Hot Dogs & Learning to be Gentle

One time, not so long ago, I went to Portillo’s and ordered a Chicago dog, cheese fries and a vanilla milkshake, while simultaneously going through a late term abortion.

Let me explain, and don’t worry, I’ll keep this part brief. A surgical abortion is typically a 3 step procedure that involves 2 (very uncomfortable) days of dilating the cervix (this first process does not actually affect the fetus in any way), and then the actual surgery is performed on the 3rd day.

Cervical dilation is performed via the insertion of laminaria, which are sterile sticks made of seaweed. Now, you can stop holding your breath. I’m not going to talk any further about all the physical procedure stuff, today at least. I know it can be hard to read. It was important to offer this context, though, so that you understand what I mean when I say that I ordered a meal while simultaneously undergoing a late term abortion. For context on why I was undergoing this procedure. Please read the first post of this blog, Clara’s Story. Now, on with the post…

On the first day of my 3 day procedure, my husband and I arrived back home around 8pm and had not yet eaten dinner. We were waiting on my prescription of pain medication to be filled by our local pharmacy, and so we decided to go through the Portillo’s drive-thru to pick up some food while we waited. As we waited in our car, slowly driving along with the procession of Portillo’s patrons, I was struck by the realization that no one  around us had any idea what we were going through. I sat numbly in the passenger seat of our car, with laminaria sticks in my cervix, trying to process the impending loss of my daughter, a very much wanted child, and ordered a hot dog. The juxtaposition of my circumstances and my actions opened my eyes, and I realized that in any given moment we really do not know what someone might be going through.

For those of you who know me well, I do not think that I would be generally described as “gentle”. I am often loud. I am emotionally… intense. I feel and express my emotions with all the force of a freight train, barreling down the tracks. For this reason I am often drawn to slowness. Stillness and quiet do not come easily to me and they have become skills that I am eager to master. Yoga, meditation, knitting, cooking and gardening are all practices of mine that help me learn to be more quiet, deliberative and gentle. However, my experience in the Portillo’s drive-thru may have been the most valuable tool that I have had yet, in learning to be gentle. From now on, every store employee who is snippy with me, every waitress who gets my order wrong, every interaction that I have with another human that is not altogether satisfying, will serve as a reminder that I have no idea who these people are, what they might be going through, or where their stories have taken them in the past. I know nothing of the weight that they carry. I don’t know which of them might be going through a divorce, grieving a loved one, battling addiction, or ordering hot dogs with seaweed sticks in their cervix. So, I choose to be gentle. If there is one thing of value that we can share with others, it is the tenderness of our hearts. It is our capacity for kindness without reason or excuse.

Thank you, Clara, for yet another lesson.

Be gentle, my friends.

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