Tuesday Talk

I don’t have the results back yet from yesterday’s stress test, but it wasn’t nearly as much of an ordeal as I remember from the last one. The treadmill about wore me out, but I could have gone on for a few minutes more. Last time, I thought I was going to collapse before the end of the test. I hope my ability to finish without losing every bit of my stamina suggests good news. I’d rather not have to deal with heart issues at the same time I’m dealing with lung issues. Of course, I don’t yet know what the lung issues are, at least not with certainty. The mass could be malignant or it could be benign. If benign, it could present enough of a problem that it would have to be removed in some fashion. I just don’t know. So, I’ll wait patiently and, in the interim, direct my attention elsewhere.

Where is a good target toward which I should aim my attention? How about my tendency to say “yes” when I should say “no?” I’m not sure why it’s so difficult for me to refuse to take on responsibilities. Perhaps it’s because the projects are interesting and I tell myself they will take up “just a little” of my time. Bottom line is this: I lie to myself, which causes my calendar to fill with intrusive, if not lengthy, commitments I decide I’d rather not have made (or, rather, I’d rather not have made on top of the other commitments I’ve made). To wit:

  • Compiling and editing monthly 8 to 11 page church newsletter
  • Serving as a member of the church long-range planning committee
  • Accepting the role of vice chair of same committee
  • Serving as a member of the Hot Springs Village history committee, charged with writing a 50-year history of the Village
  • Accepting the role of acting chair of said committee, at least temporarily
  • Serving as treasurer, apparently for the rest of time, for the writers’ club
  • Serving as the de facto membership chair, communications chair, etc. of same club

By saying “yes” or, in some cases, not saying “no” to these commitments, I have effectively tied myself to the Village, almost literally. How can I leave for a road trip on a whim when I have a raft of time commitments or project responsibilities to fulfill? My wife warned me, after listening to my bitching about being tied to the calendar. But even then, I agreed to be in a play. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on outcome), I have to back out of the play due to potential medical issues.

It occurs to me that the previous paragraphs paint the picture of a growling curmudgeon whose personality thrives on negativity and complaint. That is not exactly the image of the person I’d like to be. So, I’ll change my tune, as it were. I’ll turn my complaints on their head.

Though I’m inclined to say “no” to many requests as a means of keeping my calendar clear and my options open, I find myself saying “yes,” instead. In spite of acting in opposition to my inclinations, there are benefits in saying “yes.” For example, by so doing I force myself to better manage my time. In addition, my involvement with multiple activities and projects exposes me to people with whom I might not otherwise interact. Social interaction is a human need whose importance we cannot discount; we need to be with people. So, by taking on projects, I feed my need to be a social creature.

And, in spite of my disappointment at not being able to easily leave the Village on a whim, following through on my commitments teaches me patience, a virtue for which I am not especially well-known. By reducing the frequency of my “on a whim” road trips, I am effectively giving myself the opportunity to be that much more excited to take those few I am able to take.

Have I convinced myself? It’s hard to say. I feel a little like I’m being subjected to the words of a con artist. And not a particularly good one, at that. At the very least, I’ve successfully taken my mind off the fact that I don’t have the results of my stress test. Until now. Damn, I should have kept my fingers in their holsters and my mind on something else.

I just got a call from the hospital where I’ll have my PET scan tomorrow. The caller asked if I had any questions. I had several. She answered all of them. I remain not entirely sure having a PET scan will be a joyous experience, but I resign mysself to the fact that it will be done. I hope the scans do not reveal any “bright spots.” Bright spots on such scans, I understand, suggest bad things are happening to one’s body. And, after the scan, at some point, a biopsy of the mass in my right lung. None of this stuff is enticing.

I do recognize, though, that I can have all these tests done without worrying (for now, anyway) that medical bills will bankrupt me. A friend is not so fortunate. He does not have health insurance because it is far more expensive than he feels he can justify paying. He is forced to choose between spending many hundreds of dollars a month that he can’t depend on bringing in every month as a freelancer and risking a catastrophic illness or accident that could ruin him financially. Too many people face that ugly choice. It’s a choice that shouldn’t have to be made in this country. Any country. So I am lucky in the extreme.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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