Some things just aren’t natural. They aren’t meant to be part of the human experience.
One of those things is the hypodermic needle.
Yes, I know that needles have delivered a lot of good to the world. Via vaccines, for instance. And anyone with diabetes can have a relatively normal life thanks to the regular injection of insulin.
But just because I intellectually accept these truths doesn’t mean I have to relish the experience of having my skin (Ed. Note: and veins!) punctured. I know I’m not alone in this aversion to needles, but I also have a feeling that I’m on the more extreme end of the fear spectrum.
As an example: I put off my flu shot this winter for months, hoping that my wife would forget about her mandate that I get one, since we have a little rascal in the house now. We’re talking about the most benign needle experience out there, and I couldn’t even look the Walgreens pharmacist in the face when she walked out from behind the counter with the tools of injury in tow.
After the shot, my left arm felt numb from shoulder to fingertips and I refused to look at the injection point for the rest of the day. I suddenly couldn’t summon the strength to make a fist, with either hand. My skin felt clammy and I ‘pitted out’ my T-shirt.
I realize this sounds ridiculous for a fully-formed adult to have these hang-ups, but that’s just how my mind and body have always reacted.
Ultimately, though, I can tolerate the shots. The needle is in and out and you move on with your day.
The mountain I haven’t been able to climb is the experience of donating blood.
I’ve had blood drawn for testing a couple of times … let’s say it didn’t go well. I didn’t actually faint, but my skin was absolutely crawling as the phlebotomist (cool word!) pulled several vials of live-giving fluid out of the tender underside of my arm.
It’s not that I have a problem with seeing blood. I’ve had my share of skinned knees, scraped elbows and bloody noses, but those situations never seem to bother me. To double back to the start, these are natural experiences — all part of being human and being alive.
But to have blood pulled out of my body, with a needle? No sale. No way. Nope. Nuh uh. Get that sh*t away from me. At least, that’s been my feeling for almost all of my 34 years.
That said, lately, my unwillingness to push back against my base survival instincts has started to feel selfish and silly.
After 10 years of hearing about my father-in-law’s admirable habit of giving plasma and platelets, after continually hearing ads for local blood drives on my media channels of choice, after being asked to comfort my two-year-old son while nurses administered multiple blood tests — ‘You don’t understand! You asked the wrong guy!’ — I think I’m ready to take the final step.
I almost jumped off my self-created cliff this past summer, when free Foo Fighters tickets enticed me toward a blood drive in Lawrenceville. I made the journey across town and through rush-hour traffic, pulled into the parking lot of the church where the drive was happening, and even craned my neck to see if there was a line inside the doorway. My palms grew sweaty. My eyes darted to and fro.
Then, I just sat there. For about 10 minutes. Not my finest moment.
And then I turned the key and pulled away, cursing my cowardice. I can’t recall exactly what I yelled at myself, but the word ‘chickensh*t’ was prominently featured. Nothing like a little self-loathing to spice up your day!
Well, I’m prepared to loathe no more. In the spirit of Scaring Matt, I can think of no more altruistic activity than *shudders* filling a blood bag for those who are (or will be) in desperate need of it.
There will be angst to come, for sure. Sure, I got close to facing my fear in the recent past, but near-misses can discourage just as easily as encourage. Coming close but not coming through can create the illusion of some impenetrable forcefield, I’ve found.
But if I want to call myself a Do-Gooder, there are few simpler ways to give back than to literally give the essence of life to another.
So what if getting poked by a needle is an outright perversion of natural law? So is spending half my day staring into my phone, and I seem to have no problems with that.
Next week: I schedule the appointment … and maybe find a buddy/accountability partner? Anyone want to volunteer?