Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Guardian Angel

Today a patient gave me a gift. Now don't get all excited or up in arms about doctors accepting gifts-it was not a Ferrari or anything. This was an elderly person who is kind of on the gruff side, so it took me by surprise. It was a necklace, an angel, a guardian angel they said. They see me all rash-covered and bald, and they care. I am not easily moved. Well, I am pretty easily moved actually, because the beauty of the mundane and the wondrous punches me in the gut just about every other second. But this was just such a kind and simple gesture. It made my day.

I also got a crown today, of the dental category. I am currently reading this book called The Piano Tuner, which takes place in the late 1800's in London and Burma. As I sat in the chair listening to that terrible whine of the drill, smelling the tooth and prior filling being ground into dust, I was thanking my lucky stars for anesthesia. In my book, the part I read today included a scene where a boy had to have a few fingers amputated. They just tugged his ear real hard to distract him, then cut away when he was not looking. I am a wimp at the dentist, but have to admit it was tolerable, and there was no surprise ear tugging involved. Plus I got to watch my crown being made. Basically they do digital mapping, shape it to match the shape of your real tooth, and they put it in a "mill" which, like a 3D printer, takes the information from the computer and shapes you a brand new tooth cover. A tooth tiara. Then they shove that thing in there and voila! You can go home and chomp on some steak or whatever. Tofu in my case.

The guy who wrote The Piano Tuner was top of his class at Harvard, then graduated with an MD from UC San Francisco. His book was published at age 26. So annoying. My dentist is very beautiful, like an Elf in Lord of the Rings. She is also obviously smart and she can wield a drill like a total bad ass. Annoying. I was contemplating this fact today, how certain people are annoying in their seeming perfection. Why does this bother us? Or is it just me? Maybe I am the annoying one.

My dentist.

Speaking of annoying, the other day, my dog was laying on the window seat, minding his own business, and in recovery from a run in the woods, when the neighborhood black cat showed up. She likes to torture my dogs. This particular time, she came right up under the window and just sat there. My dog was apoplectic. I am unsure if he thought she was a real threat, like a black panther or something, or if he was just pissed off that she was in our yard and a cat. Nothing I said convinced him that he was tilting at windmills. So I just kept playing Chopin which sounded better than ever as I could not hear it over the din of his barking.

My dog(s)-Guardian Angels.

One of the chaplains at hospice (where I work at times), gave me the book My Grandfather's Blessings. There is a story in it about the biblical Jacob wrestling with an angel. The Angel attacked him, but when the angel let him go, Jacob held on and refused to release until he received a blessing. Jacob was hurt from their fight, and the angel touched him where he was hurt. And the angel gave him a blessing and departed. Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, who wrote this book, ponders on this story, told to her multiple times by her aging grandfather. She struggles with inflammatory bowel disease, and has had severe bouts which required prolonged hospitalization. She says "How tempting to let the enemy go and flee. To put the struggle behind you as quickly as possible and get on with your life. Life might be easier then but far less genuine. Perhaps the wisdom lies in engaging the life you have been given as fully and courageously as possible and not letting go until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything."

Doctors who struggle with their own illness are like fish on bicycles. We are supposed to be disengaged from suffering, so that we can face it off every day like a tough teenage boy in a brawl. We do not feel good about weakness, at least not in ourselves. Medical school and residency teaches us that.

We strive to avoid suffering, which is understandable. I, myself, cannot wait to get back to my prior level of exercise, my prior athletic body habitus, and my prior lack of outward signs of illness. I see myself as less than whole right now. Though I suppose that could be because I spent 2 hours staring at my gorgeous dentist today. Sigh.

Yesterday I encountered one of the toughest women I know at the grocery store. She made me laugh, right there in the produce aisle. And reminded me that toughness is not about bullshit, but rather it is about meeting yourself where you are and acknowledging that angel who is beating the shit out of you. The you ask the angel for a blessing, and get back to business.

Which makes me think of Beyonce. Which seems like a good way to end this. However, I would not be hired to be in her video, given my rashy, bald self. Beautiful people are so annoying. They need a Guardian Angel to kick their ass.

No comments:

Post a Comment