Sunday, September 7, 2008

In the Moment

The woman’s tired, watery eyes grabbed my eyes with a ferocity that contradicted my assumptions. “You are my miracle,” she whispered with a voice so powerful it shook my soul. Her grey head shook slightly as she nodded an exclamation point.
This woman had survived such horrific abuse that the very fact she was sitting in front of me was, itself, miraculous and she was calling me her miracle.

I have “officially” been working with survivors of domestic violence since February, but I have “worked” with survivors for two years. I know that advocates have an enormous responsibility, but yesterday, I literally came face to face with the reality of it.
And, I was humbled.
And frightened.

What if I fail?

The process of leaving an abuser can be the most dangerous point of a survivor’s journey.
It is also when she is most frightened and vulnerable, angry and frustrated, sad and lonely, confused and overwhelmed.
And sometimes, it is when she calls my organization.
And sometimes, we can help.

This woman made that call.
This woman, who had left everything, who had left behind her entire life…again.
She called.
And we met.

She was not asking me for resources or contacts or shelter. She was not asking me what she should do or where she should go or how she should get there. Nor did she tell me her story, though she circled slowly around it, each ripple getting a little closer to center.
She just talked.
And I just listened.

And that, to her, was a miracle.
And she felt humbled.

And I realized that I have it all wrong.
A miracle is not determined by the number of people who recognize it. A miracle does not need to be global to be valid.

Moments contain miracles.

Small, personal, individual moments.

Don't let them slip by without being noticed.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Up, Up and Away

My children are dribbling back to school this week.

OS started today.

This morning, he drove off for his last, first day of high school.

Drove off!
Without me!

This summer he finally found the time to get his driver’s license. His original life plan had him getting his license on his 16th birthday, but real life consumed him and the driver’s license window did not open for him until late June, more than a month after his 17th birthday. The delay turned out to be a good thing for him and he passed the test with flying colors on the very first try!

I was delirious with excitement at the prospect of having another driver in the house and I quickly bought us a second taxi.
OS and I chose a 1987 Mitsubishi Montero with a manual transmission – a sturdy, reliable, macho machine that had lived life as a tow behind vehicle. The original faded brown interior produced frown lines in OS’ otherwise pristine forehead, but a gear head friend assured him that the engine was in exceptional condition, even for a car half its age and that the cosmetic part would be a piece of cake.
The two of them have been busily “fixing” the car which OS has affectionately named, “the Beast”.

It’s not quite done, but it’s drivable.
And this morning, he drove it!
To school!

For his LAST, first day!

Freed at last from the shackles of chauffeuring, I felt curiously unhinged.
My boy is growing up and away.
Too fast.

OS rolled down the driveway and I heard him grind the gears into neutral as he tried to make a statement by peeling off down the street. The engine roared, but the Beast remained at a standstill. OS whined the car into first and bucked into the start of a new school year.
His last school year at home.

I turned with a smile to finish getting ready for work and silently thanked the Beast for slowing my boy down…just a bit…to give me a chance to catch up.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Physician, I Will Heal Myself

I haven’t been to a doctor since before I got divorced almost two years ago. I’ve started having a few aches and pains and I thought to myself that it might be a good idea if I made an appointment and went in for a good old-fashioned once over. After putting it off for more months than I care to admit, I've decided to get it over with and call the doctor.

I don’t have a primary care physician.
I ask my friends for referrals.
All of them, every single one them, goes to a doctor whose office is in the back of beyond!

Not to worry, my good friend, Universe, steps up with a post card. It’s a notice from my ob-gyn reminding me that it is time for my annual check-up.
PERFECT! Said ob-gyn will be able to recommend someone good.
I call to make an appointment. I know that I will have to wait at least a month, but I’m okay with that…at least I’ll be moving forward instead of standing still.
But wait!
What’s this?!
She has a cancellation for the following Monday?! I am actually available on that exact same Monday at that exact same time?!

I dance into the office on Monday. I arrive at 10:45 and my appointment isn’t even until 11!
Whoo hoo! Look at me!

I check in with the very straightly parted, thin, brown hair seated at the front counter.
“Oh, by the way,” I drop casually, proudly placing my new, never before used, insurance card on the desk in front of her, “I got a job, so I have new insurance.”
The receptionist peers at my card, lifting her eyes without moving her chins off her ample chest, “Of course, you do realize that we don’t take that insurance.”
“No,” I reply, the word knocked out of me as though forced by a blow to my gut.
“I mean, you could still see the doctor…” she says through her nose, “it’s just that you’d have to pay for it all...yourself.”
As she speaks, my precious, new insurance card hangs precariously between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand, dangled like a distastefully dirty diaper.

I rescue it from her limp grasp. “Can you recommend anyone who does take this insurance?” I inquire hopefully.
“You can try upstairs, in 522,” she replies lifting her head and shaking it at me, “I’ve heard that they can take Providence.” I leave wondering if the sorrowful head shaking was meant for me or for the poor souls upstairs who accept my apparently inferior, insurance.

The elevator dings and I step off on the fifth floor into a confusing world of déjà vu which baffles me, until I am standing with my hand on the doorknob of 522 and the “aha” light bulb blinds me with its brilliance.
The name on the door belongs to the ob-gyn who deigned to allow me to burden him with my last pregnancy. The knob fairly burns my hand and I quickly snatch it back. Angry and unpleasant memories of months of cold and indifferent appointments rocket me back to the elevator. The doors close too slowly and I rest against the elevator wall, thankful to have dodged that bullet.

The next day, at the office, I ask my co-workers for referrals.
One is on her husband’s insurance.
Another chooses not to carry any insurance and, instead, patronizes the neighborhood health clinic.
A third recommends her doctor – who, coincidentally, practices in the back of beyond with all of the doctors of my friends.
Finally, I light upon someone who both carries the company insurance and sees a physician who works within twenty blocks of my house.
“Bingo!” I yell.

Her PCP belongs to a group of family practitioners. I am thrilled with the prospect of one-stop shopping that a family practitioner promises. I am sure that any one of these eight, fine physicians will be perfect for me and I leave it up to Fate to decide who will be honored with the moniker of “my” PCP.

My fingers fairly dance across the keypad as I dial the number.
“Hello,” I chirp brightly into the receiver, “I was given your number by a co-worker and I was wondering if any of your doctors is accepting new patients.”
“No,” the disembodied voice clips. “Not at this time.”

As my head bangs into yet another brick wall, I comfort myself with the notion that employees are the reflection of a business and, if this particular employee is providing an accurate reflection, then this is not the group of docs for me.

Perhaps the back of beyond is not as far away as it once was.