In a few days I’m going in for six hours of abdominal surgery. My friends ask, are you worried? Not consciously. When I focus on the logistics, I fully trust those charged with taking care of me. Am I anxious? Not really. My hands are warm, my heartbeat regular, my stomach fine. That’s not to say I’m in a comfortable state. It’s the waiting, the anticipation that’s doing me in.
Up until crunch time, I kept busy planning, just as I’ve done throughout the years for upcoming lifetime memories. For each holiday or vacation or surprise party, I researched and investigated and shopped and got expert advice. Although never a Girl Scout, my mantra was “always be (beyond) prepared.” I composed overlapping to-do lists that supplied ridiculous satisfaction whenever a chore was crossed off. And then, just like now, with all my prefiguring completed, I became uneasy. With me, when something of note looms in the immediate future, whether it be my daughter’s wedding or this upcoming procedure, the discomfort feels insanely similar. Me without another piece of the puzzle to plan…not good.
My father had a vein in his forehead that bulged big time whenever he worried. His pessimism was contagious and sometimes I’d feel dread but had no idea of what. It was never constructive or helpful. He’d imagine the worst-case scenario and instead of trying to actively control the things he could control, he sat and worried. Looking back, I see many times it wasn’t the situation he faced that led to his negativity; it was his perception of that situation. He sunk when so many different courses of action might have kept him afloat. What I learned from his example is that if you can somehow believe you’ve got the goods to handle a problem, those positive expectations have a shot of washing away your worry. I’m trying to practice that lesson this very moment.
I read that major league batters facing 90 mile per hour fastballs, experience a serene interval within which they decide whether and when to swing and exactly how to connect with the ball to get it to land out of the reach of defenders. They do that 300 times in nine innings, making this superhuman feat seem routine. We’d run for our lives from that lightning fast, rotating, red-stitched rocket. Focus. Practice. Poise. Plan successfully…avoid worry. In the face of surgery and cancer and discomfort, I’m breathing through that calm interlude.
The waiting game sucks, pure and simple. During this last week’s countdown, I can’t quiet myself enough to read or meditate but I take walks. I return emails and texts a tad too quickly. I pick out too many greeting cards and pajamas online. In another time I’d have my teeth cleaned. Each bite size chunk of activity distracts me enough to allow the powers that be to move at their own speed. Yes, each day is a blessing, that’s hit me smack in the face, but I’m really ready for it to be next week at this time.
So I comfort myself with the thought that what if all this waiting around time is the worst part? I remember the anxious moments before doing anything new or challenging or scary. A date. A test. A performance. And how I felt once the opening bell rang and I was actually engaged. Handling it as best as ready me could. No matter how it turned out, excruciating anticipation ended the moment the doing began.
I remember my mother promising me chocolate ice cream after I got my tonsils out. My throat hurt but I still remember how good that tasted. As the future becomes the present, ice cream is still a powerful reward. Along with permission to binge watch Netflix during the day (!), lying on top of a toasty heated mattress pad and under a lovingly hand knit blanket, playing Scrabble with my sister, and realizing, when challenged by fate, we just gotta breathe and keep our eye on the ball.