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Ms. Will Power

Having spent almost five years sleeping in a loft bed with a mere 23 inches between the top of the mattress and the ceiling, one would think I’d have no problem with confined spaces. And one would be wrong.

Monday I had an MRI. Wearing a blue wraparound gown, I walked into the examination room, took one look at the claustrophobic contraption and my heart began to race.

“You don’t have an open one?” I asked. Brian, the technician, shook his head.

“You can reschedule and take a Valium next time,” he offered. I thought about the nuisance of losing another afternoon. “You’re only in up to your waist and if you want to get out, just squeeze this ball and I’ll let you out.”

The details helped me relax. I lay down and closed my eyes, which Brian covered with a towel. I imagined I was in a spa and focused on my breathing. My heart slowed. Then I was wheeled in.

You’re okay, I told myself, feeling panic creep back. Relax. If you stop, you’ll have to do it all over again.

“You alright?” Brian asked through the speakers.

“Can you give me a countdown every few minutes?” I said. Seeing the finish line calms me. Then it was back to the imaginary spa. Soon I heard waves lapping the shore. That worked for a few seconds until a piercing clanging arose. I tried using the same lines a coach says to motivate her players. “No pain no gain!” and “You got this!”

My speeding heart slowed and just when I thought it was working, another wave of panic began to wash over me as I realized I was lying on a padded metal tray in an electronic tomb. Inhale, exhale, damn it! I pictured myself scrambling to get out and wondered if Brian had a hidden video camera to capture those who do just that.

“Twelve minutes,” Brian said.

You didn’t have much more space in the loft bed, I reminded myself. My breathing slowed. You can do it, just stick with it. And that’s when it hit me. That’s when I realized people all over the world were having similar discussions (though most not trapped in an oblong vault), trying to convince themselves to stick to their week old New Year’s resolutions. Whether to put down that second cookie or fold their sweaters instead of tossing them onto a shelf, the key is simply mind over matter.

“Eight minutes.”

That’s only 480 seconds, I thought. If I can get through this, I can get through anything. Then I began to relax, back in the spa. Is that lavender oil I smell?

Before I knew it, Brian was wheeling me out. “You okay?” he said.

Leaping off the table, I smiled. “Never better.”

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