Have you ever had a vertigo attack?
I’m not talking about getting dizzy.
No, vertigo is an actual “attack” on your senses — a tsunami of images and impressions hitting your mind in roiling waves at awkward angles, which you must navigate in a rudderless, leaky boat with only a broken compass with no true North to guide you.
The first time it happens, it’s usually terrifying.
Last week I had a whopper of a vertigo attack that led me to the ER.
Before I departed, I made a grand proclamation to all who accompanied me that I would REFUSE to have an MRI to investigate it.
You see, because I have a disease that affects my spine (and causes fun things like vertigo), I’m continually asked by doctors to climb into MRI machines as if they were playland equipment at McDonald’s.
But MRIs and I have a history of bad juju stemming from an incident over a decade ago when I got stuck in a malfunctioning one, while, at the same time, I was choking on my own vomit.
Needless to say, the trauma of the incident created a perfect storm of tension, distrust and claustrophobia that has lasted to this day.
Hooray! My Very Own Tube of Nightmares!
So, once I arrived at the hospital, I carefully explained to the doctor on call that rolling a claustrophobic person flat on her back (which tends to initiate vertigo attacks) and then squeezing her into a tight tube for thirty minutes and asking her to hold completely still, ignoring the motion of the machine and the cage over her face, was a recipe for disaster. And I was going to have no part of it.
The doctor listened carefully, and then ordered the MRI, anyway.
And, no matter how many alternatives I suggested to him, or how smiley and accommodating I tried to be, he remained steadfast in his decision.
After stewing a bit, making cranky, woozy faces and stalling for time, I suddenly realized that I was up against a wall.
And then I had an epiphany.
The only way I was going to get through this unpleasantness, was to just go ahead and get through it.
I had to put on my big girl panties and make a big girl decision to bring the whole adventure to an end. And only one decision was going to do that…
- Not taking my wobbly head home.
- Not sitting and bitching about how much I hate MRIs.
- Not arguing with the doctor, at the expense of other patients’ care.
I had to do something that moved me forward…and that thing was getting inside the stupid machine.
Life is full of stupid machines you need to get into.
The ER visit made me realize just how much time we all waste standing around and arguing in front of the thing we’ve decided we DEFIANTLY do not want to do…
- Because of a perception we have that’s based somewhat on reality, but more often than not, on our imagination.
- Because of a horror story we heard, but likely haven’t lived or taken the time to fully research.
- Because we want to LIVE OUR LIVES ON OUR OWN TERMS (Yep, when we think that thought, in shows up in all caps, just like that, in our brains.)
All of of those things are crutches that prevent us from moving forward. They just move us around in little circles and we end up back where we started, (but we feel pretty invigorated because we got a little exercise.)
To move forward you must do something definitive.
You walk out of the ER (and risk returning in the same sad state another day) or you get into the machine. The end.
Most things in life can be boiled down to equally clear choices.
Duh, Jen. I totally already knew that.
Now, this may seem like such a silly lesson to be sharing with you.
Of course, you have to move forward to move forward.
But, my friends, you wouldn’t believe how many people never actually learn this lesson.
- They conspire, hypothesize and theorize.
- They process, discuss, brainstorm and noodle.
- They toss around the word “innovate” as if the word alone possessed some sort of power and wasn’t merely window dressing for fear and inertia wrapped in good intentions.
- They think endlessly about what moving forward really means and what else might move as a result.
But, after all that pontificating and analysis, they never actually do anything. They never actually GO ANYWHERE.
I suppose that’s because moving forward is scary and hard and may feel like being trapped in a cylindrical coffin and tossed overboard into a stormy sea (like it did for me.)
But, so what? Do it anyway.
The world is vast and you and I live in only a minuscule corner of it. We are the only ones stopping ourselves from sprinting forward, out into the unknown to explore, savor and dream.
So, yes. I put on my big girl panties and went on a woozy, claustrophobic MRI adventure last week.
And, since the machine and I have bad juju and all, the results of the scan were “inconclusive,” (a ridiculous word people have invented to describe lives and bodies that are inherently not under our control.)
So by the time you read this, I will have had a second MRI, too.
A combination of delicious drugs, deep breaths and fingernails turned inward and dug tightly into my palm to remind me that this too shall pass will carry me through both of these adventures.
And from there, where I will go next, I do not know.
But it will be forward.
Because that is the only place worth going.
I hope you’re planning to go there too.