I had a blood draw for uric acid yesterday. Now I’m waiting for my primary to tell me if the results reveal anything I need to be concerned about.
A few days before that, putting on my shoes before walking the dogs, I felt a stab of pain, and later I saw that the front of my foot was red and swollen. A few hours later, stepping off a concrete slab outside Los Cuates Mexican Restaurant, carrying Huevos Rancheros (eggs-over-medium, refried beans, pan-fried potatoes, green chili, and raw onions), and a cheese enchilada plate (with whole beans, rice, chili, and onions) –leading with my swollen right foot–my right ankle buckled outwards. This incident (a 2nd domino) would have been much worse if I had then fallen. But fortunately, my Prius was parked a few feet away and I stumbled against it. I didn’t even drop our take-out supper.
My foot and my ankle continued to swell, and the next morning my wife drove me to urgent care. A doctor poked around my swollen ankle and told me it was only a sprain. And as for the original swelling in the front of my foot, he told me that I had had an attack of gout. This led to the third domino: a lab test for elevated uric acid.
And the fourth domino? Discovering that dehydration can cause gout, I realized that, ever since a mini-stroke four years ago, I have been on a diuretic medication. Since this causes me to pee more frequently, I stop drinking in the afternoon, in order to have a chance to stay asleep at night. So, now I am taking a different blood pressure medication.
Of course, the unfolding of causes-and-effects in our lives is rarely so simple as one domino toppling and knocking over an adjacent one. That theory— which I first heard in connection with the view that communism would topple adjacent counties if allowed to take root in South Vietnam—seems a simplification of the waves of influence that run through the events in our lives and in the world. It doesn’t really leave room for all those ‘ghost dominoes’ that populate the way we look at everything. It feels more like a grove of aspen trees, all with a common root system, growing at the edge of a river.
When we view each manifestation as being caused by something else, such as what we have done and what we have not done, then we are bound to blame someone, such as ourselves, for what we view as the consequences of things that have already happened. But can the eruptions that break into our lives and leave us reeling in anxiety or despair, really be like dominos toppling because some other domino knocked them over?
Perhaps another way of looking at all this is that we are performing in a symphony that keeps creating our world, and that as we are sawing away on our own violin, we are both audience and participant. Ghost dominoes indeed knock one another over. But if we listen carefully, we may catch a greater melody running through everything, in which we are contributing to a vast and unfathomable unfolding that we hardly ever notice.
We can see this best in our relationships with others and in how we help one another, especially when we have suffered a common loss. And they can probably see it in us.