03 February 2007

Trying really hard not to skip a beat...

I went to the doctor yesterday. My purpose was three-fold:

1) I wanted to know why it felt as if my heart was literally skipping beats.

2) I wanted to know why I couldn't hear very well out of my right ear and what was causing this fever I didn't even realize I had until his nurse told me?

3) The third item wasn't directly health-related and mostly I just wanted his opinion on something work-related. He actually made me laugh which, given that my appointment was at 11:15 AM, would prove to be the ONLY time yesterday that I would find anything funny. Absurd, sure, but nothing struck me as funny from that moment on. The day most definitely went downhill from that point on, though through it all, I really was glad that he felt sufficiently certain I would live.

The good news was that in his professional opinion (and yes, I asked point-blank and after I did, I would lay good money that he had to work to suppress a smile), he felt I would live to celebrate turning 47 years old. I tease quite often, but I don't think I was teasing so much when I asked him if I would live through my present challenges. Just the day before, I had actually felt like I was going to have a panic attack, right in the middle of having lunch with Vanessa at Roudabush. I started to feel as if I couldn't breathe, the room suddenly started spinning and I had to get up and go to the bathroom.

I was dining (a word that for some reason people insist on inserting two "n's" into or perhaps "dinning" is a different activity I'm simply not privy to) with Vanessa. Vanessa makes me laugh, listens to me, offers me all manner of advice and never does she hesitate to share her opinion and I love all of those things about her and more. Vanessa can cut through anyone's bullshit, but if she cares about you, and I know she cares about me, she does it with love. As I was sitting there detailing for her all of the things that were on my proverbial "plate", including and especially our mutual work-related "issues", I even became overwhelmed and said out loud after listening to the the litany of present irritants I'm dealing with, and I just panicked. Right there on "Southern Cuisine Day" at Roudabush. All of my favorite dishes (except the sushi) and I felt completely overwhelmed and undone. I was in such a state I couldn't even finish my collard greens and I barely picked at my fried chicken. Vanessa even suggested I go get a piece of chocolate from the dessert tray but even that couldn't shake me out of my shakes. For Vanessa to recommend dessert without having first eaten "real food", nearly unnerved me.

Dr. B., who I've been a proud patient of for more than six years, listened as I went on about MAJOR work concerns, the pressure of the past few weeks - the times I've wondered what might be next on my uncertain occupational horizon, not to mention the wringing my hands over the nature of the writing I'm involved with and the pressure attached with it - trying to meet a deadline without winding up dead, working to keep EVERYONE happy which is just so perfectly POINTLESS - even as I write that line, it strikes me as so completely absurd that I should assign myself such an impossible task. Of course I can't keep everyone happy. I don't have a magic wand, (although I do have one taped to my monitor at work - as it turns out, it possesses no magic) and I can't make great things appear nor am I able to make unpleasant things DISAPPEAR. My gosh, why do I sometimes get the completely stupid notion that I can? I don't have that kind of power. I don't want that kind of power. I don't even truly want a "magic wand" even if there was such a thing that did, actually, work.

I remember when I was a little girl and my parents and I would return home from a trip to Southern West Virginia and visiting family, where I knew my behavior would be scrutinized, as would my manners. On the way home from those trips, I would always ask my parents, "Was I good? Did I act OK?". I look back on that now and wonder what made me ask that question? I never misbehaved on those trips. I didn't particularly enjoy them, but I knew what was expected of me in terms of my actions.

There are days that I still find myself wondering, to no one in particular, "Am I good? Am I behaving OK? Have I disappointed anyone? Did I hit my marks?". Many times I feel hopelessly inadequate, that I'm always falling short and never quite making the grade. Who's approval am I searching for? Am I being graded on a curve? Maybe I should simply check-in with myself and worry about what I think. I realized recently that I never ask myself what I think. I'm usually so worried about everyone else's approval, that it doesn't occur to me to consider my very own appraisal and opinion.

