The power of a new perspective

I suppose one of these days I will get back to blogging about things that are completely unrelated to my health, but today is not that day.

One thing about the new doctor that I dislike – she is not very prompt about getting back to me with my INR results. This is the second week in a row that I have had to call to pester her for them, and I hate the idea that I might be labeled “a bother.” But then again – this is my body we’re talking about, and learning to be my own advocate has turned out to be an incredibly valuable gift from this process. Luckily, my pestering paid off. She finally returned my call to let me know that I am not only back in the therapeutic zone – I am smack dab in the middle of it, which is perfect. Now the Coumadin can get to work dissolving these clots like it is supposed to.

Before I made it back to the therapeutic level, I was struggling. A lot. I had the good fortune to talk to a friend of mine who is not only a lovely and supportive human being, but a professional nutritionist as well. I was so grateful to her for the compassionate way she answered my questions and validated that I was doing what I am supposed to do.

One of the best pieces of advice she offered me may seem like such a minor adjustment – but it had a major effect. She encouraged me to think of getting my INR results not as a blood test, but rather a blood check. I’m not being graded on this. And therein lies the problem. Every time my INR has fallen below therapeutic level or isn’t getting there fast enough, I feel like it’s all my fault. I feel like a failure – when the truth is that there are so many other factors that affect how Coumadin functions, or how Vitamin K works in my body. I just need to figure out what works best for me and stick with it. And like every other learning process, that takes time.

Language has a weight to it. Words have power. I know this. I study this. I teach this. But I do occasionally get thrown off-guard by their impact. I am continually fascinated by what a simple act of reframing can do. It makes me wonder what other stories I am currently telling myself that could use a language shift or minor adjustment, and what new perspective that shift could open up for me.

Ah, growth opportunities. Can’t escape ’em.

Wouldn’t want to.

Thoughts on Impact

Recovery continues slowly but surely. I still (as far as I know) haven’t hit that magic “therapeutic level” of blood thinness, but I am still managing to get back to life as usual. I am at the office for the second day in a row, and that feels good. I never thought I would be glad to get back here… but the fact that I can sit at my desk and feel pretty normal is something I am not taking for granted.

I met the new, in-network doctor this morning, and the majority of my fears have melted away. She’s wonderful. Very accessible, smart, funny, and really seems to have a handle on what to do with my treatment. She took the time to answer all my questions, and I feel pretty comfortable with her. I will still probably change networks to something closer to my house when I get the opportunity, but for now – I think I am going to be okay. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.

The truly amazing thing that happened today … on my way to see the new doctor, I happened to pass the woman who had witnessed my collapse and called 911. She was out walking her dog again while I was driving by. I stopped and called out to her, and she recognized me instantly. She even remembered my name, which was pretty remarkable.

How often do you get to tell someone that they saved your life, and mean it literally? She was getting goosebumps, I was shaking. The moment was heavy and joyous at the same time. I am so glad I got to express my gratitude to her. I was so taken by the moment that I forgot to offer to bake her cookies… or hell, a 7-layer cake. (I think saving someone’s life is cake-worthy.) But we’re neighbors, so I am sure I will be able to be more present if I see her again and offer to shower her with baked goods.

I am continually struck by the impact we have on each other’s lives – even, as in this case, the lives of total strangers. It is making me much more conscious of how I move through the world, and how I choose to interact with people. A call to 911 might seem like an obvious way to have an impact on someone’s life … but the woman who saved me thought I just had low blood pressure or something. She was shocked to hear that I spent six days in the hospital and very nearly died. It just reminds me that every action or choice I make has weight to it, whether that’s a smile at a store clerk or giving direct feedback to someone I care about – and that feels like both a burden and a glorious obligation to be fully aware.

Food for thought as I sit at the desk in my office. Breathing fine. Pain free. Alive. All thanks to the kindness of a complete stranger.

Spurring Forward

NPR ran a really great interview with Robert Redford on All Things Considered yesterday. He’s promoting his new film about the Weather Underground, which I definitely am putting on my to-see list. He’s a great interview subject in general. I’ve heard him several times before and have always enjoyed him. But yesterday he told a story I hadn’t heard about a moment he had in third grade where his teacher caught him drawing rather than paying attention to the lesson. She made him come up to the front of the class and explain what was so important. Here’s the interview excerpt:

“So I was about to be really trashed, humiliated, and I went up and I held up this thing. And she said, ‘You wanna tell us what that’s about?’ And so I described [it]; I said, ‘Well yeah, these are cowboys and they’re chasing the Indians, and they’re shooting at the Indians and the Indians are shooting back at the cowboys, and they’re about to be driven off a cliff, and above them are some B-51 bombers bombing the cowboys.’

“So what happened was, the class was interested in it. And she saw that. Instead of putting me down, she made a deal. She said, ‘We’ll put an easel up here, and every Wednesday we’ll give you 15 minutes, and you can come draw a story for us — but then you gotta pay attention.’

“Now had that not happened, I would have been humiliated. It probably would have knocked me down to not trust that impulse that I had. Sometimes — I don’t know about you — but maybe one or two [encouragements] in your life is all you need to spur you forward, rather than have you collapse.”

love this story so much. And it got me thinking about who the people were that were there to “spur me forward” in one of those critical moments in my own life.

I remember my own 2nd grade teacher who rallied the class and community for donations after my family’s house burned down. We lost everything save for the pajamas we were wearing, and it was early February in Nebraska. Mrs. Leverette covered a huge box in paper, and my entire class decorated it, wrote messages of encouragement, and filled it with clothing, toys, and other essentials for my younger sister and me. Mrs. Leverette gave me a little pink Bible and a bathrobe. I still keep that Bible in a cherished place because to me it represents the epitome of compassion, kindness, and community. In a time of so much despair within my family, I learned what it meant to be supported and to accept help as well as a deep commitment to supporting others in their time of need — no strings attached.

Mrs. Leverette was the first example that popped into my mind when I heard the story, likely because of the elementary school connection. But there were others. I’m grateful to say that I’ve had many more than the “one or two” encouragements in my life Robert Redford talks about. My mentors who saw something in me I didn’t. A dear friend who was there to catch me in a time of deep heartbreak. My father who helped me find a way to follow my crazy dream of studying abroad when I had no money. My first roommate in Chicago who held the door open so I could move into an entirely new phase of life. I can think of critical moments in  each one of these examples that could have shifted the balance of my life in one direction or the other. Abundance vs. scarcity. Joy vs. despair. Momentum vs. stasis.

I am grateful beyond measure. I doubt half of the people who have touched my life have any clue about the impact they had on me. Perhaps that’s my next personal project … to let them know.

How about you? Who was one person that “spurred you forward, rather than have you collapse?” Feel free to share in the comments, if you’re called.