The Breakfast Club

I apologize to my loyal few for the delay. I will only say that I have experienced some internal resistance recently. I will warn you that this entry departs strongly from my usual style. It may also feel a bit more intense than my usual entries.

Walking into the waiting room, it was subdued, more than usual. It was not that the day was gray and sullen, though it was. It was not that it was early, but it was. There was a difference in the mood. It was the same room where I had been spending mornings periodically with varying frequency for going on half a decade. The room was familiar as was almost every face. But today, something was different.

I signed in and took my seat. Occasionally, the loud clear announcement from the phlebotomist would request the presence of one of the occupants of the room to provide their blood sacrifice into the plethora of vials and tubes that would be delivered to the lab for quantifying and assessing. One of the volunteers came through the room stopping and asking “How are you doing today…?” to all in passing. Occasionally, she would spend a bit more time with this person or that because she had some knowledge of their personal life. However, the question seemed on this day less of true interest and more the mechanics of habit.

I lifted my eyes to scan the room. Closest to me, a frail, fragile lady with immaculate white hair and bones so visible that they appeared to almost cut through the skin sat next to what appeared to be her daughter. The daughter kept up a whispered commentary, but her delicate companion fidgeted with an antique gold and diamond ring too large for her right hand with the left hand which sported a tiny engagement and wedding set, the kind that was favored in the days when a tiny chip of a diamond would have been the equivalent of a crown jewel. I could only imagine that the giver of these treasures had long since passed. Beyond this pair was another lady, skin bruised and slack on the frame of her bones. A cane balanced against her knees indicated the possible source of all the purple patches marring the skin of her extremities, but it could also be the result of intravenous punctures for any variety of causes.

Across the room, a new couple sat close together. By their physical behaviors, it was evident the wife was the patient. She appeared resigned, holding her records, but next to her, the husband hovered protectively and uncomfortable, in truth unable to protect her in this instance from her attacker. The door opened to admit two ladies. In my head, I’ve always called them “Dorothy and Rose”. The one is tall, almost masculine but stylish. Her build would have once been athletic. Her friend is of a more petite stature, with curves and more femininity. It is “Rose” who is the patient, but “Dorothy” always accompanies her, and they always bring their coffee, purchased from an expensive franchise. While it is possible that neither lady would miss the cost of a latte, it is also likely that this is the weekly carrot that rewards the acceptance of the stick of treatment.

An elderly gentleman, who has a volume control issue, wears overalls and an engineer’s cap. He is back for his third round of our shared experience. We are all aware, as he is not shy about sharing, but we are all also aware that this is likely his last chance. His attitude is always positive, and his loud voice is never raised with complaints, though I know how often pain is his companion, as much as the younger man seated on his left.

Resuming my scan of the room, I mark an absence from our morning gather: An elderly gentleman who had been present every Wednesday since my initiation to the club. He was always cheerful, despite evident discomfort and occasional shortness of breath. He was usually accompanied by his daughter, and they always sat in the same seats. We all did. It was if by general consent we had assigned seats. Their seats were empty, and no one sat there. Even new people avoided the chairs as if there was an invisible barrier preventing it. Perhaps he just recovered, I told myself. I understood now the change in the atmosphere. I had seen it before. None of us asked the question, but we all knew what the absence meant. The subdued tones of the staff confirmed our suspicions. We all just sat quietly and waited.

Loudly, startling everyone in the room, my name is called. I walk back to be installed my recliner. The room is always so cold. Scattered about the room, others have taken their places. One elderly man dozes under a blanket while the IV monitor continues to pump the toxins that are meant to prolong his life. I patiently await my own turn. The nurse comes to my side and goes through the ritual of verification. I prepare myself for the sting and pinch as vehicle of administration is inserted into the crook of my arm and the bags of pharmaceuticals hang to pump into my body. I can feel my arm going cold and slightly numb. The feeling of fatigue and nausea begin, and I attempt to distract myself with reading or social media on my phone. Across from me, the fragile lady sits in her own recliner waiting for her own treatment. She sips on a cup of some fluid and begins to choke as the liquid, due to her weakened physical state and damaged swallow reflex, attempts to enter the wrong pipe. Her daughter attempts to assist her. Staff quickly assemble equipment to help with the oxygen deprivation. The woman meets my eyes, and I see her panic like that of a drowning victim. I forget about the discomfort in my arm and disorienting feelings caused by the chemicals. I can only see the terror in those eyes as she struggles to cease the spasms in her throat and get enough oxygen to her body.

What makes it all worse is looking around to others who, like me, want desperately to help, but we cannot move, tied to our own seats by the tubes and needles that connect to the bags of chemical assault upon the diseases that have overtaken our bodies. So, instead, we sit impotent and weak and watch the struggle.

How selfish and self-centered am I? Having my private pity-party with my discomfort and anger. I watch as the woman clutches at the breathing mask and tries desperately to get the spasms to quiet and oxygen to her system. Slowly, the terror recedes to exhaustion and slight embarrassment at being the center of so much attention. The activity returns to normal, and conversations start up around the room, softly at first and then increasing to normal volume. They talk about travel and family and hobbies. No one talks about the nausea and the night sweats and the hair that comes out in greater amounts with each passing treatment. We all know. It isn’t important.

Life is what is important to these few. The people they love. The people who love them. The daughter now carefully watching her frail mother breathing more comfortably now, and the son who sits quietly beside his dozing father. The friend who crochets a newborn’s skullcap while her friend slips in and out of consciousness to the ticking and drip of the IV. And the solitary woman who sits quietly and observes. Is it better to struggle against futility to extend the hours of life upon the earth merely for the sake of existence, or might it not be better to spend the time more wisely in the pursuit of a worthwhile goal though it shorten the span of time? For these, the choice is made. Every extended moment with those they love is worth the fight. And with that, I find that it is remarkably easy to let go of a lot of things that take more energy than I have to give. I find that there is only so much room in my life for the petty and self-important. I have enough drains on the energy that sustains me, and I feel that my time and activities are spent better with those who fill that void rather than further drain it.

The following is not my own creation, but I found it to be extraordinarily poignant, appropriate, and wish to share it with all of you:

She let go.
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

~ Rev Safire Rose
via Devi Moksha

One thought on “The Breakfast Club”

  1. This writing has been one of my favorites so far. I felt like I was right there with you seeing these people are surroundings for myself.

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