You know the feeling. As you leave to go to the dentist's office or the doctor's office, that "butterflies in your stomach" feeling, the stomach turning over and over again, even if you aren't expecting bad news. You struggle to keep your hands from trembling. Just something about the word "dentist" or "doctor" seems to do it to some people.
I used to be one of those people. That was in the days before I gave up going to dentists forever...well, for 20 years. By the time I finally put my mouth in my friend Cindy's hands and paid for her daughters going to college, dentistry had changed significantly. Cindy didn't yell at me if I didn't floss. The machines that did the extensive repair work were really painless. And she saved my teeth. The experience now is so pleasant that it's like going to a beauty shop, with music playing overhead, open cubicles where people chat back and forth with each other. I go to the dentist 3-4 times a year and never feel those butterflies, even when Cindy tells me that my teeth are dissolving.
I probably got over the doctor shakes during the years I was pregnant. 10 years of pregnancy and/or nursing and more years taking kids to the doctor will do that to you. I definitely lost the doctor fear when I worked in doctors' offices for about 15 years. I managed Women's Health and my primary care physician was one of our in-office providers, who was also my friend. In the morning she might give me a Pap smear and in the evening we might be out drinking wine together. You lose fear pretty quickly in that scenario.
But as I got ready to go to the hospital this morning, those butterflies were back. Whole clouds of monarch butterflies nesting in my intestines and flapping their wings.
No, I wasn't going for some scary procedure or to get the results of some scary test. I was going to the monthly meeting of the auxiliary volunteers. It also didn't help that I had just spilled lots of purple wax from my Sentsy warmer all over my brand new Sutter Davis smock and didn't have time to clean it up.
My smock looked like a baby with a port wine birth mark.
But the butterflies came before the wax did. The wax just made me more self conscious.
I have now lived longer than my father lived. He died 3 months shy of his 73rd birthday. In his later years, he got to be a real social isolationist. I don't know that he suffered from those butterflies when he had to mingle with strangers, but he put signs on the front of his house telling people that if they they didn't have an appointment they were trespassing and he would call the police.
I'm not quite that bad, but I do have bits of hermit in me. I have a peep hole on the front door and if there is someone standing in the carport with a clipboard in hand, I don't answer. Any time I have to go to a gathering, social or otherwise, where I don't know most people, the butterflies start flapping their wings. I almost never go out into the lobby at intermission of a show because I am uncomfortable mingling with the audience. I don't know why. It's so silly.
I was the second or third person in the room where the meeting was to take place today and I saw they had set up snacks, so once I grabbed a chocolate croissant and a cup of coffee, I was feeling better (food is always my equivalent of hiding behind a potted palm). Then another volunteer introduced herself and when I gave her my name and told her I was new at the information desk, she said "but you were a volunteer here before, right?" I knew where this was going. I told her that no, I had never been a volunteer before and she said "I wonder why your name is so familiar." I told her that I was the critic for the Davis Enterprise. "Oh, of course," she said.
It's a lot better now that I've been doing that job for some 15 years than it was in the early years where strangers would see my name tag, recognize my name from letters to the editor I used to write and say how much they enjoyed my letters and "do you ever write anything else for the paper?" when I'd been reviewing for several years. But now I have better name recognition.
But that, unfortunately doesn't calm those butterflies when I need to get out into public. Meetings, parties, anywhere where I won't know a lot of people.
The meeting was fine, reminding me why I hate meetings like this, and I had to leave before the part that concerned me and the people I would be working with. But I had a lunch date at Atria with my mother, my friend Peggy, who used to live at Atria and now has moved to a different facility, and Margaret, with whom my mother usually eats each day.
It was a nice lunch and it was nice to see how gentle, understanding and accepting of her dementia these two friends are.