I think I'm doing the best I'm capable of and, now that I mention it, I'm doing a pretty darn good job of holding it all together, thank you very much.

My doctor did the most wonderful thing yesterday. He listened. He simply listened to me for a long time before engaging his stethoscope. I didn't feel as if I had to prove anything, or impress him or justify my perceived inadequacies. To be given the chance to vent was more than worth the co-pay of the visit. I'm certain his antibiotic samples will clear up my fever and my ear infection and I'm sure the anti-anxiety prescription will assist in the deceleration of my heart, but probably the most valuable thing that took place was the chance to unload. Just let it go. Verbalize it. Purge. I suspect that nothing I pick up at the pharmacy could be of more benefit. After he patiently listened to my explaining that I couldn't possibly be "all things to all people", he agreed with me and then he told me I was going to be OK. Simple as that. He said it with such conviction, that I couldn't help but believe him.

"Too much adrenaline", he told me, was making my heart beat so fast. "You've got to calm down!", he suggested. I would love to know how much adrenaline I leaked later on that afternoon during an unexpected phone call at work. On second thought, I'm probably much better off not really knowing. I do know that had I been photographed in the middle of that phone call, it would have found my jaw laying in pieces on what used to be my desk at the salon, but I am proud to announce that I didn't cry. I went from being the "cheerleader" to feeling completely cheerless in a handful of minutes.

Thank God my doctor visit went well, because the rest of the day just got more bizarre. I went to work and intended only on spending a few minutes, but as is usually the case, a few minutes turned into a few hours.

Before I went home, I was so completely rattled that I knew the best thing for me to do would be to take a fast-paced walk. It was bitingly cold outside, the sky a slate gray in a most fragile February light. I didn't even know where I was taking me, but I followed. I was in no mood to argue with myself. I never win when I do that. I found myself walking, no make that stomping, into the Port City Java on Front Street. Immediately, I realized the person standing in front of me was my good friend Pat and her wonderful husband Jules. What warm faces on such a dispiriting February day. I was pleased to discover that I didn't forget how to smile and was instantly melted inside their warm embrace. Jules introduced me to a gentleman who, I was told, was his fraternity brother from New Jersey. He most graciously bought me a hot chocolate and I was invited to sit with them which is exactly what I needed to do. It was almost as if they were situated at that exact location, in that precise moment, to remind me that I have some incredibly fine friends. I do know that their warm company erased a great deal of tension. I truly do believe that our paths crossing was probably God's way of helping me forget the very event that sent me on my walk in the first place. Clearly, the whole world had not gone mad.

I finally came home, locked the door to my office, drank some jasmine tea and stared at my monitor for a really long time. I just sat and stared. I don't even think I engaged my mouse. Eventually my gaze was broken when my friend Glen instant messaged me on google and made me giggle. This faithful NYC friend drew me out of my mood and, along with it, away from myself. He made me laugh, even though I really wanted to stay pissed off. He reminded me that I needed to make some changes, make some progress, and make some fun. I need some fun. He reiterated that I wasn't responsible for everyone's bliss and that just maybe I needed to focus on finding some of my own. A change would only do me good. I'm not powerless.

I've always enjoyed Emerson's advice to "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; Begin it well and serenely with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.". What a great proposal, but I doubt Emerson had to deal with Friday's "blunders and absurdities". Emerson didn't answer the phone call I unwittingly fielded. Or maybe he answered a call similar to the one I did, which is how he came to write such an eloquent directive. I don't know what inspired Emerson to make that observation. Come to think of it, even if he'd had a phone at his disposal, he would probably have been much too bright to answer it. I know I have a "high spirit", but it still finds itself encumbered by old nonsense - even if the nonsense doesn't belong to me. What should I do about that, Mr. Emerson? Any ideas?

What I need to do is stop feeling so guilty about everything, especially the things I'm not responsible for. I'm certainly not perfect (there's a newsflash!) which is fortunate since I have no interest in being perfect. Someone once said that imperfections add interest and character. If that be the case, I must be completely fascinating and absolutely teeming with character.

