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Of blood and water

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If you thought this was going to be a philosophical dive into the nature of families, sorry to disappoint you. This is a purely pragmatic conversation.

My office hosts a quarterly blood drive. Today, for the fourth time, I tried to donate blood. The first time I tried, they were terribly backed up and I couldn't make the adjusted time slot they gave me. The second time, I had forgotten to drink extra and they couldn't get but a trickle. The third time I had drunk quite bit that day and the day before but again, they couldn't get enough blood.

This time, I forced myself to drink, drink, drink all week. I usually drink a good deal of coffee and tea during the day. This week I only allowed myself to refill my coffee or tea if I had also drained my 20 oz water bottle. Instead of refilling once, I refilled 3 times during the work day. Last night I pretended it was the day before Yom Kippur where I force down as much liquid as I humanly can all day so I'll still have enough milk for baby by the next afternoon. I mildly regretted that during the night when I had to get up three times to use the bathroom...

Fast forward to the morning. Despite all the drinking, I was feeling discouraged. I was sure it wouldn't work, that I was wasting the Red Cross personnel time and all the materials that would have to be discarded when all they got from me was a trickle. My inner voice kept nattering away at me about how it was time to give up and move on. Why did I care so much about giving blood anyway? Anybody can give blood, did the world really need my contribution? When they gave me my donor sticker before sticking me, I thought about how it was kind of fraudulent to wear it when I was pretty sure the donation wouldn't work. Was I putting everyone through all this trouble just for self-gratification, to feel like I had tried? (I did put the sticker on anyway since I do think blood donation is important, almost like a civic duty of the healthy, and I want to be able to show my kids when I got home and talk about it to help them develop a similar mindset -- but I put it where my jacket would mostly cover it up.)

I'm sure you can guess the end. They inserted the line, I lay back reading a novel on my phone (yay, public library ebooks!) and was shocked -- shocked! -- when what felt like three minutes later the tech came back and said, "You're done!" Not, "Let's see if we can adjust that a bit." Not "Try and squeeze your hand a few more times." Not "Maybe the needle slipped." No, "You're done!"

I did it! Thank you, water!

The larger lesson is in the negative self-talk. Think about it. What data did I have to make me think I couldn't donate blood? I had tried twice -- both times without adequate hydration -- and failed. Even though I changed up my routine, I almost backed out without even trying. How like my weight loss efforts and my get-my-house-in-order efforts and even my raise-my-children-respectfully efforts! This time, my negative self-talk didn't have the chance to doom my success because the trial was so short-term and almost automatic. But when it's something that requires continual effort and success isn't so fast -- and verifiable -- I suspect the negative self-talk has much more effect.

In other news, my blood pressure was 100/70 and my heart rate 63. Considering I haven't really exercised in almost 6 months, I'll take it!
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