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My Turn: Life, and health, seen through post-pandemic eyes

The doctor called with my latest test results. "Your CT scan was stable," she said. I was silent. My immediate reaction was "that’s fine," serviceable, like propping up a wobbly table leg with a book of matches.

"Everything OK?" she asked.

Yes, everything was OK.

OK is good, right? What was I expecting? What did I want her to say? "Your CT scan was great"?

Yeah.

Reason returned, however, as I contemplated the past year in the rearview mirror. The hardships we survived during the pandemic deepened my understanding of the word "stable"; its worth has appreciated a thousandfold. The dictionary defines it as "the strength to stand or endure." And boy have we all been poster children for endurance. For too long I had felt like the world under my roof — the one with polished oak floors and lush carpeting — was replaced by an empty space with only studs to walk on; gaping holes were revealed that rendered every move dangerous and unstable.

There’s now a boring, taken-for-granted stability that’s filing off life’s jagged edges as we draw closer to "after" time. The fears that devoured my peace of mind are fading.

I just say yes to convenience over cost, yes to buttered toast, yes to saying "no" more often, finding profound satisfaction in the mundane, safe and familiar: Seeing the eye doctor, the dentist and the server at my favorite restaurant. Picking out tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Watering the begonias. Wearing lipstick.

The power I’ve given to regrets and grudges and the number on the scale has greatly diminished. Since childhood I’ve been a confirmed practitioner of delayed gratification, savoring the best for last. Not anymore. Says the ratty old T-shirt I’ve worn for years without truly understanding its wisdom: "Now is the new later."

Yet, while my mind morphs into this staid mental state, the mental state of this season’s high school graduates has fired up. Opportunity is spritzed in the air at every commencement speech; unpredictability is a fair price to pay for forward momentum. The young drag to the trash the phrases I’ve come to revere, like "status quo" and "old hat." After spending too much of their senior year isolated and still, they’re ready to swing off to the next tree and see what’s up there. As their hearts beat faster thinking of venturing into the unknown, I’m bingeing "Mash" reruns.

Am I jealous — maybe a little. Certainly, I am envious of their enthusiasm. So many things are happening for the first time, and each one creates a forever memory.

And I do admire how comfortable they are with change. When you’re young, "new" constantly reboots your brain’s computer. I live each day one Google search away from a computer breakdown.

So, do I yearn to change places with wild and exciting?

Nah, I’m good.

The secondary definition of "stable" is "the resistance to chemical change or to physical disintegration." This speaks to me as I stand firm against cancer.

Summer 2021 finds us riding the wave in a leaky boat that survived a hurricane. We’re closer to shore and the rain has stopped, but we continue to heave buckets of water overboard to stay afloat. On this Independence Day, we’re asked to be resourceful, adapt to a new version of normal, take responsibility for our actions — be brave. Just as our ancestors were in 1776. We’re tasked with resuming messy tender life, albeit on a more even keel.

In this season of nectarines and 8:30 sunsets, may you safely ride the wave.

Marcia Byalick,

Searingtown

YOUR STORY Letters and essays for My Turn are original works (of up to 600 words) by readers that have never appeared in print or online. Share special memories, traditions, friendships, life-changing decisions, observations of life or unforgettable moments for possible publication. Email act2@newsday.com. Include name, address, phone numbers and photos if available. Edited stories may be republished in any format.

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