So these last few days of being 46 aren't all that much fun, but it could always be worse and these days will pass. They just will! I have determined that they most certainly will.

I just finished taking my own inventory and here is what I've come up with:

1) It's true that I still don't have new bedroom furniture. I told Katie the other day that I may very well have to get remarried in order to get new bedroom furniture, at least the kind I have in mind - I just hope that if I do, that the future Mr. (fill in the blank) has his own furniture and doesn't have to "borrow" it from his Mom and, as a not-so-side note, for the love of everything holy, I am NOT sleeping in some pansy wicker. One must draw the line somewhere.

2) I also desperately need to look into biting the bullet and acquiring a new laptop computer. I have been saying this for quite some time and obviously I didn't behave myself to meet Santa's standards which means I've simply got to take matters into my own hands. This isn't such an easy decision. New York and UK sources have just one word for me and, wouldn't you just know it's fruity? "Apple!" they vociferously vote with an almost Stepfordian devotion. I've never owned an Apple so it's not simply forking over the cash for something I have great need for, but to convert myself to a completely different operating system demands deep thought. This isn't an easy decision, but it's an urgent one. I have work to do and I can't always be in the same space as my dual Dell desktops. Feel free to vote and tell me your reasoning behind it.

3) Additionally, while there is absolutely nothing in this world wrong with minivans (or the people who drive them!), but I really do want a small car. I'm just not a minivan sort of person and please don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to have what I have! What if I were to be confused for (gasp) a soccer Mom? Do you know how that could ruin a person's reputation? I just can't risk that - it's enough having to face forty-seven. Seriously, I just want something small and zippy. Things don't look promising - C'mon Joe - I need you and your auto-expertise. HELP!

Finally, I still need to head up to New York City in the worst possible way for both personal and professional reasons. I need my buddy Glen to take me on a "random" walk in Central Park and I really want to spend some time in the company of my acerbic, sarcastically sardonic daughter - the young lady who can poke fun at anything and make me laugh when no one else can, the inimitable Katie Jane. She has some ideas on "Elf Elimination" and I may need her expertise sooner rather than later.

Hey, it's good to have some goals, right? :-)

And before long, we will be in an Outer Banks state of mind. The light will grow less fragile, the sky will take on a sunny countenance and kites will dance in the sky raising our spirits right along with them, courtesy of favorable winds and at the generous invitation of a most wonderful Scotsman by way of England. We will taste salty air and if I can talk my friend Alistair into it, we may even go surf fishing. We will play serious games of Scrabble and watch the DVD "Tombstone" at least more than five times. Katie, with any luck at all, we might even catch Uncle Kracker on the OBX radio.

"Follow me,
everything is all right.
I'll be the one to tuck you in at night.
And if you want to leave,
I can guarantee.
You won't find nobody else like me..."

Good times, good times. Katie, we must devise a curriculum for making Mr. Norwood a silly American for at least a week, and abandoning his English manners and the curious way he introduces milk into his tea. We have our work cut out for us, my dear, but we will persevere. I know Emerson himself would sign off on it.

And of course, it goes without saying,
"you're a daisy if you do".

However, being presented with daisies is another thing entirely. Alistair, those beautiful, perky flowers you sent are still just mind-bogglingly gorgeous. I'll never beat you up again. I promise. There have been moments that those simple flowers have literally sustained me. You must have known I would need them right there, on the corner of my soon-to-be former desk. Don't worry, I'm taking them with me to where, I'm not exactly sure, but I am taking them. Well, I probably won't take the daisies because they will have been wilted by next week, but I will for certain take the vase, and definitely the ribbon. I'm not certain where I'm about to be relocated to, but you can count on the fact that the vase will stick with me.

And as to Mr. Emerson, I will try to begin the day serenely, infused with new hope and lofty ideals. But make no mistake, there is a blog entry in my future that will fill in the holes I'm not quite prepared to fill in at this time. Everything comes in due time. So will the rest of this ubiquitous story.