Wednesday, August 31, 2011

one of those days

"i think part of the struggle just of everyday life is
remembering that the love is wake up in
the morning and realize that love is there in the world -
if i can do that, that's half the battle." - kathleen norris

i was grumpy. and exhausted. and sick.  and i had an out. 

but i was also stubborn and trying to prove i wasn't that weak, and i said i would go see patients in clinic that afternoon anyway.  then take a sick day tomorrow. 

i regretted that decision as soon as i walked into the building.  it hit me how very tired i was. how i could be home napping instead. but it was too late now.  oh well.

the first chart i grabbed wasn't that heavy. i figured it would be an easy patient. until i realized that this was chart volume 2.  i scanned the face sheet: hiv. bone disease causing 2 hip fractures. cancer. depression. chronic pain. neuropathy. 

as i was heading down the hall, the nurse practitioner gave me a heads up: he just got a new electric wheelchair. and he cut his hair.

i walked in the room, expecting someone grumpy and bitter and sick.  instead, he was smiling. 

how are you, i asked. honestly, i think this is the best i have been in my life, he said. 

how is the pain? it's there. but i have this new wheelchair and it's totally opened up the world for me. i can go places now, i don't have to sit in my apartment. i may try to take a computer class at the senior center soon. they offer them sometimes.    

i hear you cut your hair?  yeah, i donated it to locks of love. i wanted to give back. i smiled inside, wondering what kind of wig would be made from middle-age, graying, ex-hippie hair.

the attending physician came in. we talked some more, sorted out some medicines, set up follow-up visits.  at the end, the attending prayed with him: god, we thank you for the blessings you have brought in this man's life, for his health, for your grace.

i cringed inside.  blessing? very little of his story felt like blessing.  but he took those small moments - leaving his house without the pain of walking and giving away his hair - as gifts.  and i was humbled...because i know there is sickness in my body too. there are limits and exhaustion and fevers and feeling like i am missing out on life and worry that these little symptoms now could be harbingers of a coming disaster. but there are moments of grace too - people that notice when i need a day off, sunflowers blooming on my walk home, sisters who don't care if you use their popcorn maker, dinners with friends, and patients who remind me to name the good in my life.

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