I bled twice today, and both times it hurt a lot less than I expected.
My first bloodletting was by the hands of a phlebotomist, real honest-to-God, literal bloodletting. Well, a vial of blood was taken from my arm for the purposes of medical testing. I guess it’s not actually literal bloodletting. I saw my family doctor this morning, and asked him if he thought it would be helpful to get some bloodwork done to rule out a physiological cause for my depression. He agreed, and so I went to the lab to have my arm poked. Okay…I don’t know if this was just the best phlebotomist in the world, or if it’s because most of the needles I’ve had in my life have been for blood donation (and are thus bigger), but this was so quick and painless I was shocked. Now I have to wait for the results. This will show me if I have any internal organs who hate me the way my brain seems to. (I’m looking at you, thyroid. We’ll see.)
The second bleeding was the more interesting one, and certainly the more figurative one. I spent some time today going through the files on my computer. I have always been a digital packrat. I have kept almost everything I’ve ever typed saved somewhere. I have almost every email I’ve ever received or sent since 1995 still buried deep in the file structure of my email program. And I decided that perhaps this might be a worthy task for my medical leave…to sift through the mountains of folderol on my hard drive. (This was actually the “project” I mentioned in passing in yesterday’s post.) I have been plowing through my Documents folder first. (Pictures, Videos, and emails are for the future.) I found some interesting things. A bucket list I forgot that I wrote. A list of promises I made myself at the suggestion of my then therapist. Several self-righteous letters to the editor of my college newspaper which I never sent. A whole bunch of moronic letters I wrote to friends and to people I had crushes on. And so much more. I read through a lot of them, with an eye to deleting many of them. It was easy to delete things like a letter asking Wells Fargo to close my car loan account, as enclosed was my final payment. But it wasn’t so easy to delete the ones that were more meaningful. More personal. More…painful. I got so frustrated by these younger versions of myself. The ones in college or seminary. The ones who were so arrogant and self-assured. The ones who thought it was great that Microsoft Word turned 🙂 into a real smiley face. I just wanted to smack my younger self in the head. And I haven’t even gotten yet to all the songs and poems, the half-finished short stories. As I anticipated them, my head started to prepare to explode with shame and embarrassment. I felt as though I were bleeding, that inner parts of me long gone were coming out, bleeding to the surface. And it hurt, like bleeding usually does. But then something started to happen.
I started to have compassion for my younger self. I started to see him as young and inexperienced. Young and green. Young and idealistic. Young and with so much learning ahead of him. One of the fears I often have is that I will never change, that I will never grow or mature. But looking back on this emotional bedlam that is the digital copy of my life, I can see that I most certainly have changed over the years. I most certainly have grown. And if I’ve done so already, then there is hope that I can continue to grow.
I have a lot more to do. I’m going to keep spelunking and swimming through my past. And for once, I’m not scared to see how stupid or childish I was. Instead, it’s exciting to read these things, knowing I’d never write that today. (Except the ones I would.) And it’s exciting to realize that one day I’ll look back on this blog post, grateful that I’d never write this again. Growth is real. That’s a wonderful learning for the day.
So, I have to wait patiently to find out the results of my physical bloodwork, and then try to make some good decisions with my doctor based on the results. And I have to wade patiently through the digital bloodwork before me, and then try to make some good decisions about what to do with my past, and my future, based on the results.
What a weird day.