SGLY: Don't wait
I am not sure how it began, but I will never forget how it ended. I was in a doctor’s lobby waiting for my name to be called. I was one of many seated spaciously apart by design due to COVID. There were no chairs in pairs, even though I could tell immediately that the eldest man and woman across the room were married.
The older woman struggled to complete her paperwork. After asking her husband several times what to write down, he eventually stood up, moved his chair next to hers, took the clipboard from her lap and filled out the forms with her. She looked relieved. And in a different way, so did he. They needed to be together, side by side.
If I were to guess the woman's age sitting closest to me (six feet away), I would say she was at least ten years older than me. In truth, after talking with her, I learned she was four years younger. Life’s stressors are the antithesis of an anti-aging cream. Nothing ages us more.
The woman and I were both there for the same reason: a callback on an abnormal finding from a previous imaging test. I could not help but wonder if all the patients in the waiting room were callbacks. From their uneasy looks, I would say yes. The woman nearest me and I bantered about the mental gymnastics of waiting several weekdays and over a weekend before having the follow-up diagnostic test.
“I have gone through every possible scenario in my head,” she said.
I knew exactly what she meant. I had done the same. Google is the nemesis of an anxious person. By the time my callback date arrived, I had diagnosed myself a dozen times, each with a maximum five-year life expectancy. I had given myself a death sentence and was gathering my emotions around me, dealing with each one like an unruly child. Even though I was quiet and friendly on the outside, my mind had been screaming for over a week. By the sunken, blueish gray coloring underneath the woman’s eyes, I could tell her mind had been screaming too.
What do you say to someone afraid to the point of being terrified? What words console, if any? Before I could come up with an answer, she asked me a question.
“You seem pretty calm. How are you doing it?”
“Calm?” I chuckled. “No, not at all. The only thing I’m doing right now is taking this all in.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I mean, I’m sitting here thinking this might be the last time I have before getting a diagnosis — the last time I have without a label, a condition, or a death sentence.” I looked at her and saw that she understood my rambling and did not judge me as irrational despite me feeling foolish. “Right at this moment, I’m still… normal. I’m still me — the me I know, at least.”
She smiled and let out a sigh. As if both were contagious, I did the same. “So, what do normal people talk about?” she asked.
I laughed. “In truth, I think I gave up being normal a very long time ago.”
She leaned forward, crushing her purse between her thighs and bosom. She was trying to get as close to me as possible without moving her chair. Her eyes widened and fixed themselves upon mine. Without blinking, she asked, “Will you do anything differently if the worst comes true?”
Her question startled me. I was, after all, a stranger. Then I realized this was a rare situation: She and I were in limbo waiting to find out which world we would be living in — the world of health or sickness. In this limbo, customs in conversation could be broken. In fact, everything felt like it was already broken. She and I were waiting to see how the pieces would fit back together. However, we both knew nothing ever goes back together the same.
“Will I do anything differently?” I repeated her question aloud, thinking of my answer. “If the worst comes true,” I began, “I would worry a lot less and laugh a lot more.” Tears formed when I spoke because I felt the exposed truth of my words. I was ashamed that I had not already been compelled to do such things.
“Yes!” she exclaimed. She rose just enough in her excitement that her purse fell to the ground. She did not bother picking it up — her focus remained on me. “I would do the same, but also not wait around to be happy. I would do more in my life to change my life to live the life I want. Does that make any sense?”
I could not help but notice the amount of energy that now infused her speech compared to when she first started talking. She was almost giddy. This woman looked like she was becoming healthier by the second.
“Perfect sense,” I said.
Her name was called. She collected her purse from the ground, stood up and came to where I was seated. She leaned over and hugged me. Tight. “No matter what happens, don’t wait to be happy,” she whispered in my ear.
I did not see her again. By the time I was called in and finished, she was gone. I prayed she received good news like I did. As I walked out through the lobby, I noticed the chairs put together by the older man were once again separated six feet apart and empty. I could not help but think that sometimes we are put together for moments — much needed moments that impact us for the rest of our lives.
Exiting the building, I felt the breeze upon my face. I smiled and said aloud, “I’m not going to wait.”
God gives us one day at a time to live. May we choose to live in joy today. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.