Something happened the other day, something that made me feel intensely vulnerable. I can't go into specifics, but the incident fits neatly into the "worlds colliding" category. There was a misunderstanding, and it's been resolved: apologies issued and received, warm feelings restored or at least on the way to being so.
But I am not restored, not yet, anyway. Generally I walk around feeling psychologically healthy. Yet it takes so little before my strength is revealed as the illusion it is. So little before I worry away the late night and early morning hours. So little before my stomach seizes with anxiety. So little before I am reevaluating everything I believed about myself and other people. So little before in a panic I delete a Twitter account, Facebook updates, even a blog.
I've realized that I go through life blithely expecting the best and wholly unprepared for anything else. Do we all? Attribute our smooth sailing to good planning or constitutional fortitude when it's really just stupid luck that has us floating along, marveling at the sight of those ducks of ours, all in a row?
When my oldest son was nine months old, he started vomiting. He vomited relentlessly throughout the night. He was little enough that our doctor advised us to bring him to the ER for fluid replacement. So at two am, we did just that. In the triage room he threw up in the sink. A resident placed an IV and drew blood. He told us that we'd stay for a couple of hours, just long enough for my son to be rehydrated.
Twenty minutes passed. The resident had closed the privacy curtain to allow us all to rest. Worried that my baby was going to roll off the bed, I was circling his waist with one of my arms. He was looking better by the minute when I heard the resident's voice on the other side of the curtain. "We've got a very sick kid here," he said. My husband and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised. "His blood levels are completely out of whack. I've never seen anything like it. He's being admitted."
My heart made to jump out of my body. My husband and I stared at each other, equally panic-stricken. Everything had changed.
The resident opened the curtain and told us a kinder version of what we had already heard. He added that his supervisor would be in soon to talk with us, and then he left us alone.
I remember calling my brother, waking him up, sobbing, "Something's wrong with the baby." I remember him trying in vain to calm me down. I remember making note of the time - 2:50am - and thinking, This moment marks the divide between one kind of life and another.
When the doctor showed up, thirty agonizing minutes later, she took one look at our son and smiled. "He's not sick," she said. "He's just fine." A few minutes of poking and prodding, and she'd figured out the source of the anomalous test results. The resident hadn't done the blood work properly. Apparently getting a reliable blood sample from a little person takes a bit of skill and finesse. We listened, my husband and I, while the doctor yelled at the resident, and we grinned. We could have kissed that hapless resident.
Our world had shifted back on its axis, and gratefully we settled into the old and familiar.
Last night I found that I could sleep again, and I didn't end up deleting my blog (this time). But I remain conscious of how thin the membrane is between fine and not fine at all, and I wonder: Is it as thin for you as it is for me?