Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I was losing my mind thinking about the 7,432 things I need to accomplish by Friday. After a couple of hours pounding away furiously on my laptop in the waiting room at the hospital (long story), oblivious to everyone around me, I hadn't put even a small dent in those 7,432 things. In fact, the list had grown. And a couple of huge complications had arisen.
Frustrated, I unplugged my laptop and popped my cell phone into my pocket so that I could visit the restroom. Of course, it was closed for cleaning, so I had to go searching for another. Another woman was also on the potty hunt, so we headed off to find it together.
She was wearing a baseball cap and had no eyebrows or eyelashes. Although the visible evidence suggested the answer, I asked her what she clearly wanted to be asked. She is fighting breast cancer.
She had driven more than an hour for her final chemo session. She continued to grapple with “Why me?” questions because she has always been very health conscious. She was feeling besieged by unsupportive co-workers who were speculating about what she’d done wrong to bring this curse upon herself. She was deflecting people who had various (ridiculous) suggestions on how to beat cancer. She was there all alone, facing her disease.
She told me about some uplifting audio programs that helped her emotionally. She showed me a new age tool for improving circulation and talked about her chakras and energies. When I complimented her beautiful complexion, she described a concoction she invented to heal her chemo-ravaged skin. She relayed concerns about her medical bills. She told me how she had to cut back to make ends meet, including cutting off her internet and cell phone – lifelines of connection when people can’t physically socialize. She told me about her exercise program. She told me of the joy of having a pedicure.
She smiled, she teared up.
She had a whole bag of tools with her that she used to help herself through this ordeal. She wanted someone to see them.
She wanted to help.
She wanted to be heard.
So, I looked. I listened. I commiserated. I encouraged. I affirmed. I congratulated. I complimented. I noted her advice. I tried to link her up with people and services that might help her to share her self-help discoveries with other cancer patients who might find comfort in them. I probably said a few wrong things, too.
I hope that when she drove home alone, feeling like hell, trying not to nod off or lose her stomach, leaving a few more hairs inside her baseball cap, heading closer to the people and bills that complicate her plight, she knew that someone heard her today and thinks that what she has to offer is important.
And, while I tried to be truly present for this stranger, I forgot the 7,432 things on my to-do list and focused on one unexpected thing that probably had more value than all the others combined. What a relief!
Stretch a little more. Be present for someone today. Maybe that extra stretch will keep both of you from breaking.
Thank you, lady in the baseball cap.