“Ms. Dogkisses,” the woman said, “Why do you wait until the very last minute to pay your bill each month?”
I looked at the clock on her wall. In my world, 4:45pm was early. Her office closed at 5:00. It wasn’t only the time of day, it was also the last day of the month that I could pay my bill without my auto insurance being canceled, so I was just in time.
I didn’t know what to say. I guess I looked bewildered because her level of irritation immediately lessened. She sat down at her computer and asked me to have a seat. So I did.
I work under pressure. Sometimes within minutes of a deadline. It probably has a lot to do with chronic fatigue. Maybe the pressure of a deadline gets my heart pumping and my adrenaline flowing and that’s the only way I can work!
She had a bowl of candy on her desk — with the good candy in it, like chocolate Kisses. It was not your average office candy bowl with the hard peppermint candy or artificially flavored suckers. I politely asked if I could partake and her warm smile made me feel like I could have the entire bowl if I wanted it.
Enjoying the chocolate I began to talk. Sometimes, when I’m upset or nervous and must interact with people I talk too much. I tend to tell the truth about what’s going on in my life. I just start telling. I usually manage to get a few laughs as I try and wrap my pain in humor. Sometimes it backfires and someone cries.
It takes energy for me to pretend I’m okay when I’m not. Since my energy is endangered and possibly on the brink of extinction, I don’t try as hard anymore to make others feel better about how I feel. I try to follow the social norms as much as I can, and manage pretty well most of the time. Sometimes things get me, little things such as the normal greeting we are use to in America, “Hello, how are you?”
We are supposed to say fine and move on. It’s easy to say fine to someone like the clerk at the register in the grocery store, but other times it’s harder. The other day I was checking in for occupational therapy for my hand. The clerk asked me how I was doing. Well, I was very sick. I was dizzy and thought it possible I might pass out before I could get upstairs.
“I’m fair,” I said, and I even gave a hint at a smile. She was disappointed. I get that a lot. Fair is simply not good enough for many people. I’m amazed at the responses I get from complete strangers because I said I was fair.
So, there I am paying my bill, feeling nervous that I interrupted this woman’s day by arriving just in time and I start talking and telling. I tell the woman a few things about my life. I tell her about my time. I tell her that I have a son dealing with some hard things in life. I tell her I’m overwhelmed. I eat some more chocolate. I don’t know exactly what it was I said that she most related to but she suddenly stopped typing.
She turned to me and asked if I would tell her more. Her eyes had teared up. I told her a little more. Then she tells me.
She tells me how odd it is that I came in when I did and said what I said. She tells me how she is completely moved by the things I said.
“I’ve never heard someone talk about these kinds of…” she paused, “problems or illnesses, whatever they are, the way you just did.”
I wasn’t sure how I had talked about anything other than being open about the way I felt.
She told me about what was happening in her life, which sounded a lot like what was happening in mine. I listened.
Before I left her office she told me she had an epiphany, although I wasn’t sure what it was. She said my timing had been personally important to her. She was overwhelmed, as I was. I don’t think she had a way to put that into words. I guess that’s what she heard from me. A way to talk about what is hard.
One thing that I think changes for those of us who live with chronic illness is time. We are given time to reflect and think about life. We also learn, as it seems we must, how to talk about the difficult things in life. This isn’t easy. I believe that learning how to better talk about what is hard is part of our healing journey.
It’s hard talking about what is difficult to talk about.
I’ll probably continue to talk too much when I’m nervous. I’ll probably continue being too honest at times. I have tried to change this about myself, but I can’t and I’m too tired to fight who I am. I’ll most likely continue saying I’m fair when fine is just too far for me to grasp.
I’ve been told I wear my heart on my sleeve, that I cannot hide and that my eyes tell things about me. I have in a way been forced by this part of who I am to learn how to talk about what people see; what I cannot hide and do not want to anyway.
Sometimes this part of being me works out alright. My nervous honesty worked out alright paying my bill. I think I’ve gotten myself out of a couple of tickets with sudden outbursts of utter truth. I told the truth about why I was speeding (hard times!) and then another time about why I was driving — briefly without a seat belt — while tired in the middle of the night (hard times again!). Both times the truth came out of my mouth faster than I could think. Both times the truth was so bazaar the officers let me go.
Sometimes it’s good to talk about what is difficult to talk about.
The image of French Rose by, “The Graphics Fairy.”