So earlier today I had an endoscopy. I’ll spare you the gory details–well, wait, I don’t actually have any considering they knocked me out for the procedure. I was pretty grateful for that, to tell you the truth. I had visions of barfing all over some poor nurse at the activation of my gag reflex.
Today’s fun venture was the culmination of a week of misery, pretty much. Something crazy happened when I swallowed a normal-sized piece of boneless grilled chicken last Saturday. As though the chicken were coated in shards of glass, I experienced that painful scraping and slicing sensation in my throat–like swallowing a chip with the sharp edge dragging its way down.
Five days later…five days of painful, difficult swallowing and esophageal spasms that feel like labor pains in the middle of my chest, I was having this endoscopy.
But this post isn’t about an endoscopy. Necessarily.
I was just lying here in bed, trying to fall asleep despite my discomfort, trying to piece together my pre- and post-anesthesia experience.
I remember them positioning me on the gurney. I remember a soreness and an ache spreading through my hand (where my IV was taped) and into my wrist and thinking, “They’ve started the meds.”
I remember feeling sleepy, and wanting to say out loud that I felt sleepy, but not really being able to do it.
I remember having a very fleeting moment of panic, because the anesthesiologist had never specifically said, “I’m starting the meds now. You will begin to feel sleepy. Count back from 10.” (Or something like that. Like, give me a little hint that we’re starting this party, bro!) But then it was done. I was out. Panic, over before it even really started.
The next thing I remember was the doctor laughing as she recounted to me how I said “I feel so groovy,” right before I zonked. (Oh, it’s over? You’re done shoving that thing down my throat already?)
Then I was in another room. “Did I fall asleep again?” I asked a new nurse that I hadn’t seen before. How did I get to that new room, with that new nurse? How had I missed it?
I remember her saying my husband wasn’t in the waiting room, and they were going to call him. Then, I blinked, and he was there, like magic. Next thing I knew–poof!–I was sitting in a chair instead of laying on the gurney.
I remember a lot of laughing. I remember realizing I was the one laughing.
At some point, I changed out of the hospital gown and into my clothes. When and how this happened remains a mystery to me.
I remember the nurse showing us some pictures of my esophagus, and me commenting that my esophagus was “stunning.” (It really is, if I do say so myself.)
I remember feeling like time had passed, but I didn’t really remember what had happened. So I asked my husband how long he had been there, what we had been talking about, if I had fallen asleep again. He said I hadn’t, but I couldn’t remember any of the talking. Huh.
After that, the edges of my memory get a lot sharper, and the holes are gone. I stumbled out to the car, leaning on him, giggling at mostly inappropriate times. My sincere apologies to the women who must have thought I was laughing maniacally at them when they stepped into the garage elevator.
We came home.
I’ve been poking at these holes in my memory, testing them, trying to see if I can fit something in there. But I can’t find anything in my brain to fill them with. It’s a very strange feeling.
So as I was lying here in bed just now, it occurred to me that life is full of metaphorical endoscopies. (You know I love a good metaphor!) They are challenges to be overcome. Pain to be suffered through. Fears to be faced. Problems to be solved. Trials to be endured.
It made me wonder, what if we had a symbolic anesthetic to temper the effect of life’s struggles? To give us soothing holes in our memory instead of the jagged edges of heartbreak, anger, sadness or defeat? That might be cool, maybe.
To feel, instead of my endless frustration with this fitness journey, just numbness until I reached my goals. To be spared of –to steal a phrase from my old pal Hamlet–the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. To move through this life with an “off” button for the struggles and pain we face as people with souls that aren’t bulletproof, with breakable hearts, and with susceptible bodies.
It sounded good, for a few minutes.
But then I remembered something else. I remembered that feeling and enduring those things make it possible to feel love, victory, happiness.
Oh, yeah. Right. Those.
I’m pretty sure this is makes us human; we endure the pain, the fear, the discomfort of whatever it is we’re going through, and know we’re alive and that we will, again, feel joy. Even if it completely and totally sucks right now.
We cope with failure and know that we will rise to try again. Maybe not today. Maybe not this moment. But again.
And in the process we get stronger. Never invincible, but stronger at least. Stronger in heart, in body, and in soul.
So to me, this is courage. This ability to endure, despite the pain and the obstacles. This persistence in living and seeking out the joy and love even as we withstand despair.
Even though the promise of numbness is sweet, I choose courage to bring me through. To get me to that next experience of victory on my journey.
So, yeah, that’s all I got, really. I feel like I should have more to say, but it’s 11:37 at night, waaaaay past my bedtime, and it’s possible that these are the nonsensical ramblings of someone still shaking off the effects of anesthesia.
But no matter how I feel when I re-read this post in the morning, I’m pretty sure I’ll still think that–while I very much appreciated the kind of anesthesia I had today–I’d much rather live my life without the metaphorical kind I dreamed up while I was lying here in my bed.