As I lay on my skinny rollaway bed waiting to be called in, I listened to the conversations going on around me. It was a way to distract myself at first. Curtains were pulled, but it was just an illusion of privacy. I could hear every word from the women on either side of me. I heard them tell the stories of their medical histories to the nurses. Words like "cancer" and "biopsy" were casually tossed around.
I listened to the middle-aged, red-haired woman on my left talk about a tube she'd had in her kidney for the past five years. How it was constantly infected, and how she'd become immune to antibiotics. I realized as the conversation went on that she knew the nurse who was attending her; they chatted like old friends. Obviously they had been through this IV-and-fluids routine many times before.
When the woman mentioned she'd brought the nursing staff treats for the holidays, it really hit home for me. This in-and-out-of-hospital existence was this woman's life, her lot. And somehow she managed to stay upbeat, and think of others during this special season of giving. Where did she get the positivity?
The older woman on my right had come in for a routine procedure like me, but had ended up with those dreaded complications no one likes to dwell on before you sign on the dotted line. I listened as the doctors talked about blood clots in her bladder and it made me shudder. And then I heard the doctor tell her she was being admitted. She wasn't going to get to home that day.
It made me wonder of how many people in the city were being told they wouldn't be home for the holidays. How many poor souls would spend Christmas in a hospital just like this one?
It made me consider how lucky I was to be sore but leaving in two hours' time. Even when my blood pressure suddenly and unexpectedly crashed to 60 while I was in recovery, it passed quickly. The nurse simply lay me down and turned me on my side. My colour came back in a few minutes. There was nothing major wrong with me.
I've never found it helpful when well-intentioned friends and family tell you think of people worse off than yourself when you're feeling blue. And I still don't think it's great advice. But there's something about just seeing the evidence with your own eyes and hearing it with your own ears that makes a difference deep down in your soul.
A wise cousin of mine recently told me that she thinks of three things to be grateful for every morning when she wakes up. She takes it seriously, this gratitude business. She values her mental health, so she has a reminder on her mirror to trigger her brain into positive thoughts. It sounds like it works.
As I waited to go home yesterday, I made mental notes of all the things in my life I'm grateful for right now, especially at this time of year.
I'm grateful that my amazing husband works at home, and was able to shift his work schedule around to hold my hand, bring me flowers and buy me a bagel yesterday after not eating all day.
I'm grateful that both of our families are so supportive and involved in our lives. That my selfless mother-in-law could come over to our house and look after our little girl all day while we were gone.
I'm grateful for the considerate phone call from my sister and the prayers offered up by mother. The chance to talk to my anchor father at the end of a long and emotionally-charged day.
This morning I woke up, back in my own oversized bed, and the world was covered in another blanket of white. A fresh start for new habits to take hold.
Today I'm grateful for the more small things in my life. The fact that I don't have to shovel or travel outside of my own personal snow globe. The gorgeously greasy bacon I ate for breakfast. The hot water as it soothed my tender back in the shower.
I've come to realize that a lot of my life is spent in a perpetual state of worry. I ruminate about what will happen next, or what may never actually end up happening. Where the next job is coming from, where we will be living a year from now, if we will end up adding to our family, or if we'll be just three.
These worries have eaten up such holes in my heart recently, and it's time to stop giving them such power. Yesterday I got a kidney cyst drained and I got to go home. I am healthy and lucky and the rest will take care of itself.
I don't kid myself, though. I know I will still worry and ruminate over the big things and small things; it's just in my nature. But I can also try my younger cousin's trick, and get into the habit of being grateful for what I've got.
And you know what? I have so, so much. A virtual landslide of love, just waiting to fill up those holes in my heart.
This morning I looked out the window at my fella and my little snow angel frolicking in that white blanket, and I took a deep, deep breath.
Thank you, God. Thank you, Universe.
The rest will take care of itself.