I sat in the waiting room of the University of Utah Hospital. A day earlier I received my first introduction to CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia). That’s what mom had. She laid in a bed in ICU hooked up to beeping machines and tubes. This was the beginning process of what would become four years of what she called, “Poking and prodding.” On this day, only two of us could visit her at a time so I waited for another turn in the waiting room. I sat there and took a deep breath.
Overwhelmed. That’s what I felt. Words l had used all my life were given new depth and meaning. Words like worry, fear, loneliness, change, and the big one – death. It was all I could do to choke back my tears. I wanted to run out of the building, screaming like a banshee, “This isn’t fair!” Or to find a corner and stick my head in a hole like an ostrich hoping everything would just work out. Or to go back home and have everything magically return to its normal pace.
But I couldn’t do any of those things. “Task at hand,” I told myself over and over. I took a deep breath and shook the other thoughts from my head. I waited for strength to come. All those words that were running rampant needed to go into a quiet corner in my head for a while. I needed to focus on the “Task at hand.”
This is what I learned that day: there are times when a moment overwhelms us. When our head spins from new information and our heart hurts with what we are facing. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. If you take just a moment for yourself, all those weighty words will sink to the bottom. Let the priority of the situation surface. That is the focus. Take care of the task at hand. You might have to force yourself to take the first step. But take it.
In my case, I wasn’t at the hospital to make myself feel better. As much as I wanted to take a time-out it wasn’t about me. I was there for one person. That became my focus. That is what floated to the top that day. I wanted her to feel comforted, and definitely not lonely. All the other thoughts I had would have to wait another day. They sunk to the bottom until I could deal with them in an appropriate manner. I focused on the task at hand. And that made all the difference.