I wrote this over 20 years ago. It’s even more true today.
I wish I had a dime for every time I called up my mother to bitch about something and she responded with the refrain “Relax, at least everyone is healthy.” It’s about as irritating as hearing the phrase “This too shall pass” when you’re dealing with the terrible two’s, obnoxious adolescent behavior and middle-age weight gain.
Both these brilliant and highly annoying remarks are mainstays of my mother’s responses to me when I’m exhausted, stressed and exhibiting less-than-perfect coping skills. They are always followed by my wailing, “Pleeze, mother, give me a break!”
However, I must admit, that over the years I have (although I’d never admit it to her) taken my mother’s message to heart. The pain of soured friendships, jilted lovers and unfulfilled career goals has always seemed easier to bear when I’ve repeated those two mundane but very applicable messages to myself: Relax – at least everyone is healthy. Relax – this too shall pass.
At the age of 44, basically everyone close to me WAS healthy and every problem I had ever encountered truly did seem to resolve itself in time. That didn’t mean that I didn’t pour tremendous amounts of energy into solving them, it just meant that my problems were solvable – fixable – within my power to make right.
And then I was confronted with a situation that was not “fixable” – at least not by me. I was confronted with a situation that required coping mechanisms I was not familiar with. Words like endurance, perseverance, and patience began to creep into my consciousness and then into my everyday vocabulary.
The ordeal began with a routine eye exam for one of my children, prompted by an over-scrutinizing grandfather. Something disturbing is found. Something is not quite right. An uneasy physician makes an immediate referral to a specialist. A neurologist is seen and upon his recommendation, a complete blood work-up and M.R.I. is scheduled.
The wait starts. First for the tests – then for the results. Anxiety sets in. Fear settles in my stomach. It follows me as I do the wash, drink my morning cup of freshly brewed coffee, make out my weekly grocery list. I am distracted easily and quickly grow impatient and irritable.
I call friends with medical backgrounds and carefully question them regarding my son’s symptoms. I call my oldest son at college to scour his university’s library for relevant information. My eyes nervously search my child, trying to pick up changes in his posture, appearance and stamina.
A friend’s whining about not being able to find the right color beige shoes for her new dress assaults my raw nerves. A neighbor’s vehement complaints about the teen-ager who cuts her lawn being two days late stops me in my tracks. I numbly repeat my mother’s two adages to them. “At least everyone is healthy. This too shall pass.” They look at me strangely. I walk slowly away.
I am consumed by my concern. The days pass slowly as my husband and I wait for the test results. Gruesome scenarios haunt my waking hours. I push away morbid thoughts and try concentrating on baking an apple pie. I burn the crust badly.
The test results are in. No abnormalities. No growths. Nothing adverse noted at this time.
Waves of relief wash over me. Time for a coffee break. With a shaking hand, I pour myself a cup, carry it to the kitchen table and sit down to digest the news. After that, I’ll call my mother. I guess it’s about time I told her she was right.