Now I Begin,
Now I Begin,
For my birthday I decided to give the gift of humility to myself. I feel it is important to be self aware and work on yourself, particularly if you are as opinionated as moi’. First step, quite frankly possibly the only one, is to try and be a better listener and not talk about myself so much. Perhaps this will help me to not be so argumentative, quick to defend my point of view. I’m a serial interrupter. I just go around interrupting people, eager to be heard, and eager to prove myself. So on the first Monday following my birthday, I set out to be a better listener.
First stop, optometrist office for an eye exam. I am no stranger to the eye doctor. I used to be an optometrist assistant many, many,…a couple more many years ago. I am pretty familiar with the equipment and exam process. This particular Optometrist’s office wasn’t new to me either. I had just been there four days before with my daughter. It is a private practice, small, with a gregarious doctor who fills up the space with his personality. He had been recommended to me by a good friend after my unhappiness with the appointment availability of our regular eye doctor. I’d been happy enough with my daughter’s eye exam that I’d scheduled additional appointments for myself and my son. So here I am again, just me this time.
After checking in with the receptionist as a new patient, I take a seat and begin the tedious process of filling out patient information. About thirty minutes after my scheduled appointment time (which does not surprise me because doctors are notorious for overbooking) I am startled out of a game of Panda Pop to someone enthusiastically calling my name, “Christina!” I kid you not, my phone nearly flies out of my hand! Jumping up as though the chair I am sitting on is now crawling with spiders I follow Dr Q, who I heard before I saw, down the hall to the screening area.
Now most optometrists will have their assistants take care of the pre examination screening. They’ll ask you the same questions you literally answered on the sheet, which you will then be asked again by the doctor in the exam room. Routine eye exams include placing your chin into a chin cup and pressing your forehead against the strap of a cumbersome and large device called an autorefractor. You sort of get the impression you are looking through one of those old fashioned picture viewers. Normally there is an image that you focus on, in this case a farm house. The image goes in and out of focus as the machine moves back and forth between your two eyes. It is “reading” your eyes, measuring the amount of change as light enters into the eye. Once the image is in complete focus for both eyes, an estimate of your eyeglass prescription is given. Some assistants will even get your eye pressure, you know…when that poof of air gets blown into your eye. They tell you not to blink…,but everyone does. A good assistant is faster then the patient!
Dr Q does not use his staff to prescreen. He does it himself. As I sit in front of the autorefractor and patiently listen attempting to appear attentive, he explains each piece of equipment, what it does, how it works, and why it’s important. I do not interrupt, even though I already know all this stuff because as I had told him in our last conversation I used to work for an optometrist. I declined the additional tests he recommends. I want to get out of there and make it to my nail appointment..and he is already thirty minutes behind. Can you tell that I am getting inpatient at this point? Known for a face that gives away what I am thinking, I feel as though I am doing a good job of masking my annoyance. When he gives me directions to the exam room, a room I had just been to four days earlier, I simply follow the directions to a room I already know the way to.
Sitting in the exam chair while Dr Q goes over my exam form, he asks if I take any medications. I sort of laugh, because that is an understatement. He glances down and replies, “Oh you listed them. Claritin, Flonase…” quiet. He’s reading, but he isn’t saying anything. I know why. It’s because the next two are Zoloft and Straterra taken for depression and ADHD. He isn’t talking but I can literally feel his mind working..maybe judging..maybe questioning. Most look at the list and follow it up with a what for question. I’ve learned to steel myself for this question, be ready to answer matter of factly without shame. No need to this time, Dr Q did not ask. He simply begins explaining the process of better one better two, formally known as refraction. No Butting in Betsy here. We move right along, testing my distance and near vision before he takes my eye pressures. He is not using the poof of air test, but the more accurate method I not so fondly refer to as tap. After the eyes are numbed with drops, a small pen like device taps the eye and records the pressure. It does not hurt but it can be difficult to sit there trying to keep your eyes open while this pointed object comes right at you. I do. I sit there and mindfully keep my eyes open. I pass with flying colors. “Perfect patient,” Dr Q pronounces.
Then it begins, “One day you’ll need readers, because that’s a part of getting older,” he states,”We all get older, it’s a part of life. Each day is a blessing, and you know what the opposite of aging is,right?”
Oh it’s my turn to talk. I better make this good, “Birth,” I quip back thinking how clever I am.
“Oh. Yes. Of course. Dying.”
Although in my mind I totally disagree, because aging in a sense is dying; but I am not arguing. No sirree bob!
“Everyday is a blessing! Right? It’s good to be alive,” He continues.
Nodding my head in the affirmative, I am totally thinking
what the heck? Why is he telling me this?
Right then, it hits me!
Oh Snap! He thinks I’m suicidal! Dude, seriously?
What?!?! Oh no! I need to set this man straight.
I look at him ready to correct this incorrect as well as ridiculous assumption, and then I stop. Looking back at me is the most earnest and genuine look of concern that could offer some serious competition to the one my dog gives me. It occurs to me he’s really trying to be helpful, to be kind. He’s not looking at me as another patient, another exam, another dollar, or another day. He’s not thinking I am someone else’s problem. He’s looking at me as a person, someone he can reassure that even bad days are bright days because of the life they are filled with. Dr Q does not run late because he over books his patients. He runs late because he takes his time with each patient. He takes his time because he cares.
The fight drains out of me. I am bemused, not offended. I am humbled and reassured that there are good people in this crazy world we live in. Leaving the office on a rainy morning, made gloomier by the contrast of the sunny personality of Dr Q, I had intended to get a prescription for glasses or a reassurance that I didn’t need any. Instead, I was leaving the sunshine of a doctor with a prescription for life, and a reassurance that genuine kind people do exist in this world. I left his office seeing a lot more clearly after all.