As Maggie drove me home following my procedure, I gulped water and munched on the snack of fruit I’d packed for this moment. Relief washed over me like baptismal waters. To be sure, the anesthesia contributed to my high but it was fueled by pure emotion.
For weeks I’ve experienced just-beneath-the-surface anxiety about my second colonoscopy. My first, three years ago, resulted in the removal of my right colon three days later. I was physically healthy then, too. I anticipated a clean bill of health and ended up out of work and recovering for months.
And, so, my anxiety before my second colonoscopy was about more than the dread of the prep. What if my healthy-self was not so healthy again? Had I run my last run? Would I be pulled out of work — work I love — to tend to my health? Was my body silently betraying me as it had seemed to three years ago?
Rational analysis of the events of three years ago (no cancer, aggressive treatment, full recovery) might lead to the expectation that I’d be munching fruit en route to pizza following my second colonoscopy but…
We experience life through our emotions.
Though my self-talk had me convinced all would be well, my emotional interpretation lies in wait for a time of weakness. It was like a patient tiger stalking prey. I was first aware of the pouncing emotional tiger during my 24-hours of fasting prior to the procedure.
My growling emotions exploited my hunger.
I re-felt all those feelings of three years ago as my growling tum begged for solid food. The fears, the dependency, the drug-induced paranoia, the physical weakness, and a profound sense of mortality scratched and clawed at my rationality.
The tiger’s irrationality clawed at me during colon prep, too. I cried over stupid shows and yelled at the dog. The morning of the procedure I picked a fight with my wife over an inconsequential matter. In hindsight, I can even see the tiger of previous emotions impacting my reactions to unrelated matters weeks ahead of time.
Our past experiences influence how we feel in the here and now. I worried not because it was a productive emotion but because I am my past experiences and emotions. Though my awareness of my past emotions can help me prevent them from controlling my behavior, I will never be fully free of my past. The absence of a right colon is part of who I am.
I’m more empathetic. I can hear the fears of others facing medical concerns more deeply. I feel with them in ways that I might otherwise not. That stalking emotional tiger doesn’t just claw and scratch. Sometimes it’s more like A.A. Milne’s Tigger who pounces out of the shadows joyfully knocks me over and licks my face. Even in its power over me, my emotional tiger loves me and helps me to love others more fully.
I would never have chosen the events of three years ago but I do not regret them. I think I’ll keep my colon tiger.
God Hides God’s Face From Me! May 20, 2014
Unnatural, May 21, 2014
Out of Chaos, May 27, 2014
No Big Deal, May 29, 2014
Mortality, June 3, 2014
Wiped Memories, June 6, 2014
Perseverance, June 10, 2014
Scars, June 19, 2014
Embracing Emotions, July 2, 2014
An Unexpected Onion, January 14, 2015
One Year Ago Today, March 28, 2015
The Long & Short of It, March 29, 2016
The Colon Tiger, October 19, 2017