Sunday, November 1, 2009

st. theresa; or, let nothing upset me

I have been hanging by a thread these days; and that thread is my last nerve. I am out of patience. Everything annoys me. The dogs annoy me. My family annoys me. My students annoy me... My computer's latest habit of loading at a snail's pace and then randomly crashing makes me scream and pull my hair...Fox baseball announcers drive me to drink.  I actually dropped the f-bomb in class last week because I called one of three identical blonde girls by the wrong name. Again. 

I am not a good person right now.  For the first time in my life I understand people who hit their loved ones. There are times when I have to restrain myself from smacking our overly exuberant slightly insane australian shepherd.  Just for the hell of it. I snap at people for the smallest of offenses. I have road rage. I hate people for minor trangressions. I have yelled at my mother. I am just angry. All the time.

So it should come as no suprise that I got sick; and last week when I went to the doctor for Strep Throat my blood pressure was 40 points higher than usual.  My doctor gave me a round of antibiotics and after our regular appointment I was standing in the hallway talking to the recpetionist and he turned to me and said "Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, your blood pressure was a little high. What are you going to do about that?" I said that I was working on recovering from grad school, which almost killed me. I was about to get to the whole "I teach adjunct for about 10 cents an hour" when he must have heard the warble in my voice, because he took me by the arm and walked me back into the examining room.

He told me all the things about stress that I already know. It isn't the events themselves that cause stress, it is how we handle them. I am the only one who can control how upset I get no matter the circumstances. And I nodded along with him, because this was not news to me. Even though I knew everything that he was saying. And that I had, in fact, heard it all before. I was moved. This doctor, with a very busy general practice, in the middle of flu season was spending 20 minutes, or so with me talking about meditation.  I do not have health insurance, he knows this, he was only going to get the sixty dollars cash for the visit, no matter how long he spent with me. But, he really cared about me. He spoke gently and kindly about taking care of myself. He told me that I needed to build a life I was proud of. He was careful not to offend. This is a very conservative area of Northen California and he knew that he was taking a risk talking about meditation and he was careful to explain meditation in really neutral terms. He talked about native americans, and catholic nuns, the buddha, and christian philosphers who all meditated. He wrote out a prayer by St Theresa and had me recite the first two lines with him right there in his office,

                                       Let nothing upset you.
                                       Let nothing frighten you.

He recommended (prescribed) a book called God Makes the Rivers to Flow by Elanath Easwaran. Later I joked that this is what he tells all his patients without health insurance to do. But, in reality I think that 20 minutes may have saved my life. It is St Theresa's words that I use to calm me when I find myself getting upset. But it is the fact that for 20 minutes the busiest and most important man in the room sat down with me and reminded me that I am smart. I am special. I am worth something.

Since then, I find myself repeating those two lines whenever I start to get upset. It isn't a perfect system. I am still dealing with anger and impatience, but, I at least feel like I have a tool to help me out.  I know too, that I was so touched by that doctor's kindness that it made my hyper aware of how little kindness and gentleness I get these days.  It is as if being ministered to was so rare to me that when it came it was like a salve on my wounded heart. I am making changes in my life. I am walking and eating healthy again. I am standing up for myself at work. And there are other big changes in the works that I can't share here just yet. But, change is a comin'.


  1. Ms Kat. I'm excited for your change. I hope it is the best possible change that you can bring for yourself.

    I have to say that, reading this post, I teared up. I felt such a connection, such a knowing-from-first-hand-experience, with what you are describing. I'm glad that you have tools to help. The walking? I get...I walk all of the time. It's the one time when I feel like I can really start to let go of all that is filling me with doubt and anger and disappointment.

    I hope what you are doing continues to work well for you.

  2. Great art show idea! Just one more reason for Cardo to look at us as if we are crazy...except, this time, I can tell him it was your idea. :) Now I just need to find a somewhat free bit of wall space. Or, I can use the fishing line I bought and didn't use for her costume and hand the pictures clothesline style.