(Hi Mom! I drop the F bomb again with this one! Oopsie! To take your mind off of it, I’ll post pictures of pretty pretty flowers around the house, so you can look at the flower when you get upset with my language! Yaaaaaaaay!)
I’ve long suspected that one of the contributing factors to my Amazing Ass is the fact that I was a hurdler in high school. I’m not sure why I gravitated towards that event, except for the fact that it was a short distance, and I’m pretty lazy when it comes to outdoor fitness.
The 100 meter sprint was the same length with zero things to jump over, why didn’t I like that one? Probably because Coach would force me to compete in that event despite being no match for the crosstown thoroughbreds who would make fun of my woeful whiteyness at the starting line.
But most of the crosstown thoroughbreds didn’t wanna jump over hurdles, and while I never came in first, I was decent enough to place third very now and then, which would net my team one of the extra points it would need to win.
One day (I think I was a junior) I was trying to master three steps in between the hurdles. If you take three steps between the hurdles, you’ll lead with the same leg every time, as opposed to four steps, where you have to alternate right leg, left leg, right leg. One leg is usually more dominant than the other, which is the leg you wanna lead with. (Ironically, the one picture we have of me competing in this event shows me sailing over the hurdle with the left leg, my worse leg, but I still look awesome anyway.)
Our track was pretty meager, so we had enough room and hurdles to set up about four or five, and we’d practice over and over, shooing away the football players who’d wander into our way, because football players never pay attention to anything that doesn’t have a helmet on it.
So I was trying to master the distance between each hurdle by taking three steps instead of four. Maybe I had been at it for awhile, maybe it was hot, maybe I was tired of yelling at football players to get out of my way, but over one hurdle (with my non-dominant leg) I hit it with my other knee, got tangled up, and went down hard. The kind of hard where anyone watching goes ooooooohhhhhh, ouch.
Let’s leave me writhing with my skinned knees, bloody palms, and agog football players on the Alabama asphalt and return to present day. Specifically, yesterday.
Stella and Wella had helped me pick up an Ikea bookcase on Monday, and as we were out eating dinner, Wella mentioned that Children’s Hospital had called him for platelet donations. The blood and platelet banks were extremely low, there were brain tumor kiddos sucking up all available units. Wella can’t donate because he’s on medication, but he thought maybe I could.
Platelet donation is super scary, much scarier than regular blood donation, because it involves a needle in your arm for an hour and a half, as they take the blood out, run it through an apheresis machine to separate the platelets out, and return the blood back into you. I’ve seen the setup when I’ve been at Children’s Hospital to donate regular blood, they give you pillows, blankets, a movie to watch on your own personal DVD player, all sorts of things to take your mind off the fact that there’s a needle in your arm for an hour and a half. Platelet donation is super super scary. I don’t know that I could ever do it.
There’s a need for it.
Wella can’t do it.
I need an Adventure for May.
And I have a huge masochistic streak.
So I remain vigilant on the iron pills and steamed broccoli, and show up for my appointment yesterday. I’ve told the staff that I get bounced for low iron count a lot, I don’t really like needles, but I really really wanna do this (I leave the part about my masochistic streak out, I don’t think they’d understand.)
After taking a sample from my left arm, and running it up for tests that I can’t see, they report back that I haven’t beaten the Red Machine O Death. 12.5 is passing, I’m 12.4. However, that statistic doesn’t matter so much when you’re donating platelets, and they set me up in a bed with pillows, blankie, and DVD player. I’ve brought my own DVD to watch, the first four episodes of Glee (research for my foray into TV writing) and they tell me to go ahead and press play while they prep my right arm. I fast forward through the previews while turning my head to avoid the sight of the needle going into my arm. There’s a pinch, I wince and say “ouch ouch”, while the nurse soothes me, though I can’t see her, my head is so violently turned away.
I eye the DVD player and watch Sue Sylvester, the cheerleading coach, bellow through her microphone, “You think this is hard!? Try waterboarding, that’s hard!”
And that’s as far as I get.
Because there appears to be a problem. Apparently, I flinched when the needle went into my arm. And because I flinched, the needle punctured the vein and then slipped out, so now it’s bleeding into my arm and causing lovely bruising and swelling. They try another vein, doesn’t work. They don’t like any of the veins on my left arm, the only viable one was punctured for the sample.
So they slap a bandage and an ice pack on my arm. They offer me juice, they offer me cookies, and the "Be nice to me, I donated blood today" sticker even though there’s no donating anything for me today, thank you very much.
I politely decline all of it. And burst into tears in the safety of my car in the parking lot.
