Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Surprise, Surprise, Sunny Skies

Today was a big day for myself and my two closest companions, Right and Left. I had my first mammogram. Slam-o-Gram. Whamo-Gram.

Frankly, it was not the nightmare I had been prepared to expect. It was uncomfortable but not excruciating, owing I suppose to the fact that I don’t have too much to work with and, after nearly a combined five years of breastfeeding, what I have is pretty malleable. The experience also was made quite a bit easier by a very skilled and personable technician who kept me informed about what was happening.

She opened the exam with a little speech about surprises. “Let me just tell you. There are lots of great surprises, like diamonds or a vacation, or flowers, or, you know, when you find a little extra cash in your checking account. This is not that kind of surprise.” It was clever and I felt more than prepared for the next 15 minutes.

Yesterday brought another surprise – well, it wasn’t all that surprising, more like a warning shot about a looming serious change in the lives of my kids. It’s the kind of surprise that either can turn out, as I hope, really well, or...not. I guess that's where the surprise comes in.

Life is full of surprises, in fact it's really all about surprises, good and less good. I've gotten kind of comfortable anticipating "surprises" and mitigating or maximizing their impact, depending on the type of surprise, thanks to a little too much practice and a job that has more than fine-tuned my instincts.

But you can't prepare for everything. Last week a colleague and I got one of the worst surprises I can remember in my professional life. We placed a call to a candidate we had been expecting to hear from, and learned that, during the course of a routine biopsy this person had contracted a staph infection and was now fighting for life. It was a stunning piece of news that left us both in tears and a general state of disbelief. The patient is one of the world’s most revered professionals in the classical music field, deeply talented if a little rough around the edges. That’s the bad kind of surprise. I’d have a mammogram every day for the next month if it meant this person would suddenly be well and walk out of the hospital.

The trick to dealing with surprises is to befriend reason. In any highly emotionally charged situation the risk of doing foolish things is alive and well. We all have the capacity to stand outside the situation, examine it as though we were looking on it as strangers to the participants, and see the circumstances through a new and dazzling prism that refract our behaviors and biases so that we can see them for what they really might be. Suddenly we are opened to a new world of possibility, opportunity, and intelligent action. We may not always act with intelligence but the opportunity is always there, as it is with kindness and discretion.

In short, there are no surprises. Just, reactions to them.

I hope my two friends who went along with me today aren’t holding any surprises to report. And I hope that whatever surprises you face this week are the good kind, and if they're not, that you find what you need to get through it.

Here's a helping hand. The jazzy piano solo that backs up Warren, Ohio native and dobro master Jerry Douglas on this version of James Taylor's sweet, skippy tune, "Sunny Skies," from Jerry's 1987 release, Everything Is Gonna Work Out Fine, came as a really pleasant surprise to me. I was grooving on the way home this evening to Jerry, whom I just adore, and found this treasure while looking around. Take this tune with you and it's no surprise you'll find it easier to get through just about anything.

Sunny Skies


At August 21, 2007 10:01 PM, Blogger Blueberry said...

I'm not a big fan of surprises, would always rather not have any. I've been having those mammos every year for awhile. they found some specks they didn't like, so I had to have a biopsy -- turned out to be from coffee (and I'm not giving up my coffee dammit).

Jerry Douglas is a treasure, he's wonderful, and had a discography a mile long.

At August 22, 2007 3:54 PM, Anonymous brightly said...

in his hand a flower

and one just smiled!

At August 22, 2007 9:10 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

BLUEBERRY, COFFEE? That's scary. How the hell did it show up on a mammogram? I do have a curious story about this visit. My X called to say that they left a message on HIS answering machine to remind me of the appointment. When I got to the office, despite the referral coming from my doc and my having my own health insurance, ALL OF MY INFO WAS LINKED TO HIM AT HIS ADDRESS. As if that isn't scary enough, it wasn't until I was about to undergo the exam that the technician HAPPENED to ask me if I were wearing any deodorant, which of course I was, because I never got a message with any instructions not to. Turns out the metals in deodorant also turn up in the mammoscan as cancer. X never mentioned any instructions, and it's possible that they didn't leave any, but I'm going to call then to ask, since the woman was shocked to find I wasn't prepared with that information. Tricky.

Thank you Brightly. All we can do is do all we can, and smile!

At August 23, 2007 5:11 PM, Blogger Blueberry said...

I have encountered that situation where I, as a wife, didn't even matter. It's all in his name. My name is ON THERE but that's not the same thing. It takes awhile to get your own credit, and credibility for that matter.

The coffee - it makes little fibroid things that cause breast aching. I have to take 400 IU Vitamin E per day for it. It works for the pain. Not for the mammo though.

At August 23, 2007 8:54 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

I have no idea how it got so screwed up. Such is life here in Deceiveland, where you can choose between the Kingdom of Cleveland Clinic or the University Hospitals Empire. It was quite a jolt, though. What else is screwed up?

I am glad they are keeping an eye on it, Blueberry. And I am happy to report that both my friends are fine, according to the call I got today. But I've had the aching....I wonder if it's too much coffee? Or, just aging? Or, not enough fondling? Surprise! Who said that?! LOL

At August 24, 2007 8:37 AM, Blogger MichaelBains said...

The trick to dealing with surprises is to befriend reason.

Boy-OH! Simplicity itself, eh. lol! And yet how hard that is to put into practice.

(In Deceiveland) ... you can choose between the Kingdom of Cleveland Clinic or the University Hospitals Empire.

Yeppers. Not only that, but we're stuck with the same lame-brained, insane money grubbing Health Insurance Co's as everybody else in our grand "Ownership Society". Blech!!!

Glad it turned out good for you though!

At August 24, 2007 12:23 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey Bains! How are you?
Yes, I know, reason is the new me. But I am amazed at how it simplifies nearly everything and reduces the amount of worrying I do. Knowing I am not an island also helps.

Health care....in this country. Don't get me started. But thanks, I'm glad, too, that my girls are a-o-k!


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