The Waiting Room

Patience is a virtue, I know, but it’s not my virtue.

I would tell you that the problem is my current schedule, that if time weren’t such a commodity I’d happily lean back in my raft and let the hours carry me downstream, but I can remember this sense of urgency dogging me even on childhood afternoons when I had nothing to do but roost in my favorite tree reading Nancy Drew. I’ve always been a wind-up doll, whirling into my own momentum when I’m in motion, tense with expectation when I’m at rest.

I know better than to take it personally when the traffic turns to sludge or the customer in front of me brandishes fifty-seven coupons or the office is now closed, please come back tomorrow. But folks… the struggle is real. I need no reminders to rage, rage against the dying of the light. What I do need is practice at peeling my one eye away from the clock and my other eye from the lady in front of me who is describing her lunch in microscopic detail to the cashier even though I just need to pay for the one pair of socks. I need practice at taking the pace of the real world in stride.

And I am here today to attest that there is no better opportunity to practice this than when your calendar becomes polka-dotted with doctor’s appointments. I’ve been to eleven in the last three weeks. Eleven, which are about ten and a half more doctor’s appointments than we have in an average month. Some of them have been routine visits for the girls, but the rest have been for me, and I can’t tell you how far outside my comfort zone this catapults me, how poorly I deal with medical limbo.

Something is wrong with my body—maybe my heart, maybe my thyroid, maybe something else entirely. We don’t know yet, and this is the kind of wait that feels like it might just wind me a click past my stretchability.

There are the hours spent in waiting rooms… Yellow chairs, blue chairs, clinical beige, institutional gray. Signs on every door saying “Don’t Knock.” A solitary signal bar on my phone that comes and goes as if riding the tide of my thoughts.

And then there are the hours spent in my mind, a waiting room that never closes… Deep maroon worry, fluorescent blinks of irritation, blank putty-colored stretches of unknowing. All possible outcomes waiting behind those closed doors on which I’m not allowed to knock. An off-tempo pendulum swinging between anxiety and chagrin.

Because what it it’s nothing? What if I continue to ace these medical tests until the only explanation left is that I’m a psychosomatic phony? I honestly couldn’t tell you if the outcome I dread most is a diagnosis or the lack of one. Either way, I wait.

It feels like trying to sprint underwater, urgency trapped in slow motion. I often find myself thinking that I just want resolution so I can get on with my life, and that’s a normal response, right? I’m sure I’ve heard that sentiment expressed by at least a dozen characters on House and something like two hundred on Grey’s Anatomy (which is impressive considering I’ve only seen a handful of episodes). I realize though that when I think this way, it shows I’ve let the parameters of my world shrink to the size of a waiting room. I’ve let one small arena of unknowing press pause on my entire life.

Well then. You’ve heard the Thomas à Kempis quote, “The acknowledgement of our weakness is the first step in repairing our loss”? In this, at least, I can feel like I’m making progress. The last few weeks have failed to turn me into a breezy and beatific version of myself, but I have felt the headlong staccato of my mind relaxing a bit as I’ve reminded myself (and re-reminded myself… and re-re-reminded myself) that life goes on.

Which it does, of course, in all its beautiful, maddening, un-streamlined glory. My days continue to fill like overstuffed gift baskets. The traffic is in there, but so are story times with the girls and coffee dates with the husband and three-hour dinner conversations with friends. The doctor’s appointments are in there, but so are leftover apple pies and Sufjan’s Songs for Christmas. There’s reassurance, actually, in knowing that life is absolutely unruffled by my impatience with it. I’m glad to remain a minor character if it means that in my pauses just as in my fast-forwards, life will go on going on.

It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s my cliché.

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  1. I can only imagine your stress about this. Virtual waiting room, indeed. I will be sending prayers to you for a healthy resolution, in fact, I hope it is something so silly and easy that you ARE embarrassed! I am so sorry you haven’t been well. I am heading to the doctor TODAY because I have a chesty-cough-y-thing that has hung on since SUNDAY and I think I need some medicine to reinforce those poor bedraggled white blood cells. But that is an Urgent Care trip. Not a trip for TESTS and WAIT AND SEE. Sending you love and hugs and healing thoughts. xoxoxoxoo

    • Thanks so much for your prayers and good thoughts… and your reminder that a silly + embarrassing diagnosis = the best case scenario. I so appreciate you. I’ll be keeping you close to my heart as well; colds might be commonplace, but they sure can make life harder than necessary!

  2. Oh, waiting can be SO FREAKIN HARD. I totally get the worry over a diagnosis…and even more so the lack of one. Keep your internet posse updated, ok? And in the meantime, we’ll go sprinting underwater with you.

  3. I had a similar experience a few years ago. One Dr. mentioned MS and then it turned out to be keratoconus(a significant and rapidly progressing astigmatism). The Wait and the Worry were there but what I remember most was learning to be content and how much that impacts my family. I hope these appointments bring you some answers soon. But mostly that the answers won’t matter because, like you said, the beautiful parts of your life are still there and will still be there no matter what the Drs. say.

    • Oh man… how scary. I’m glad it turned out to be something less serious than MS for you. And thank you so much for your encouragement to stay in the present. It helps to have backup!

  4. I have been where you are, my friend. More than once. And it’s STINKIN’ hard. And I’m so, so sorry. I’m delighted you’re ‘acing’ the tests, but I know that wondering: is there something ‘real’ going on, or am I a few screws loose? WHATEVER it is, it IS real. That much I can tell you with assurance. And if there is no clear medical reason for it, then you go to work uncovering the psychological/emotional/spiritual reasons for it. We forget sometimes that we are whole persons – bodies/minds/spirits connected far more tightly than we usually think. I’m thinking of you praying for you, wanting to be kept apprised, okay???

    • Thanks so much for the validation, Diana! You’re absolutely right, of course, that even if there isn’t a clear physical problem, psychological and emotional and spiritual stuff is just as REAL. I’ll keep you updated, promise.

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