The few hours before my appendectomy were very surreal. I went to my doctor’s office that evening with half of me thinking of all the terrible things that could be going wrong, and the other half thinking that I would just be wasting everyone’s time and causing a fuss over nothing. “There’s nothing wrong with you,” one half whispered. “You could die on the operating table,” whispered the other half, which is well-known for it’s speed in jumping to the worst possible conclusion in any scenario, and this well before anything was even diagnosed.
There was actually another voice somewhere in there (and pay no attention to my math skills—sometimes one-half plus one-half still leaves room for some other thoughts to creep in). This was the quietest voice, the voice that remembered Lavender Luz’s amazing post about abiding in the unknown space, the place where we are painfully aware of our powerlessness.
I will not pretend that I was peaceful in all of the time leading up to my surgery, or even most of the time. I can say, though, that part of the time I was able to take a step back and notice how I was responding. There were some brief moments of awareness that the back and forth game that was going on in my mind was simply the way my mind usually works. There was nothing unusual about my responses to this situation; my responses were as familiar to me as the back of my hand. The only “different” in this situation were the circumstances, my insides kept up their usual dialogue.
A phrase came to me during those hours, and I remembered it over and over during the next couple of weeks.*
How you do anything is how you do everything.
How I “did” the few hours before my appendectomy followed the same pattern of how I do most things: part of me jumps to the worst-case-scenario and starts brainstorming about how I will handle it, and part of me berates myself for not doing the right thing, or causing a fuss, or not doing things perfectly, whatever “perfect” means. How I function at work follows the same basic pattern of how I function at the grocery store (if you don’t believe me, check out my desk drawers and my pantry; both are full of way too many “just in case” items, be they canned goods or post-its). How I relate to my family follows the same pattern of how I relate to people I just met. How I drive my car looks a lot like how I walk my dog. And on and on.
My pattern, of course, would be to take all of this information and start berating myself for not doing it “right,” whatever “right” is. At this moment I’m just working on noticing when I’m in those patterns, when I jump to that place in my mind that causes my heart to pound and my hands to shake. Right now I’m working on noticing when I’ve slipped into scolding myself. For now, noticing is enough. For now, opening my eyes is enough. For now, it’s enough.
*I’m not sure where it comes from, so if you know, please let me know.