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(an entry for the On Display collab:  "Little Things")

5 April 2003

The old woman had been coming into our office for weeks. She was stooped, grumpy, disheveled. She had a lot of problems. Her main problem was that all of her internal organs were falling out, a common problem with older women who have given birth to many children (I say, as a getting-older-woman who has given birth to many children, and who is keeping her fingers crossed that all those organs stay put!)

She traveled a long distance to come here, and each time it was a struggle getting her to come in. She has an active, intellectually-stimulating job which keeps her busy and somehow she always complained about "having" to come in again, though she kept coming. The problem was severe enough that she wanted it fixed.

Finally surgery was scheduled, but because of her frail health and complicated condition (which required two different specialists to repair), the workup prior to surgery was extensive. There were appointments with a cardiologist, with the lab, with a couple of urologists, with the hospital to make arrangements. With each phone call, each appointment, each new thing that came about because of something found on the prior exam, she grumbled more. Each time she came in, she was just that much more disheveled. At one point she told me that if I called her about one more appointment, she was just going to cancel the whole thing. In fact, she very nearly did cancel it the day prior to surgery when told she would have to stop at the lab for one last test.

But she didn't. She hung in there and the surgery was performed.

She came back recently for her post-op visit. I couldn't believe it. She was a new person. She had been reborn. Her hair was combed for the first time since I met her. What's more she was wearing make-up. She had a big smile on her face and spoke with animation. When she went to disrobe for the post-op exam, I asked her husband, who accompanied her, how things were going. He gave a big grin and the thumbs-up sign.

Amazing what letting little problems fester will do for you...and amazing what a difference confronting them and working to solve them can make!

I'm thinking of the times in my life when little things began to gnaw at me. Little physical things, or little emotional things. I'm a great one for ignoring warning signs, for putting off dealing with things until they can no longer be ignored. By the time I finally confront them, the little molehills in my minds have begun to rival the Rockies in size.

Years ago I began to ignore my dental hygiene, for example--as the result of a very negative experience with a dentist when I was pregnant with Tom. At first it was out of anger at the dentist, and then it was out of fear for the damage I had done to my teeth. Never one to look at things sensibly, I was too embarrassed to have the damage fixed because it would involve admitting to another dentist that I'd let my teeth go.

Over the years, the condition of my teeth became the whole focus of my thought process. During waking hours, I was worried about them on some level of my consciousness all the time. At night I dreamed about them. There were periods of intense pain when I couldn't push the worry to the back; I just had to tough it out until that period of pain passed.

I put off dealing with the problem for 20 years. When I finally reached the breaking point--I was convinced the front teeth were about ready to fall out at any moment--I called Cindy and made my confession. She set me up for an appointment at the end of her day, to avoid my having to deal with the embarrassment of losing my teeth while there were other people in the office.

We discovered that while yes, I had done damage to my teeth, miraculously it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared all those years and for a well-earned fee (which I tease her probably put at least two of her children through college), I had my teeth back--all of them, I had my smile back, and most importantly, I had my peace of mind back.

I was not unlike our patient and the obvious weight that has been lifted from her shoulders now that her surgery has taken place and gone well.

I don't know why we torture ourselves needlessly. Things that start out small can actually remain relatively small if we deal with them in the beginning. When we let them sit and fester for days...weeks...years...decades... then the fear of what will happen when we confront them becomes larger than the "thing" we are afraid to confront.

It's a truth I am constantly discovering over and over again as I begin to face the little things in my life that I've pushed to the back for so long. This is not to say that confrontation is painless. But it's less painful than suffering in silence, watching the little things grow into bigger things, watching the molehills morph into mountains.

I'd like to say I've learned my lesson, but I know I haven't. But with each little thing that I face, it makes it just that little bit easier to face the next little thing.

Quote of the Day

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.... We guess. We may be wrong,
but we take leap after leap in the dark.

~ Agnes de Mille, dancer and choreographer

Yesterday's Photo

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Ned was always fearless
on the diving board

One Year Ago
California Thru the Back Door
(Olivia and I explore the greenbelt)

Two Years Ago
Ready or Not, Here I Come
(Getting ready for Boston)

Three Years Ago
Me and Granny Muffin
(One of Davis' town characters)

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Pounds Lost:  70
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On the Odometer

Blue Angel Total 853.6
2003 YTD Cumulative:  360.2

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