Archives for the month of: September, 2018

Last night, my husband had minor surgery. (But this story isn’t about that, so don’t worry) He was scheduled in the last time slot at the surgical center, but they were running behind. So his 6pm surgical slot morphed into a 7:15 start time. By the time he finished at 8pm, we were the absolute last people left in the surgical center. I had been at the hospital with him since 3:30 that afternoon, and before I could go back to see him in recovery, I needed to drop my bag off in my car.

At 8 o’clock at night.

In an empty surgical ward.

And through a dark parking garage.

Because we were the last ones there, the staff had already locked the doors to the center and left the entire nurse’s station empty. I went for a walk around the ward, looking for someone to help me get through the doors, when I ran into Dr. Tom*.

I had met Dr. Tom only that afternoon. He stopped by my husband’s bedside to say hello, as he knows my husband through our family business. We chatted about the surgery and work for about five minutes, then he left to finish his rounds. I caught Dr. Tom as he was leaving to head home, and told him that I just needed to be let through the locked doors to go drop my bag off in my car while I was waiting for my husband to be woken up in recovery.

He immediately told me no.

No, he wouldn’t just let me through the doors.

He was going to walk with me. All the way to my car, through the parking garage, and back again.

And then he did just that.

He was respectful, courteous, professional. We chatted about his family farm. I told him that I grew up on an old apple orchard. He praised my husband’s work ethic. We made lighthearted jokes at the expense of my sometimes-intense father-in-law. I never felt uncomfortable. Or awkward. Or frightened.

A 6’3″ stranger walked me to my car, never did anything even remotely inappropriate, and walked me back just in time to be taken back to see my husband sitting up in bed in recovery. A strange man escorted me to my car and back, and I felt nothing but grateful and safe.

I almost burst into tears, readers.

Every few months for the past two years, I have been confronted by the traumatic memories of my rape. Every few months, I’ve seen brave women adopt different hashtags, exposing their darkest, deepest secrets to the world. Hoping that their vulnerability can somehow help inspire change and reveal the sickening prevalence of sexual abuse in America. They are inspiring women, and I support and believe them. But I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally ragged. I’m mentally destroyed.

And because of that I had almost forgotten that interactions such as mine and Dr. Tom’s could exist. That something innocent and pure, and performed with nothing but good intentions could still happen.

I am eternally grateful to Dr. Tom. Thank you, for just reminding me that good men exist. Men who do the right thing. Men who look at a tired, petite woman, and just see a person who needs a bit of a hand. Men who offer that hand, with no reciprocity expected.

I needed that, Dr. Thank you.

Follow up story: An hour later, I walked next to a nurse, wheeling my husband out to the entrance of the parking garage. When we got to the entrance, I saw a woman standing at the door to the stairs. “I’ll go get the car,” I said to the nurse. The woman immediately ran up to me.

“What floor are you going to?”

“Second.”

Her face was instantly a mask of relief. “Oh, thank goodness. Do you mind if I walk with you?”

“Of course!”

We walked up the stairwell together. She kind of chuckled, “I just hate parking garages at night!”

I smiled over at her, “Oh, I get it.”

She looked over at me. “My daughter’s about your age. She just had surgery.”

“Oh, no! Everything okay with her?”

We were in sight of each others’ cars at this point. She stopped and looked at me. “Just do me a favor? Pray that her antibiotics work? I’ll pray for your husband.”

I smiled at her. “Of course. Have a good night!”

“Thank you for walking with me.”

“Thank you.”

“God bless.”

Simple acts. Pure acts. But they mean so much. Just remember to be good to each other. To give the kind gesture, without expecting anything else in return. It can turn somebody’s long, hard day into a soft, good night.

Sometimes it’s nice to remember that we are all a part of the human community. That we all have the ability to look out for each other. In small, significant ways. That’s all.

*Names have been changed

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I would like to preface this by clarifying that I do not “have” anxiety. I “experience” anxiety. I get to feeling anxious over specific, concrete circumstances in my life. I do not suffer from a disease wherein my brain falsely signals panic and fear responses to seemingly insignificant or unknown triggers. I’m lucky, in that I experience anxiety “logically,” in response to definitive curveballs in my life. I feel greatly for the millions of Americans who suffer from anxiety. I can’t even imagine living like this all the time. It sucks.

