Going to radiation daily can start to feel like the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. Each day is the same, like someone hit the rewind button and is playing the scene over and over. The same steps to check in, same therapists and doctor, same patients coming and going. Same The Price Is Right on the waiting room TV. Same hard table and drafty treatment room.
I know the sights and sounds I’ll encounter, the faces I’ll meet each day. It’s easy to press the auto-pilot button and go through the motions like a robot.
Some days I fall into that mode—I know what to expect, and by and large, that’s all I experience.
But on other days, I manage to be a bit more present and notice things around me, and the drudgery of this process is lessened a little. Today, the lady in the time slot before mine finished her last treatment. She walked out of the doctor’s office with a smile on her face. I smiled silently with her in celebration. An older woman came in to the changing area right after me—I suspect she was there for her first radiation appointment, because she wore the same look of “I’m trying to be cheerful, but I’m really freaked out” that I had on my first day. My heart whispered a little prayer for her. A toddler issued an unspoken challenge to a smiling contest in the elevator. The little girl won, hands down, and my spirit was lifted as I walked to my appointment.
The radiation treatment experience is not unique in its repetition. Much of life centers on doing the same thing again and again. Whether interacting in the workplace, raising children, tending a garden, or even leading worship on Sundays, we can get so used to the processes and people that we stop fully engaging. Even things we love doing can start to feel rote and mundane when we do them all the time.
Unexpected diversions that interrupt our routines may capture our attention, if they’re big enough. But do we go into each day, into each one of our daily places and rhythms, expecting to see something worthy of note? Do we anticipate extraordinary moments—however small—in the midst of the ordinary? And do we pause and appreciate those things when they occur?
If we rise each day with the feeling of same stuff, different day, it’s likely we’ll get just that. If we begin the day, however, with a desire to experience something new and special—and we maintain an attentiveness to the world around us—odds are that desire will be fulfilled.