As the midwest gets colder, I am trying to conceal my giddiness about sweaters and hot drinks and general holiday merriment. Because, as it turns out, peeling off layers upon layers of clothing wherever you go is not fun for everyone. Like donut poetry at a diabetic salon. Viking hats in a balloon factory. Sometimes enthusiasm, however well-meaning, can be very misplaced.
This morning, while scheduling a patient, I told her to enjoy the beautiful day. It was presumptuous of me. A comment based entirely on the careless observation that sunlight was spilling in from the window sills, and onto our indoor plants. An idea rooted in it being Saturday, the day before Sunday — which altogether comprises a weekend. The patient scoffed. “But look, you are wearing a sweater and I am wearing a jacket.” And Syria, she seemed to add with her eyes.
Penitent, my instincts to agree with everything everyone says kicked in. “Yes,” I began to mollify, “uh, maybe we can try to comfort ourselves with hot apple cider or something.” I shrugged my shoulders, trying to look blase about my favorite drink in the entire world. She began to smile, and then gave up.
“Well, it’s just going to get colder and colder from now on. Like 50’s. And then we’re going to have to drive in it, with all this construction slowing us down before it snows, and then we’ll have to drive in that. In the snow.” I nodded and nodded. A coworker behind me tried to continue the conversation. But the patient shot down every positive with a negative, slam dunking 1995 MJ-style. And with that we released her. She left, right about everything.
Of course, we all have days like this. Days entrenched in pessimism. I saw her moment, felt it, respected it. More in my interest was to get out of her way. To let her have her say.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to learn that what is healing for me isn’t healing for everyone. What makes me happy, and brings me joy, can have the opposite effect on someone else. And sometimes – even if context, mood, and values align – a connection isn’t meant to be…
But for those of you with whom I do share a connection: This week, I watched youtube videos with my mom while we ate lemon curd and ginger snaps, and sipped on tea. Dad Jay wrote out a grocery list, adding “candy (for energy or passing out).” And Gigi waited for visitors.
I discovered four new facts about cinnamon, hugged a few of my favorite friends, read Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. And many things made me laugh. Also, surprise packages arrived in the mail from someone extra close to my heart, and my cheeks are still warm from them. Thank you again. Thank you, oh you who read this. I like you, I like you, and it makes me so happy when I think about it!