It took me two years to learn to do what Don Ashcraft does when anxiety knocks on his door. He channels his energy towards creative projects rather than racing thoughts of the ego. He transforms fear and isolation into opportunities for inner exploration and growth, laughing his way through the darkness and into the light. Aware that I am going to be in the hospital next week, he took the time to share his own humorous hospital story with me, as a means to ease any anxieties I might be having myself -which is to say, he is using his anxiety to relieve the anxieties of others. Here is his story, may it offer you comfort and smiles wherever you are:
“So I recently underwent a minor surgical procedure (I am fine and all is well). The pre-op intake nurse had me answer a lengthy and very personal questionnaire. Who do they contact if I die? My marital status? Living wills and religious preferences? So here I am, already full of pre-op anxiety and believe strongly in not upsetting or angering the same people who are about to cut me open and play around with my insides, so I change irritation into humor. Except the nurse was not laughing. Granted, my humor is of the cynical dry NY variety that often Coloradoans can’t relate too.
But she pressed on and so did I. When it came to religion, I have often felt deeply personal and private and often put on and pressured by others, so I was primed and ready to be a cynical NYer when asked about my religious beliefs. I suppressed wild thoughts of me on a cold slab, with a flat line on the monitor with a steady tone in the back ground as the surgeons, heads down and dejected as my hernia operation exploded into chaos and a near death situation that they had to call in a man of the cloth as a last ditch effort to comfort me.
The pre-op nurse asked again, because I was just staring into space, wondering why do they really need to know my religious beliefs? How many men of the cloth did they have for hernia operations? How many varieties? I was imagining Priests, Pastors, perhaps a Buddhist Monk and a Rabbi, all waiting in the hall of the OR just in case my hernia exploded into a near death religious experience.
She was now clearly getting irritated and then said, “We can put down ‘none’ if you prefer”, rolling her eyes like I was one of those Godless souls running wild in the world. I finally speak and say, “no not that” and I pause again… She is now clearly irritated with me and asks me one last time, “Religious preference?”. I just calmly say, “Snake Handler”. She looks at the PC screen for that option and it was actually in the system! She just selected “Snake Handler” and went on to finish the questionnaire.
So just before they put me under, they asked me my birth date, my name and my religious preference, just to be sure it was me on the chart getting the correct operation. I dose off smiling, thinking of chaos in the OR as my surgery goes south and a crazed southerner with a rattlesnake in his hand and a bible in the other, comes running into the OR to save me, as I get one last laugh.”
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