Saturday, November 19, 2011

Almost Magical

My husband’s grandmother grew up, and lived most of her life, in the Midwest.  She lived a fairly hard life raising a large family and eking out a living in harsh North Dakota, yet she was also a joyful, loving woman with qualities we’d all like to emulate.  She, too, was a writer and somewhere in her writing she talks about how, if one wants to be happy, it is necessary to find beauty in the small events that occur in our everyday lives.

I have been purposefully working on positive, productive attitudes and goals and, partly as a result, this past week has felt joyful to me, even though there have been challenges and issues to deal with.  One day in particular left me feeling as if I would explode with joy, fulfillment and happiness.  In a Facebook post I described that day as “almost magical”.

On this day I had a long list of errands to run; so long that I’d actually written them out on a Post-it Note so that I wouldn’t forget anything.  My suburban was full, ready for stops at the drycleaners, the consignment store, Goodwill and the computer-recycling center.  I’d gathered together coupons, grocery bags and shopping lists and I’d taken pictures of our front door handles so that I could order new ones at the hardware store.  When I arrived at the store I was greeted by a woman about my age who offered to help me figure out which handles I needed to order.  With the order complete, she said the handles would be available in about two weeks and asked if she could call me when they arrived.  I told her I needed to give her an alternate phone number because I would likely be in Korea by then.  She asked why I was going to Korea and I explained that I was taking my youngest son on a trip with our adoption agency.  She looked at me in surprise and said, “Oh, you have adopted children?”  She then leaned across the counter and said, in almost a whisper, “I placed a child for adoption many years ago.”  A birth mother!  Yes, I know there are birth mothers running around all over, but we rarely know that they’re birth mothers.  For many of us who have adopted children, especially when we don’t have the opportunity to meet our children’s birth parents, there is a feeling, somewhat akin to awe with a little bit of thankfulness mixed in, toward these women who made a sacrifice that, as a result, brought us such joy.  She went on to tell me that she’d been searching for her son, who is now 40, and that she’d located him but that he wasn’t yet ready to meet or talk to her.  Being the open, chatty person I am, we went on to talk about adoption – her story, our stories.  She expressed both grief and hope as she told me her story.  Forty-five minutes later, as we said our goodbyes, she said, “I have your phone number on the order form.  Would you like me to call you if I hear from him?”

I’d walked into that store ready to simply check off an item on my to-do list, but I walked out with a smile, some tears and a full heart.  The unexpected connection between this woman and me was a little bit of beauty that helped me get through the rest of my errands, not with a feeling of chore and drudgery, but with joy and an eye to what else might hold another little bit of beauty.  When I described my day as “almost magical”, a friend asked if I was in Disneyland and I’d responded, “No, just making my own magic.”  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was following Grandma’s advice – I’d found beauty in the everyday.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mrs. Jones, the Doctor Will See You Now

I’m at the point where I have to admit that I am getting older.  For the last few decades, I haven’t changed that much physically (other than the slight or not-so-slight fluctuations of my weight).  But, basically, my body has held to a pretty straight line throughout my 20s, 30s and 40s.  Now, in my 50s, there are some changes.  In 2008 I wrote Changing Faces about the differences I saw in my face, but now, three years later, I’m feeling similar changes in my body, specifically stiffness, inflammation and pain.  I’ve realized that it’s time to get serious about my medical care.  After having a wonderful family doctor from our late 20s throughout our 30s, for the last several years I’ve had the equivalent of medical speed-dating when it comes to my personal doctors.  One left the area, one didn’t return from maternity leave, one wasn’t available to me after a change in my insurance, one thought medical care equaled pill-popping care and one yelled at me in front of her staff and other patients because her receptionist had scheduled the wrong type of appointment for me.  This revolving medical door hasn’t really been a problem, though, because I haven’t had any serious issues so I really don’t go to the doctor very often anyway.  Now, however, I feel the need to establish a relationship with someone who will walk with me along this path called aging.  I want someone who will help me dawdle on the path at the slowest rate possible.  Someone to whom I can talk about the little aches and pains that prevent or limit my physical abilities.  Someone who will get to know me and will look at the entire package, not just the joint or foot that is currently causing a problem.  I’m not asking for hour-long appointments, just a little personal attention and an open dialogue and, for me, that means a degree of friendliness that has been lacking in much of my medical care.

I’ve spent some time recently researching doctors with the hope of finding someone new with whom I could begin to establish a relationship.  One particular doctor caught my eye – female; similar age; new to the area, but loving our brand of liquid sunshine and interested in preventive care and education as important parts of the healthcare process.  I made a get-to-know-each-other appointment and was further encouraged when the scheduling person said, “She’s new to our clinic, but people are saying very good things about her.”  I prepared a short one-paragraph bio about myself, a list of my other medical care providers (OB/GYN, podiatrist, chiropractor, etc.), a list of my current medications, supplements and vitamins and a brief rundown of my recent medical issues and current concerns.  I went to the appointment with excitement and anticipation.  Everything went well with checking in, establishing my records and talking with the medical assistant, then the DOCTOR walked in.  She smiled, put out her hand and introduced herself.  I said I was happy to meet her and asked, “May I call you by your first name?”  A simple question, asked politely with a smile.   For me, calling someone by a title presumes a certain interpersonal distance or reserve – not the type of relationship I’m looking for in the person I want to walk with on this path of aging healthfully and gracefully.  I had determined that being on a first-name basis was going to be integral to developing the type of relationship I was hoping to establish and, frankly, I thought that it was a pretty innocuous request.   Our society gave up using most titles a long time ago.  Most people do not refer to each other as Mr., Mrs. or Miss.  When I was growing up in the 60s it was common for adults to introduce each other using their social titles and last names; I haven’t seen that done recently, except in some foreign countries.  So why do we continue to use titles for doctors?  I don’t get it and I didn’t think it was a big deal to ask to be on a first name basis.  I was shocked at this DOCTOR’s reply, “No I’d prefer you call me Dr. So-and-So.”  She then went on to say that she also prefers to call her patients by their social titles and last names.  Really?  I felt a flashback to the 60s coming on.  I may be 53, but I am NOT Mrs. Dunham – that would be my mother-in-law.  My name is Debbie.  I’d even prefer Deb or Debra to Mrs. Dunham.  Heck, someone once wanted to call me DeDe (the initials of my first and last names) and, though I quickly squashed that idea, I’d prefer DeDe to Mrs. Dunham.

Needless to say, that was the end of that appointment.  My excitement and anticipation were squelched, my current concerns are still unaddressed and I am still searching for a doctor who will walk my path with me.