Neil was terrified of socializing. Every time he attended a party he would stand quietly in the corner. A “successful” party was one at which he said more than the occasional monotone “Hi.” This impediment applied to other parts of his life as well. Store clerks, and co-workers all scared him.
For years, Neil confessed his problems to his psychiatrist, Dr. Patricia Pennimore. Unfortunately, she had no overnight cure for his condition. It also didn’t help that Neil refused to take his prescribed medication.
On a Tuesday night, Neil received a call from one of his oldest friends, Theresa. He hadn’t seen her in years. She just moved back into town, and was throwing a house party.
“It’s Saturday night, and it would mean a lot to me if you could come,” Theresa said, and the hopeful tone in her voice made it impossible for Neil to refuse.
“Of course I’ll be there,” he said before hanging up the phone. A second later, he set up an emergency appointment with Dr. Pennimore.
“You have to keep taking small steps to get better,” Dr. Pennimore said, “You have no problem talking to Theresa over the phone, so you should have no problem talking to her in a crowded room. If it becomes too much, excuse yourself to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and say, ‘I’m going to be alright.’ That’s all you have to do.” Neil knew the advice to be right, but his fears didn’t fade.
As the weekdays passed, Neil called Dr. Pennimore three times. Only her voice could calm him. The party consumed his every thought. What if he tripped over a rug, or spilled a drink on his shirt, and everyone laughed at him? On Friday, at 11 pm precisely, Neil called Dr. Pennimore one final time. He could hear the irritation in the doctor’s voice.
“If you don’t want to go, then don’t go!” she told him, “but it has to be your decision.” This wasn’t what Neil wanted to hear. He stayed up all night weighing the party’s positives and negatives. This was impossible for him, because both scenarios led to an endless array of consequences. What if there was a zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion, or a fire, and he couldn’t get out of the house fast enough, and he was trampled.
Around noon, Neil received an email stating “Party Cancelled.” Theresa had been hit by a car, and was sent to the hospital. She was unconscious, but in stable condition. Neil stared at the letter in disbelief, and he realized at that moment that he had been looking forward to seeing Theresa, and going to her party. That was the real reason he had said, “yes.” in the first place.
Immediately, he rushed over to the hospital. He grabbed flowers along the way, and didn’t even care that he had to discuss the floral arrangement with the cashier. At the hospital, he didn’t mind the nurses, or the noisy waiting room, or the bloody patients being rushed to the E.R. All he could think about was Theresa. Hours past before he was finally shown to her room. He set the flowers down on the nightstand, and turned the room’s radio to a blues station.
“I know this isn’t the party either of us had in mind,” he said, “but I’m glad I could be here for you.” He took her hand in his, and hummed along to the music.
Moral: Don’t wait for tragedy to be a catalyst for your self-improvement.
Written by Alex Schattner (9/5/12)