If you can get past the intense pang of inescapable guilt you feel simply by arriving early enough to be one of the 16 patients who get to be seen by a doctor at the 8:30 walk-in session when you know that most of the people in line are there not because they willingly quit their jobs in November but instead because they simply had no other option, the free clinic is not so bad.
The thing about a possible cancer scare (and I’ve actually had several over the past few years) is that it does make you think about how vulnerable you are. Especially without health insurance. It also makes you remember how fortunate you are. I saw Love and Other Drugs today, which, unbeknownst to me (and SPOILER ALERT to you if you haven’t seen it yet), was about a young woman with early onset Parkinson’s disease and the man who falls in love with her. It ends up okay–okay in the sense that the man stays with her even though he knows he’s going to have a ridiculously difficult road ahead of him, and he really has no obligation to the woman since he just met her, and an old man whose wife has had the disease for 20 years warns him to run while he can, which is the closest to “okay” that situation can really get to–but for a while, I thought it might actually end up realistically. I thought for once a movie was going to take real life and throw it in our faces, shouting, “Pay attention, because this is the way it is if you develop a debilitating degenerative disorder before you’ve found someone to share your life with. No one will be there for you who isn’t obligated to be, and even those who are might resent it, though they won’t admit it to you. Basically, something that was always going to suck just sucks even more and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Not a great message, no, but realistic.
Anyway, the point is, before I realized the movie wasn’t intended to be a tough love message about the cruelty of certain situations in life, I started thinking about what would have happened if the lump under my arm had seemed questionable to the doctor yesterday. First, obviously, I would immediately get a full-time job with benefits, regardless of what the job was. Then, I’d have to find good doctors to do the right tests and, possibly, treatments. Next, dealing with the condition would probably consume my life. And I’d have no one by my side who would stay there (aside from my family, which I know I’m lucky to be able to say is a given).
Depressing, right? Except when you think, as I did, about how there have been plenty of people by my side in the past who I’m almost positive wouldn’t have stayed there under those circumstances. Most of the people I’ve dated have been the type to flee at the first sign of difficulty, so there’s no way they’d bother sticking around to see what the final test results were. They’d want to extricate themselves from the situation ASAP so they wouldn’t have to do it later when it would make them seem like even more of a jerk.
So I realized that not having someone by my side is far better than having someone who isn’t in it–excuse my borrowing from the wedding ceremony–for better or for worse. Sure, I always knew this; even if I couldn’t articulate it, every article about “not settling” advocates something similar. But it wasn’t until I thought about the very worst scenarios that I understood that there’s a reason none of my exes are currently with me. It’s because they would make the realistic ending happen, and despite how unrealistic it is, I want the movie ending. Maybe that’s stupid, but I can’t stop wanting it and I don’t think I should have to stop believing it’s out there just because I’ve met a lot of men who’ve tried their best to make me think it doesn’t exist.
Little did they know, my faith in the improbable is stronger than my dependence on reality. That’s what gets me through life most days, and going to a free clinic reminded me of that–in a sort of roundabout way, yes, but I still think we can credit the clinic for this one.