Thursday, September 8, 2011

Maybe today

Each day, my alarm clock rings way too early. I hit the snooze button exactly three times because that sequence will buy me fifteen extra minutes in bed and frankly, there's no place I'd rather be. Lying in bed is safe. It's warm and it's soft and when I'm still in bed the day hasn't really started yet - its too early for all of life's quirks and problems to surface. I know that the moment that I throw off the quilt and set foot on the worn carpet, that worries and concerns and stresses will come and collide back into my reality like a freight train hauling roughly one million tons of brick. Or explosives. It depends on the day. So I stay in bed as long as humanly possible before duty calls. Each day, as I lay in bed during that fifteen minutes that separates me from the chaos of life, I stare at the ceiling and say aloud, "Today is the day." I say it aloud to myself, in that quiet, still moment as fingers of morning flight shimmer tentatively around the frayed edges of the curtains. Perhaps if I say it out loud just enough, if I believe in it fervently enough, today will actually turn out to be the day that I desire above all other days in my life.

I truly want today to be THE day.

The day in early July where I am freshly back from a short 4th of July holiday visit to New York City. The day where I am contentedly looking at peripheral blood smears and previewing an unremarkable bone marrow biopsy specimen, already planning in my head what I want to do with my upcoming weekend. The day when the ringing telephone disrupts my work flow and I answer it, surprised that it is Chandler calling me from 2,000 miles away. The day when I realize that this moment, this phone call, is different from all of the previous moments with all of their previous calls. I want today to be the day where I set aside my work because I have already learned one fundamental truth: that work can wait and that he can't. I want today to be the day where we talk honestly, where I'm not busy being a doctor but busy being something far more important - a sister. The day where what I do might make a difference for him and that difference might make a better tomorrow for everyone.

But today can't be that day, because that day passed away from my grasp two months ago. It didn't just slip slyly through my outstretched fingers; I dropped the proverbial ball that day and watched as it shattered into millions of jagged pieces; pieces that have cut me so often in the intervening hours that I feel vaguely numb and disconnected. That day is gone and has left in its place hard-learned lessons. So instead, I send up a simple prayer in the instant before I rise from bed.

"Please, Lord, oh please, don't let today suck because I'm really not sure I'm capable of handling it."

I am reasonably sure that today will not suck, and if it does, it cannot ever be as bad as July 8th, 2011 at 12:00pm. In the last two months, I've developed different standards by which I judge the quality of my days. It's a scale where everything is relative - my brother can only kill himself once and he already managed to complete the task. I'm fairly certain that nothing that happens today will be as bad as what has already happened. At least I hope not, because I'm not lying when I say that I'm not capable of handling much more at this point; my emotional tolerance is worn threadbare.

And so if today will not bend the laws of natural physics and rewind itself into yesterday, if time will not allow me a do-over, I can at least hope that today will be the day that I wake up feeling good. I hope that today will be the one day where I do not collapse into tears while driving to or from work, where I do not hear the words "I'm not doing so good," or "fixed and dilated," or "Chandler is dead" loop repeatedly through my head. Perhaps today, I will not free-fall into the vast, churning brown rivers of grief and guilt that have flooded through the fields of my life. Perhaps today will be the day where life does not exhaust my emotional reserves, sinking my battleship before it has set sail into the sea of daily living. Maybe today my smile will be so real that it crinkles the corners of my eyes as it stretches across the plains of my face, instead of this poor facsimile that seems to be permanently plastered onto my face.

I live in hope that maybe, just maybe, today will be that day.