Thursday, July 19, 2007

Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, But You Have to Pick Them

I went to the doctor this week, a specialist I've been seeing annually for a number of years. I was referred by my GP a number of years ago, and found him to be competent and helpful. I also found him to have the personality, basically, of a turnip. No chit-chat, no smiles, no information beyond what I forced out of him with persistent questions. But he was undeniably competent, so I kept going back.

About 18 months ago, I returned with a mild to moderate problem that was greatly affecting my quality of life. To my surprise, he was really responsive to that, and spent quite a lot of effort to find me an answer. Which he did. And he even talked a few times without prodding. And I talked some with his staff, who really, really respected and liked him, and were also responsive to the patients. Hmm. I thought. Maybe he's just an introvert. Or shy. Or both.

So I went into his office this week, and waited for my appointment. Several times, he escorted patients out to the payment window. He smiled at each one, and on several occasions patted a shoulder or an arm. Something's changed, I thought. I wonder what it could be. I immediately wondered if he had a better personal life, happiness. Because he seemed happy.

When my name was called, I entered the inner office only to wait further, of course. I talked to the staff member who escorted me and learned from her this year, as I had last from other staff, how much they respected and liked him. Then a woman came along. Reminded me maybe of Babs in 15 years. Grey hair, shiny, in a sassy long ponytail. A face that radiated warmth at 10 paces. Big smile. Athletic walk. Casual clothes. The staff introduced me to my doctor's wife. I smiled and said, "He takes good care of me." She beamed and patted me on the shoulder. "I hear that a lot," she said. Staff followed her into another room. When she returned, I asked, "Is that the always wife or is she new?" "New, " I was told. She went on to say he had had a downsize in his patients, but now he was back on top again and everything was going well.

The doctor came for me and we did our business. He smiled and even volunteered a minor personal statement. He did his usual careful assessment and care of me. He escorted me out and smiled again.

What a difference happiness makes.

I have been reading for years about a curious anamoly that somewhat puzzles academics and doctors. Depressed people are the most logical of us all. They assess everything by the logic of it, without hope involved. Without optimism involved. Just logic. A horrible newspaper story I read years ago told of an experiment where depressed rats (I don't know how to get rats depressed, but scientists do) and normal rats were put in a caldron of water with no way out. The could only swim until they drowned. The depressed rats gave up much earlier. They knew there was no way out, so why waste effort? The healthy rats fought on. And eventually, they, too, drowned. Horrible story. Horrible experiment. But the healthy rats were right. Something could have happened. They could have been rescued. Damn scientists.

Being human involves more than logic. When we embrace the possibility of possibilities, something changes.

Simplest example I have was when I was in graduate school. I was taking a Speech and Hearing class called"Theories of Language Acquisition in Children." It is both the best class and best teacher I ever had, but one of the hardest. I wasn't a speech major, but to pass this course, I had to pass a midterm where I could competently identify what consonants, vowels, diphthongs and harder consonants children master in order--and identify the stages in word scenarios on the test.At about the same time, a friend gave me a gig doing area publicity for a New Age musician who had concerts scheduled. I did my best. I've never been too entreprenurial, have I said? My test was on a Monday. The Friday before, I was paid for my work...$400! I had never dreamed I would be paid so much. I did my happy dance and sat down to study. Buoyed up by the optimism, I aced that Monday test. Aced it. Logically, I knew I couldn't do better than a B. But optimism and happy cut in, and I aced it. Reality is more than logic.

Whatever people try to tell you, love and happiness are real. And when you have them, you can go a whole lot further than logic. Isn't that the point of Dickens"A Christmas Carol"? Goodness exists, and so does happiness and enthusiasm, and idealism. And love.

My doctor is happier. I suspect that makes him an even better person. I know it makes him a better doctor.


DW said...

Life without hope is a punishment, been there and done it. There was a time that I lay on the floor and didn't get up for three days. My son had to step over me to take care of him self. I have been described as a mean son of a bitch, but some things you just can't deal with. God love the Dr. and care for him and his new love.

night lightning woman said...

Yes, indeed. And back at you DW. Now you know the hopelessness was an illusion. I swear you do sound fulfilled these days. I'm glad.