I’m anxious right now.

You see, my husband is going in for surgery tomorrow. It’s a small, outpatient procedure. Standard. Routine. It really isn’t that big of a deal.

But my brain keeps imagining horrible things.

It keeps screaming in my ear about complications. About mistakes. It’s forcing me to picture solemn looks from nurses and doctors. To imagine the horrific phone calls and conversations with loved ones. To see my daughters’ devastation. I can’t seem to turn these horrible thoughts off.

So, I’m responding to the anxiety the way I’ve always responded to it. I’m cleaning. Obsessively. Neurotically. Chaotically.

And it’s that nervous cleaning that I want to talk to you about today.

Recently, I’ve seen several memes, funny tweets, and Facebook posts about “those people.” “Who are those people who clean their houses when they’re anxious?” these posts often begin, “And how do I get to be one of them??” People identify and laugh along with these posts. “Oh, I’d give ANYTHING to be one of those people!” “Amen!” “All that I do is eat an entire bag of Cheetos when I’m anxious!”

Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but I would like to set the record straight. As someone who compulsively cleans when she’s anxious, I’d like to remind everyone of this one, simple fact: Anxiety always sucks, regardless of the ways in which it manifests.

There is no good anxiety.

There is no useful anxiety.

There is no right anxiety.

Anxiety ALWAYS sucks, regardless of the ways in which it manifests.

Take today, for instance. I’ve been cleaning since I dropped my kids off at school. It’s now five minutes to five in the evening. I haven’t stopped. Cleaning my house the day before my husband’s surgery sounds like a great idea (it’s always less stressful to come home to a neat house after an exhausting day). And it is. On paper. When it’s controlled. When it’s planned. When it hasn’t been hijacked by a brain in panic mode.

And, trust me, this is a hijacking.

There are sections of my house that are spotless. Yes, I vacuumed the bedrooms. And, yes, I ran a load of laundry. But did I change the sheets on the bed? Did I wash towels and pillows? Did I organize his favorite foods and physician-approved snacks to make them easier for him to access while he recuperates tomorrow? No. Absolutely not. Because I wasn’t cleaning with a clear, logical mind. I was cleaning with an anxious one.

So, instead of wiping down our inexplicably sticky and crumb-filled couch (where he’ll be resting tomorrow), I took an old toothbrush and scrubbed all of our coasters clean. Instead of putting away the dishes, or going shopping for foods he’ll be able to eat and enjoy, I reorganized our china hutch to better fit all of our serving dishes. I took a cover off an old chair to put in the wash (a chair that he never sits in). I disassembled the kitchen sink so that I could scrub the drains with stainless steel polish. Then I also polished the faucet and drip rails. I went out in the garage and collapsed all of the cardboard boxes to take them to the recycling center. I wiped the dust off of his drill, for fuck’s sake.

I spent no time with my daughters.

I told them that Mommy was “busy preparing for Daddy’s surgery tomorrow.”

But that’s not true.

I was busy desperately trying to calm my crazed mind.

I was busy trying to make everything out there look neat and organized, so I could convince myself that everything in here was under control.

And I’m worried that they’re noticing. That they’re starting to understand. (I’ve noticed that my youngest daughter won’t go to sleep at night if her room is messy. She HAS to have her toys put away. I get it, little girl. I so get it.)

Friends tell me that I have a clean house.

They praise my ability to make toys disappear. To make counter and stove tops shine. My power washing skills are renowned throughout my neighborhood.

I tell them that they shouldn’t praise me.

I’m not being humble. They really shouldn’t.

Because I don’t clean out of a sense of joy. But a sense of fear.

Sure, it looks good.

But it isn’t good.

There IS no “good” anxiety.

I don’t ask for it often, so if my darling readers could send my husband some good vibes, thoughts, and wishes for his procedure tomorrow, I’d be really appreciative! He’s the other half of my heart. And I’m not ashamed to say it.