There is nothing more nerve-wracking for me than to sit in a hospital waiting room. Whether it’s awaiting a birth of a child or waiting for a loved one to return from a routine/minor procedure, my insides turn… I wish in all of my studying and applying of mindfulness and stress management my stomach wouldn’t turn but it still does.
The last stint was waiting for my dad during a routine procedure. There’s something scary for me about sitting in the waiting room for my dad. A couple of years ago it was during a surgery on his heart (not routine at all) and a year before that was him getting a pacemaker.
I’m a 40-year old grown woman but I will be the first to admit I want to act like a child when something is wrong with my Dad. I want someone else to handle it. I want someone else to receive the news. I want someone else to sit in the waiting room. I want someone else to be the adult.
Yet, here we are sometimes… middle-aged. I’m beginning to feel the squeeze of parenting my littles while also feeling as if I’m parenting my parents. … Not only in the showing up in the waiting room or calling the doctors to more clearly understand a diagnosis or a prescription, but also in the suggestions for how they might respond to others (or each other) better, how they might want to do something differently for ease of next time or (my least favorite) how they need to be taking better care of themselves.
My parents have good genes of people who live a long time, especially my dad. My children should have another fifteen to twenty years with them, God willing. With that in mind I often forget about their mortality. I look at my parents and I don’t see senior citizens. I see the parents of my childhood only with slower walks and more gray hair. I don’t see the cabinets full of pills, the blood sugar and blood pressure monitors on the counter, the pharmacy and doctor bills, the gazillion notes around the house so they don’t forget things, or the walker. I see my parents.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Sometimes I think this is a good thing. I don’t focus on their mortality. I don’t have anxiety about some unknown day in the future. I don’t worry about one day having to clean out their 40 year collection of life in their home. I don’t worry about if my brother and I are capable of taking one or both of them on or picking out the right next facility. I don’t worry about the day when we have to take the keys to the car away from one of them. I don’t worry about the day(s) we will have to have extended visits in the hospital to ensure we clearly understand what the diagnosis and treatment is. So, when I see the gray hairs and unsteady gaits, I don’t think about that stuff.
What is a bad thing, though, is that I forget how quickly fifteen years go by. For a reference, my husband and I have been married for fifteen years… that doesn’t seem possible. The wedding doesn’t feel like yesterday but maybe five or ten years ago. My grandmother has been gone almost fifteen years. Again, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I would visit her in the nursing home, always leaving with a very heavy heart.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
It’s a tight rope exercise, balancing between not having anxiety about the future but also not taking the moments we do have for granted. The only way you truly appreciate the everyday moments is when you have a good grasp that the future is unknown… and hopefully that doesn’t send you into a tailspin of anxiety.
If I really want to make myself suffer I consider my children and worry about their future both in health and good life choices… talk about something that could send a person into hives. I could worry my son will never apply himself. I could worry my daughter will never get a handle on her perfectionism. I could worry about genetic diseases that may rear their ugly head some day. I could worry about kids influencing them badly at school. I could worry that for one split second something horrible happens if I’m not a helicopter mom. But… why do that to myself? If I worried about those things I would become a fearful mom and probably not a very nice one. Or encouraging one. Or confident one. Or one that exemplifies trusting in God. Or one that exudes confidence in her children.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
The fact is, every day is a day in the waiting room. We never know our day or hour and we don’t know His plan. So, I sit in this waiting room called life trying to enjoy every day that we DO have and not worry about the next.