So I have this thing going on with the tendons on in my left foot. The details don’t matter; it’s getting better. What does matter is this: I see a doctor at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, approximately a 55-minute drive from where I live in Vermont.
DHMC, in my view, has a lot of stars in its crown. Though not alternative in medical modalities, it’s holistic in the sense that the doctors seem to see, and treat, the whole person, not just a tendon, liver, prostate. David had open-spine surgery there two summers ago. Somehow, this gigantic institution not only took superb care of him, but also managed to keep an eye out and take care of me, the caregiver, at the same time (another story).In all, the team there did such an amazing job that David celebrated his 67th birthday a mere two-and-a-half months later by walking 67 miles to DHMC (also nother story). The entire experience, unexpectedly, was a giant step into integrating Ned’s death into life and loving / being loved by, David.
But even that’s not what matters for the purposes of this post.
What matters is, it’s a big deal to get an appointment there. You do not miss an appointment at DHMC. Not under any conditions. People are lined up and waiting to get in. It often takes months to get one.
What matters is, I left the house at 2:30,in plenty of time for my 4:00 appointment. What matters is, I took a fateful shortcut, mistakenly went left (north) instead of right (south) at the intersection. What matters is, I kept going. What matters is, when I finally turned around and asked for directions, I learned that it was going to take mucho extra backtracking, time, mileage, fuel… all, in their own way, expenses no one can afford. And I still wasn’t going to make it to DHMC on time.
What matters is, that when I realized I was not going to make it, I had to come up with a Plan B. What matters is, my self-assessment at that moment, and the choices I made and didn’t make.
See, in my own view I had done something bad (inconsiderate-to-others bad) and stupid. Rude, wasteful of resources, tendons unhappy. And I couldn’t call, because I didn’t have my cell phone (it doesn’t usually work in Vermont anyway; I only use it on out-of-state trips).
Plan B: stop at relatively nearby Rockingham Library, use computer to look up direct number of Dr. H, explain that I – horror! humiliation! — was going to miss my appointment.
I began, to work out what I would say when I called. Automatically, without even thinking about it, I ran through all the things that might make missing the DHMC appointment not my fault.
Flat tire? Totally lame; a lie. A piece of gravel bounced up and off the windshield and caused an ever-lengthening hairline crack it? True, but a) that happened weeks ago and b) the hairline crack wasn’t stopping me driving. Family emergency? False, thank goodness; there’ve been too many real ones in recent years. Well, how about a car accident on 91 that tied up traffic and … ? False, and they would know it: they’re a hospital! Accident victims go to hospitals!
At the library, I found the number, used the library phone, called Dr. H’s office. It was 4:10.Here’s what I said: "I tried to take a shortcut and I got all turned around and went miles in entirely the wrong direction, and I’m just not able to make it there in anything remotely close to on time. And I am so, so sorry."
"Would you like to reschedule?" said Dr, H’s scheduler amiably. We did (I guess the first appointment is the one that’s really impossible one get). Then she said, "Well, I’ll just go tell him what happened. "
But even though it appeared that she wasn’t particularly bent out of shape by my failure to appear or cancel in a timely fashion, and didn’t think badly of me for it, that’s not at all what matters here.
For there is that always one person who concerned about what he or she thinks of you. That person is you. In this case, me. What matters is, and was, how would what I did or didn’t show me myself, to myself?
By making excuses I’d be lying, knowing I’d be lying, and trying to get them at DHMC to perceive me a certain way. And I’d also be saying, "I’m not responsible." But I am, and was, responsible.
If I made something up, particularly because I imagined it would make me look less flaky, I would be in conflict with myself. The self I want to be, reach for, am becoming or trying to become.
When I live what I know, I move closer towards this self, and I get happier; when I don’t, I move farther from it and I get unhappier.
What matters is not that the DHMC lady was nice and gracious, though she was, but that I stepped up and took the opportunity, again, to do and be a little better in my own eyes. To become the transparent, loving, honest self that I think I was meant to be.
The second I told the truth, it was as if the very air around me calmed down. Every muscle and nerve I hadn’t known I was clenching unclenched. All the energy wasted in anxiety, rationalization, trying desperately to get there on time, was released. Nothing to defend against, from within or without.
What matters is transparency. What matters is life, with its continual gift of choice: will I become more transparent or more opaque? Nothing, not a second, is wasted, when one realizes this.
The more transparent one gets, the more light is able to shine in, and slowly, slowly, to shine out, too.