Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Setting the Tone

One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt:  "Life is what you make of it."  I believe that 100%.  While we can’t control all the variables in any life equation, the way we handle the unexpected can be the difference between a positive or negative experience.  Don’t make a big deal out of something you didn’t expect, and it won’t turn into a major hurdle.  Assume the worst of something, and you’ll get what you expect.  Having proved this mantra to myself over and over, both with my own thoughts and actions, as well as witnessing the words and behavior of others, I’m now at a place in my life where I really try to just have faith in this quote’s meaning.  

When I embark on a potentially tricky task, like sewing a dress from scratch for my daughter with my new sewing machine, even though I haven’t sewn with a machine since the 7th grade, I tell myself how easy it’s going to be and downplay the risks and highlight my ability to complete it. 

“It’ll be great.  It’s like riding a bike, it’ll come back. I’ll figure it out as I go along.  If I need help I’ll ask for it.  I can’t wait to get started!” I tell myself and anyone that will listen.  

I try to put positive energy out there as much as possible, and I’d say a good 90% of the time, I get positive results in return.  While the dress took significantly longer than I expected to finish, and was too short for the older daughter I made it for, it came out super cute and I gave it to my younger daughter, who wears it weekly and thinks I jumped over the moon because I made her a dress.  

On the flip side, although I don’t do it often, when I do set the stage of a situation with a Debbie Downer “wah, wah, wah,” I almost exclusively get smacked down with bad experiences. If I’m tired or trying to do too many things at one time, I’ve been known to put a negative spin on something that hasn’t even happened yet, like going to an organized event.

“I know this party is going to be a beat-down,” I told my partner, Katie, of a recent gala.   

Of course it sucked because I pulled all the negative energy to my side of the room!  The people who started out the evening by being excited about the fun party they were going to, had a freakin’ ball on the other side of the room!  Bottom line is you get back what you put out there in the universe.  

Our recent emergency visit to a local hospital was no exception to this rule.  While driving to the ER, Katie and I realized we had no idea which hospital we were going to.  There are quite a few options for medical attention in our city and Katie was having some unexplained, excruciating pain that needed to be addressed.  We quickly got someone to watch the kids and jumped in the car.  Our general practitioner, Dr. Paine, whose name I mention just for your amusement, had just picked up his 30+ year practice and moved to California within the last month.  We weren’t bound his hospital anymore, but we had yet to choose a new doctor, or hospital for that matter.  We might not even have been having such a conversation about where to go if I hadn’t been so delirious because I was tired.  It was 10pm when we headed out the door for the hospital, and I started in on the over-analyzing I sometimes do.  I brought up the fact that the hospital we were considering visiting was a Catholic affiliate, and that maybe it wouldn’t be the best option for us in case Katie had to be admitted.  The last thing I wanted to deal with tonight was not being able to visit my girlfriend because I’m not family.  We decided we were being ridiculous, as we’d visited this hospital at least a dozen times before in so many years, although never on an in-patient basis, but had never had a problem.  So being of the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” variety, we headed off to the Catholic affiliate’s ER.   We decided we’d make it a good experience.  Apparently, my take-back did not suffice, though, as my negative vibes were already out there.

There was no one in the waiting room when we arrived, and Katie was immediately ushered into triage.  While the nurse assessing Katie’s situation was not rude or mean to us by any means, she certainly was not up for any congeniality award.  She checked the vitals and wrote down Katie’s responses very matter-of-factly, then ushered us into a filthy, cluttered room to wait for a doctor.  As the nurse walked away, we heard her tangle with another nurse about how she had “f***ed up her paperwork by not getting the right information from a patient.  We instantly decided we didn’t want to cross this nurse.  The doctor came in within a decent period of time, politely asked questions, and ordered a CAT scan.  He said he’d give Katie something to “take the edge off” before the scan.  The pain medicine never arrived, and after three hours in the ER with no conclusive results for any ailments, we again asked for pain management.  It was given, but was not effective for the ultrasound that was to be performed next.  While I wasn’t there in the room for the actual sonogram, I can suffice to say that things took must have taken a downhill turn, as Katie was wheeled back to the ER almost 2 hours later (the test should have taken no longer than 20 minutes), pale as a ghost and in tears.  She was still in pain, but apparently the attitude, actions, and general nasty demeanor of the nighttime radiologist, Nurse Ratchet, had put Katie into a tailspin.  We then watched the ER nurse go rounds with confrontational Nurse Ratchet, and more profanity was flying.  It was like a street fight in there.

Stacy Snyder - parentunplugged - Setting the Tone - make lemonade out of lemons
All in all, we were in the Emergency Room for 8 hours before Katie was admitted to the hospital for observation, as no source of pain or problem had been detected.  She was released 12 hours later with no further answers, but with a Dilaudid hangover.  It was a rotten experience.  I truly believe in my heart that if I had not set the tone with my Nancy Negative second-guessing how we were going to be treated before we even got to the hospital, our experience would have been completely different.  I’m not saying that the hospital personnel would have necessarily acted any differently or the results of the visit would have changed, but merely that our impressions might be different had we started out with a Patty Positive outlook instead.   Maybe we would have shared a private giggle with the cussing nurse instead of trying to stay out of her way.  Maybe we wouldn’t have noticed the dirt and disorganization of the emergency room, as Katie would have been busy feeling better because of the good drugs she received right off the bat from the doctor who remembered to put the order in because one of us had made a positive impression on him.  Who knows?

What I do know, though, is that we’re all responsible for setting the tone of our lives.  Bitch, moan, and complain all the time and you’re going to bring on more grief in your world.  Make a point of making lemonade out of lemons on a regular basis, and you’re setting yourself up for one sweet life.

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