Last weekend I went to the doctor. To preface, I am irrationally afraid of the doctor, or more specifically, needles. A stocky nurse came in wearing heavy make-up and a maroon velour sweatsuit. She instructed me to hold out my right arm and she slapped a blue rubber band around it. “Can you take it from my finger, please?” trying to seem like the other three year olds that crowded my pediatrician’s office. (No way am I going to a real doctor. No. Way.)
“Sorry, we need too much blood,” she responds without any sympathy. By this time I am already convulsing uncontrollably. “I think you need to go lie down,” she says as she points me to the table. “We do this with the younger kids.” Great. She starts wiping my inner arm with a wet cotton swap and I start weeping uncontrollably. I snap my head away, forcing myself to stare out the window as she performs this elaborate procedure. “Your veins are long and slender, just like you.”
“What does that mean?”
“That means this will hurt.” Wonderful. Thanks. Because I am so calm already… I sob as I feel the cold metal enter my skin and break out into hysterical laughter.
And there I am, bringing up the average age of the pediatrician’s office crying and laughing as my blood gets sucked out uncontrollably. I laugh harder and cry harder: Why am I doing this? Why do I have this unreasonable, illogical, foolish fear? Why do I find this funny? After what feels like hours of waiting, she jerks the needle out and instructs me to wait for a few minutes while she retrieves a tuberculosis scratch test. “But I don’t have TB,” I protest, “I don’t use heroin, I’m not around homeless people, and I haven’t been exposed.” I list off all the various causes from the laminated sign hanging in front of my face, “Seriously,” I plea, “this is a waste of a test, save it for someone who actually has TB.”
“No, you need it,” she dictates as she jabs another needle into my flesh. More laughter and tears.
While my tribulations at the doctor may seem mundane, trivial, and even juvenile, I truly learned a valuable lesson. As I lay on my back on the nylon exam table, I realized my absurdity, my irrationality, and my pointlessness. I imagined all the worse things that could have been happening to me at that moment. I envisioned all the suffering so many other people undergo as a necessity to stay alive, and I was just fretting over a simple blood test.
I went home last Friday feeling defeated. Each event from the day made it worse at worse. While no event was truly bad, detrimental to my health, or life-changing, I found myself counting down the minutes until the day ended. After school, I went to Borders to buy myself a gift to make myself feel better and ended up feeling guilty about spending money. I ate a tub of chocolate Funfetti frosting to bring a smile to my face and ended up feeling sick. I flicked on Tyra and it was a re-run. Nothing could make my day improve.
And nothing did. I went to bed early, relieved to end what could go down as one of my worst days and frustrated at my inability to cheer up.
It wasn’t until after I left the singing glass doors of the doctor’s office, with my coat only on one arm due to my half-imaginary, half- blame- the-slender-veins pain. I realized the problem with the world. The problem with the nurse, the problem with teachers, the problem with the community: we don’t laugh enough.
Here I am trembling uncontrollably, trying my best to add humor to a rather uncomfortable and terrifying situation and the best this lady can do is give me some backhanded compliment about my body, without even cracking a smile?! I mean, seriously, where’s the fun? Are we supposed to just suffer through our fears without laughing, smiling, or making each other feel better? Where’s the compassion? The unity? The love?
My grandma tells me every week that laughter is the best medicine. That joy and good times helped her battle breast cancer and allowed her to gain the strength she has today. I have to agree. While science may be a large part of it, can we not attribute some of our health to happiness? If we cannot appreciate all the humor and pleasure in life, what are we living for?
I left the doctor’s office feeling elated, realizing that the true solution to my problems was laughter, humor, enjoyment. I batted away tears as I laughed some more, grasping the ease with which I could enjoy my life so much more. I vowed to laugh more, appreciate everything, the good and the bad, and realize that there is always something to laugh about, that it could always be worse, and that I am lucky to be where I am.
The doctor called yesterday to tell me I had perfect blood. “Everyone should have blood like yours,” she said. I instantly felt motivated to donate and then I remembered the needles…