What the f is wrong with me? I didn’t help little kids with brain tumors, big deal. They’re not gonna die because they didn’t get my platelets, the hospital will buy some if they have to. I can come back as soon as this bruising goes down, “Maybe next week,” the hospital staff says, not knowing that I’m going to be dogsitting Basil Diva Dog and Ginger Puppy for Memorial Day Weekend, and plan on being drunk off my butt by the pool for the holiday weekend.
What the f is wrong with me? I tried, I failed, so what. I failed. I...failed. I was all set to face my super scary fear of platelet donation and a needle in my arm for an hour and a half. I was gonna go all Hail Hail the Conquering Hero once it was done, and have an awesome May Adventure to document for you all here on the blog. I had no doubt it wasn’t going to be pleasant, but I was all ready for battle in the name of Little Kiddos With Brain Tumors Whose Names I Don’t Know (But Apparently There’s Three Of Them.) And so I don’t get any Hail Hail the Conquering Heroes, so what? Just come back and donate next time, who cares.
But I failed. I’m very big on Productivity. Goal Setting, Goal Completing, Write The Lists And Check ‘Em Off, all of it. Don’t know where it comes from, it’s just a big part of me. And I’m tired of failing at donating. I already got bounced in March from regular blood donation. I'm running about 50/50 on the complete/incomplete donations. Most people would stop at this point. In fact, other than Wella, I’m the only person I know (aside from the people at church who go to my blood drive when I host them) who DOES donate. My friends tell me all the time how they're scared, they faint, their veins collapse, they spent too much time out of the country, la la la. Most of the time, it’s that they don’t like needles.
I don’t like needles. None of my merry adventures in blood donating have made me like them any more. It ALWAYS hurts.
But if none of my friends are gonna donate, then who will? I don’t like needles, but if I don’t shove that aside and step up to the plate, who will?
How can I be an example that It’s Not About Your Fear, It’s About How Mastering Your Fear Helps Someone Else if I keep failing? How can I help ANYONE if I keep failing?
Let’s return to the scrawny high school hurdler weirdo bleeding on the Alabama asphalt. I’m crying here too, from humiliation as much as physical pain. And as I’m lying on my back, clutching my knee, and brushing the pebbles and dirt off my shins, my beloved Coach looms over me.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
My response begins with, “NO I’M NOT OKAY, GODAMMIT, LOOK AT ME!” and continues in such a way that my beloved Coach gleefully repeats the story a year and a half later at the sports banquet honoring the track team. Into the microphone for the entire auditorium to hear, he tells the track team, the faculty, their parents, MY parents about the time Amy crashed into the hurdles and cussed him out with a memorable blue streak the likes of which nobody knew I was capable of.
But at the time, he lets me surf the blue wave until I finish, smiles at me, and simply says.
“Okay. Get up and do it again.”
My response to that begins with, “FUCK YOU, NO WAY, I’M NOT DOING THAT AGAIN, LOOK AT ME!” I continue cussing at him, at the agog football team, at the hurdle, at the fact that I can’t do three steps between the hurdles, because if I could I wouldn’t have hit it and gone down hard.
I trail profanities as I pick myself up, it’s not my fault, it’s hot, the football team won’t get out of my way, I’m white, crosstown thoroughbreds make fun of me at starting lines and hobble back to the starting line, and...
And yes, I do it again. Crying. Bleeding. Four steps between the hurdles. But I didn't fall.
I knew what the point was. You can’t let your fear master you. If I hadn’t picked myself up and gotten back onto the track and over those hurdles, it would result in a mental stumbling block, and that’s what I would remember every time I was facing a 100 meter line of hurdles.
But I didn’t let my fear, my pain, my tears master me. I mastered it. I got to three steps between the hurdles. I ended up placing fifth in the state championship my senior year. I have an Amazing Ass. My parents are proud (of placing fifth in the state championship, not of my Amazing Ass. I don’t think they care about that.)
You don’t have to like it to master it. You just have to master it.
So, back in present day, sobbing in my car in the parking lot, I remember that bleeding hurdling weirdo and know what I have to do.
It’s not gonna be next week. But probably the week after next. I’m going back. I’m going to KEEP going back.
I don’t care how many bruises I get. I don’t care how much it hurts. It’s not about my fear, it’s not about my pain. It’s about the fact that Three Little Kiddos Whose Names I Don’t Know have brain tumors and need people to fight for them. I don’t have to know who they are. I don’t have to be related to them to fight for them. I just have to fight. I just have to keep fighting.
So here’s a toast (with five dollar sparkling wine from Trader Joe’s in my souvenir cup from the Disney Cruise.)
Fuck you, bruises on my arm. Fuck you, pain I felt. Fuck you, tears I shed. None of you will stop me from fighting. I will master this fear.
I will fight.