The Phoenix Zine

Sideswiped – Also Known As The Other Shoe Dropping…

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There’s a story about how the saying “waiting for the other shoe to drop” came into existence. The story is based on when people used to live in extremely cramped living quarters called lodging houses.

One time a man comes back to his lodging house late at night, sits on his bed to take off his shoes and drops the first shoe loudly on the floor. He then remembers other people in the house might be disrupted by his shoe dropping so he takes the second shoe off and sets it on the floor quietly. He goes to bed, about to go to sleep, when a man’s voice calls out from the floor below, “Well, drop the other one then! I can’t sleep, waiting for you to drop the other shoe!” (World Wide Words)

“Waiting for the other shoe to drop” coupled with my own version of Murphy’s law, “Anything you don’t expect to go wrong, will go wrong” sideswiped me this past week.

I just had a liver biopsy that went well. Very well in fact. No internal bruising or other complications, and I received the results only a week after the biopsy took place. The results were excellent, absolutely no sign of rejection. My treatment changes have been approved, and I have an appointment with my liver doctor in a week and a half to implement them.

Except when I found out the good news, I was wary, not happy. I had been expecting anything that could go wrong to go wrong, such as internal bruising or a liver sample the doctors needed to send halfway around the world to get another opinion on because both of those situations happened before. Having a biopsy that actually worked the way it was supposed to was unnerving. And a part of me started looking for the other shoe to drop.

A week later, I found out there was more than one other shoe. I had a pacemaker/defibrillator check-up that I invited my boyfriend to, assuring him the appointment was routine and quite boring. Instead, it was anything but. Turns out the wires for my pacemaker/defibrillator are scraping against my collarbone which is causing them to malfunction. Thus, three years after my pacemaker/defibrillator was put in and three years before I’m supposed to need it replaced, I need new wires and a new pacemaker/defibrillator.

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. I had a x-ray to check out the position of my pacemaker/defibrillator and then an echocardiogram to check out my heart function. The echo turned up something unexpected: another blood clot in my left ventricle.

The pacemaker/defibrillator appointment was on a Friday morning, and by the time I found out about the blood clot it was late Friday afternoon. Thus I was told about the blood clot and sent home without any sort of treatment plan. I left the hospital without argument, sideswiped and numbed by the events of the day.

Suddenly my summer is filled with shoes waiting to drop and I find myself feeling angry, anxious, fearful, and sad. In a futile effort to avoid having to deal with all of those feelings and falling apart, I try to keep myself numb through distraction.

If I read enough books, if I play enough solitaire games, if I hang out with enough people, maybe I’ll keep myself so busy I won’t have to think about how much I feel like a guinea pig getting a heparin shot every morning. I also won’t think about how many days this week I felt exhausted just following my already altered lifestyle because my pacemaker is on reduced duty for safety while it is malfunctioning. Maybe then I won’t have to think about what really frightens me, staying in the hospital or the surgery itself.

It’s amazing how simple things can make you cry, especially when you’re trying so hard not to. Throughout the appointment, I was under control. I remained calm, probably because I was in shock. I told my parents, my sister and my cousin, and I didn’t fall apart. The other night, however, when I got changed for bed and glimpsed myself in the mirror, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

Because I’m on daily blood-thinning heparin shots, my natural clumsiness is highlighted with yellow, green and brown bruises. The mere sight of them reminds me of everything I’m trying not to think about and I wonder how I can make it through another week of shots and then the surgery. Still, as I said to my boyfriend during a mid-week meltdown, I know I don’t really have a choice.

Once again, Ann Brashares sums up the conflicting emotions best through Tibby’s musings in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.

“Maybe happiness didn’t have to be about the big, sweeping circumstances, about having everything in your life in place. Maybe it was about stringing together a bunch of small pleasures. Wearing slippers and watching the Miss Universe contest. Eating a brownie with vanilla ice cream. Getting to level seven in Dragon Master and knowing there were twenty levels to go.

“Maybe happiness was just a matter of the little upticks – the traffic signal that said ‘Walk’ the second you got there – and the downticks – the itchy tag at the back of your collar – that happened to every person in the course of a day. Maybe everybody had the same allotted measure of happiness within each day.

“Maybe it didn’t matter if you were a world-famous heartthrob or a painful geek. Maybe it didn’t matter if your friend was possibly dying.

“Maybe you just got through it. Maybe that was all you could ask for.”

Time and time again, my sister reminds me that sometimes life just sucks. Getting through hard times is not about being perfect and pretending everything is okay, it’s about acknowledging the crappiness of the situation, just getting through it and having the courage to ask for help along the way.

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