I didn’t expect to find myself dodging the beginnings of a political debate at 3:50am in the waiting room of the ER, but alas, that was exactly where I found myself last night (er- this morning?). Don’t worry- everyone is just fine, all will be well in time. Although I must admit, I am beginning to get a bit concerned with how much time I have spent in these waiting rooms in the past year- I am one flu away from wrapping my entire family up in bubble wrap and locking them securely in a safe until I determine that they are ready to rejoin healthy society.
You never know what to expect when you wake up each morning, what adventures will await you, what twists will turn your personal novel in a new direction? We tend not to think about such topics all that often, because we would simply drive ourselves insane with the possibilities. But five hours in the waiting room gives one time to ponder the questions of life that you typically do not ask yourself. Yesterday morning I crawled out of bed excited that it was finally Friday, and for the first time in weeks, I would be able to make it to happy hour with my friends afterwards. I pushed through a rather dull work day and then enjoyed a couple of drinks with friends at our favorite Irish pub.
After coming home I indulged in a rare treat: a hot bath with my latest book, followed by fuzzy pajamas and cozy blankets. I was just settling in to relax and do a bit of writing when my phone rang. At 10:30pm I left to go pick up my dad and take him to the Emergency Room. Ironically, I had been wanting to go out this weekend to visit with him- but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I didn’t make it back home until 7am on Saturday morning. Personally, I am impressed with my ability to stay awake. You have to understand- I am not a morning person, nor am I a night owl. I’m the type of girl who rocks mid-afternoon, and occasionally falls asleep while folding laundry at 9:30 (that happened to be my Thursday night, in fact). So for me to manage to stay wide away and functioning on a high enough caliber to operate a motor vehicle- for 26 hours straight- that was an achievement. I can’t really remember the last time I pulled an all-nighter. Probably because my poor psyche has blocked it from my mind.
There is nothing more colorful than a late night at the Emergency Room. You have all walks of life. The upset family of the woman that either drove drunk and got hurt, or simply drank so much that she required hospitalization (I couldn’t quite tell, but they were all rather distraught), the older church lady and her calming husband coming in because she broke her foot. The guy who was so high he had convinced people he couldn’t stand on his own two feet- not until he was faced with the prospect of being pushed around in a wheelchair (that was when the ‘miraculous recovery’ happened). The woman close to my age who offered me a page from her adult holiday-themed color book. The political debate that reared it’s head at 3:50am and went on for the next half hour. I was quick to whip out my book and bury my nose in it to avoid that particular hurdle. No good can come of middle-of-the-night politics with strangers. Luckily it was the church lady’s husband who got involved, and he was a pleasant, calming man, who was able to take a fiery debate and get people laughing. Then there was the lady with paranoid ideations explaining how her brain worked- surprisingly interesting, actually. Yes, the emergency room is a colorful clashing of all types, different people all in distress. And yet, they were all surprisingly supportive of one another, all listening attentively and taking turns speaking. Even at 4:00 in the morning.
People never fail to surprise me. We talk so often about the sad state of the world, about politics that divide and conquer, about lines drawn in the sand, biases, discrimination, riots, war, anger, frustration. We shake our heads in dismay. And yet, most people are not that way. Most people will offer a color book page to a stranger, they’ll help a near-catatonic man get up from his seat and get in the wheelchair- no judgment on what substances he put in his body to get him to that point. They just help. They offer condolences for pain, and luck for quick recoveries. Most people are inherently good. Most people will wave a goodbye when you finally are released to go back through those double doors.
Now, perhaps my nostalgic view is partially due to the fact that I got a minimal amount of sleep after I got home- in Washington state, you do not simply sleep through one of the few sunny fall days you are granted. Today is one of those rare beauties, and dang it, I will make it to a pumpkin patch this year without being rained out. So I got up, I got dressed, I drank a cup of coffee (soon to be many more), and I’m ready to push forward through my day. Because life waits for no one. And mid-afternoon naps can be delicious things if done correctly.
So far this weekend has not been what I anticipated, and yet, life rarely hands you the cards that you are expecting to play. This weekend was not what I had planned for, and yet in a bizarre twist of fate, it was exactly what I needed. I have been surrounded lately with friction, with tense moments and frustrated people, with arguments and biting words. I needed a restoration of my faith in people. We discover our humanity in the smallest of moments, not in grand sweeping gestures. It is in a perfectly timed smile, a nod of acknowledgement in a world where we all too often feel invisible. It’s in the few dollar bills it takes for one person to buy someone they don’t know a cup of coffee or a bottle of water. It’s in the straightforward conversations between two strangers on faith, life and love. Even at 4:30 in the morning in a sterile room. It is in the understanding that other’s needs might come before your own- so you wait patiently for five hours and secretly thank your lucky stars that your condition was not so serious to warrant being whisked straight to a back room. It is in the understanding that, after all is said and done, we are in this together. We can lift one another up or watch each other fall. The world is beautiful, even in the starkest of places.
So today I will grab another cup of coffee, I will check on my dad, I will pull on my rubber boots and squish my way through the mud to find a beautiful pumpkin. I will bring it home and decorate it with the family while eating the Halloween cookies that I’ve hidden on top of the fridge. I will make more memories, I will make my mark, and I will smile at the strangers that I encounter, I will buy a cup of coffee for the person waiting patiently behind me. We are all doing the best that we can. Perhaps if we simply decided that the act of trying was, in itself, enough- then maybe we could find some peace with one another.