I Can Ask No More

Naturally and organically meant yesterday by noon I was standing with my coat and boots on, looking at the door and asking myself if I was really going to go outside and do stuff. Outside was not too intimidating. Cold, but not intimidating. It was my list I found intimidating. It asked me to visit four completely different places. Everywhere I went included a bit of walking and dealing with a bit of Dutch. Nothing too heavy anywhere, just that general continuous pressure. Was I up to it? I gave myself permission to slough off. Do the most necessary of errands first, then finish things IF I felt up to it.

George was first on the list, and in many ways the most important. Poor guys! The temp dropped this week, and even the DUCKS are staying out of the water at the moment. I was mobbed at the canal – don’t know the proper term for a group of ducks, but ‘mob’ works for what I experienced. I might pony up for a full loaf of bread today because everyone was so hungry. Even the seagulls came within an arm’s length of me. George stayed right by my side. He could have crawled up on my foot, he was that close. I wanted to crouch down and gather them all in a warm hug. Or bring out a blanket for them. It’s that cold.

Off to buy my lotto ticket. My first kindness to myself: knowing I had walking ahead of me at every junction, I jumped on the metro to take me two stops down to where I buy my ticket. I had a warm flash of personal victory; I was carrying two letters that were addressed to a previous tenant that I needed to drop off, and across the top of the envelopes I’d written ‘retour afzender’, which is the proper thing to do here (it translates to ‘return to sender’). My pride came from the fact that I’d written a note to my teacher to ask him what phrase to write – I tried ‘geen hier’ (not here) before but had this instinct that wasn’t correct – and for the first time I got a reply back from him WITH NO CORRECTIONS, meaning I wrote my sentences clearly and perfectly well – including verb tenses. !!! Victory. If my feet didn’t ache I’d do a little dance. I couldn’t just hand the letters to the woman behind the counter. I had to point out ‘retour afzender’ on the envelopes, with a smile she probably didn’t understand.

Onto the metro as my song ‘Metro’ played on my iPod. That happens a lot. And the song works for me; I put in this bass line that perfectly captures the rhythm of the metros here. Chug, chug, chug away. The sun was shining and I felt good.

Down to the coffeeshop to take responsibility for my smoking. I’d completely spaced the day, of course, so the crowded market that greeted me in the square threw me for a loop. Immediately I felt myself cringe within my jacket and cold weather gear. Thus, I committed the second kindness to myself and bypassed the entire area en masse. I was so thankful to myself for doing that that I was able to stroll through a few aisles on the way back home. Give a little, get a little. There was nothing I was tempted to buy; the whole market was geared to Valentine’s Day and I’m so not into that. But I thought Look at me, here I am walking around just like a normal person. I’m not angry or pushing out negativity. I’m just here. And that was good.

My final stop was the most challenging. My new rheumatologist has given me a referral for a pair of custom made orthopedic shoes. So I wanted to find the shop and talk to them, find out how much this might cost, and see if I needed an appointment. That meant I needed to get out at a metro stop I’ve never been at, find my way on streets I didn’t know, and try to deal with any and all Dutch coming my way.

I kept my cool getting off the metro, and took the time to look around me and notice the buildings, the stores, and the setting so I could easily find it on the way back. At every juncture I had to make a choice: left or right? and for once, at every juncture I made the correct choice. A banner hanging outside marked the store clearly. The front was small, with several people waiting. Three dozen or so of their custom made shoe designs were on display, and several caught my eye. When approached by a woman from the store, I was able to tell her in Dutch I had RA and a referral letter from my doctor before I got too excited and broke into English. She kept up with me, switching fluently between the two languages. Here’s the skinny: if my insurance pays for part of the cost, I’ll end up spending about €140. If, however, my insurance does NOT pay for part of the cost, I’m looking at (take a deep breath) – €1200. Yeah. Ow. The twelve hundred sure makes that 140 look small. I’ll also need an appointment, so they can fuss and measure my feet a thousand different ways. I managed to sidestep the saleswoman’s pressure to set up an appointment then and there (saying ‘no’ is getting easier). Monday I’ll call my insurance company to see if my policy will cover this. I sure hope so. My brother is determined to get me a pair, even if we have to pay for all of it. Damn! If we do have to shoulder the entire cost, these shoes better do the walking for me, make my morning coffee, and take my shits for me at €1200.

Just look at that. Look at what I accomplished, and how calm I managed to stay even in the face of a future €1200 debt we can barely afford. Good for me. I can ask no more of myself.

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