I haven’t practiced Tonglen so much as I recognized it could be useful in my professional struggle. Whenever my co-worker has told me who was on the phone after hanging up, I’ve thought bitterly, “I know. We all know.” So I haven’t behaved, according to my own goal, set just days ago. I ignored her new update until I heard a change in her tone.
She was in the emergency room on Sunday. I’ve been hearing about it for 2 days straight. I know her Coumadin levels are low, and, sure enough, the gal who did her labs called just now to report my co-worker’s residence in the “Danger Zone,” to confirm that she’d had another pulmonary embolism, and to instruct emergency medical follow-up this time. By now, I’d taken off my glasses, giving the woman my full attention as she cried about having to inject herself in the stomach for the next 4 days.
And I’ll be damned, my eyes got watery. Tonglen is real, folks. I didn’t even do it, just thought about it, and it did the rest. It softened me. If only for a moment, it softened me.
“Thank god for modern medicine,” I said to her. “I’m glad there’s a solution, and that you don’t have to do it for long. But I’m with ya,” I continued. “That sounds pretty awful.”
“Isn’t that awful?” she sobbed.
“It really is,” I agreed, “but you can do it for 4 days. Thank god it’s not forever.”
Thank god, too, for my first hell-free moment as a government cog.
Then she told me about the time her mother’s gall stones moved into her pancreas.