grocery store, I would. You do not suffer alone.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
And, to whoever wrote that note, I thank you.