A medicine cabinet is our open book. Accessible to any bathroom visitor, we present a historical medical scrapbook of our lives behind a hinged mirror door. It’s a treasure chest screaming to be explored; secret revelations waiting to be discovered.
I recently opened my medicine cabinet to realize it was overflooding. It came as a shock to me since I’m not a big pill popper and would rather cough for a month then take Musinex. But I stood face to face with a representational diorama of the year that was; the year that filled this white mirrored cabinet on 97th Street with all sorts of bizarre unexpected things.
I see the Baby Mederma. I went for eleven months after my thyroid surgery before putting anything on the scar on my neck. My doctor told me not to so I didn’t. But last week my father’s young wife gave me a half-used tube of Baby Mederma.
“It works the same as the regular one,” she said. “Use it on your scar. It really works.”
“Why do you have it?” I asked. I didn’t remember my three-year-old half brother having a scar.
“I scratched Alex’s penis during a diaper change when he was a baby,” she explained. “I was so nervous that it would leave a permanent scar on his penis, I Mederma-ed him every day for a year. I don’t need it anymore.”
I shrugged and took the cream and now use my half brother’s penis scar cream on my neck.
There are no less than four different anti-itch creams from the time I had twenty-nine mosquito bites in Maine. My arm had two bites really close together and they got swelled up to the size of half a lemon. Surprisingly, and slightly out of character, I wasn’t concerned. That is, until I struck up a conversation with the big guy behind the counter of the touristy shop in Bar Harbor. He had a look of “oh shit” on his face and started to panic in an uncomfortable way. He directed me to the local hospital. I chose to go the pharmacy and Blueberry beer route.
My broken knee left me with many souvenirs. In the cabinet sits three types of bandages. The closet also holds the crutches, ridiculously uncomfortable knee brace, and MRI scans. Who would have thought I would have so many reminders from the time I was walking home from work and some woman fell on me and broke my knee? I knew one day I’d look back at the whole incident and laugh. At the very least, it makes for great storytelling.
I laugh when I see this archaic tar-like salve called Ichtamohl. Scientifically it’s sulfonated shale oil and medically used for skin ailments and as a “drawing salve.” My grandfather told me to use it to help the infection in my ingrown toenail. Didn’t work. So on the fourth day of my new job, I had to have lunchtime toenail surgery.
They accumulate—these life souvenirs that live in our medicine cabinets; tokens collected along the journey. These tubes follow us around, cabinet to cabinet and often we never return to claim their services. We just move them around, constantly rearranging them Jenga-style in our cabinets. Life reminders we hold onto just in case …
2008 was a constant reminder to slow down somehow—to take care of my health. It reminded me to squeeze every molecule of happiness out of every day. The worries I wasted so much energy on never came to fruition. Instead I had a whole new set of surprises. I know it will not always be what I planned. It’s not always going to make sense. And even at the darkest times—I try to remember that this too shall pass and tomorrow is another chance to do it again.
This year has shown me life in its very essence—raw, emotional, unpredictable, painful, ironic, euphoric Life. 2008 also gave me the gift of time and freedom.
So for 2009 … I want to let it go more—not take it all so seriously. I want to stop fearing failure. I want to dream more since it’s free entertainment. I want to let go of perfection. I want to worry less. I want to hit pause on happy.
2009—come what may.
(As for the medicine cabinet, lets hope that we can shuffle the black tar and ace bandages under the sink and create some breathing room. Simplicity. Calm.)