Saturday, May 1, 2010

Reflections from a Saturday: Beating the Odds

The day I beat the odds

It's fair to say that us nerdy academic doctors think in terms of numbers--you know--percentages, positive and negative predictive values, likelihood ratios and the like. For this reason, the nerdy academic doctor in me knew things weren't looking too good for me as a single girl. You see, the likelihood of a thirty-something year old professionally educated African-American woman getting married is minuscule. I'm talking abysmal numbers. And it only gets minuscule-er and abysmal-er with more age and more degrees. Put it this way, I'm not saying you are, but if you were a betting person and if you were in Vegas placing bets on this 31 year old college educated sister getting married, you might go home empty handed. . . .and with an M.D. to boot? Fuggeddaboudit--that's the nail in the future-bride coffin.

Like my patients who've been dealt certain hands, I hoped I'd beat these crappy statistics. To be in that headscratching number to which the facts weren't applicable. I'd open my Essence Magazine and read that 7/10 black women would never marry. Never? Damn. Then I googled "educated African-American women and likelihood of marriage" (don't ask me why) and was even more depressed. I read (from the many, many hits I got) that 7/10 was pretty generous. That the odds were way worse with more education and with older eggs. I wanted to be in the 3 and not the 7. Or even the 1.5 and not the 8.5, depending on which scary article you read.

I'd clasp my hands tight and try to imagine someone like Harry while I prayed at night. I'd do my best to push the swirling statistics out of my over-educated brain while mustering up as much faith as I could to convince myself that it was possible. Possible to beat the odds. Then, one day Harry appeared, better than my dreams and stronger than my prayers. Divine intervention had indeed stepped in. And then, on May 1, 2004, I joined the 3 and left the 7.

Today, I'm reflecting on my wedding day. I am reflecting on the two beautiful boys that came after it and the fine, fine man that I get to refer to every day as "my husband." I must admit, it is still a bit surreal at times. For those who are black women, you get this. For others it's probably kind of hard to wrap your mind around. Imagine this: A 7/10 chance or more of thunder showers. But instead you awaken to a cloudless, sunny sky. It's kind of like that. So I don't take it for granted.

Sometimes I equate meeting Harry with finding a brand new, sparkling Mercedes Benz parked on the side of a busy highway with keys on the driver seat and an unsigned pink slip in the console. "Are you sure this doesn't already belong to someone?" I ask incredulously, "How in the world does this not already belong to someone?" And then I put the key in the ignition, sure that it won't start or that it will sputter or that it might drive for two blocks and then explode. But it doesn't. It so doesn't. The engine is whisper quiet. . .the ride is like floating on a cloud. The interior is comfortable, quiet, and luxurious and the exterior strong and sturdy. I keep looking in the rearview mirror for sirens or some horribly disappointing discovery. . . . but six years later, I've found none. Sure, there's been inclement weather to drive through at times, but the handle continues to be great. Finally, I am starting to believe that it belongs to me, because it does belong to me. God's gift to me. . .and much like many of His gifts. . .completely independent of statistics, numbers or other prediction rules. It just is.

I think of this sometimes when I sit across from a patient who asks me a question like, "Will I have to always take insulin forever?" I pause, and then I say, "The vast majority of people who take insulin have to take it for the rest of their lives. But for a small number of people who work really hard to lose weight and watch their diets carefully, they might get off of insulin. There's no reason why you can't beat the odds." And invariably, my patient smiles.

"Do you think I can do it?" my patient asks.

"Sure," I answer with a reassuring smile. "Anything is possible."

* For those new to this blog, you may wish to read this older post for some fun background info:


  1. Your post reminds me on the idea of waiting on the Lord. It is difficult since we humans tend to want to be in control. I was reflecting on my divorce this morning(will I be a single, working parent from this point on?). Your post was filled with Grace, which was a nice ending to brunch.

    Oh, the answer the question above. It does not matter as I will continue down this path that God has ordered and yes all things are indeed possible whether the weather is sunny or overcast.

  2. I will eventually join the 3 & leave the 7, God willing!

    Look how little the Poodah was on that picture with Harry! Too cute!
    Love you & all three of the Manning Boys!


  3. I just finished reading the post on how you met Harry and let me tell you, coming from a single girl who feels like there is NO possible way marriage could be in her future...this story gives me hope. Absolutely, a great post and I must say that you made a beautiful bride. Love your dress and Harry seems great too. Thanks for sharing with those of us who are still trying to beat the odds!

  4. oh, i love this. and i get it, too. i am in the 3, too, and i have no idea why i should be so blessed, but there it is, I am. i love that mercedes analogy, it's just like that. and the inclement weather, well, that's just to remind us how well they can handle the ride.

    man, you made a beautiful bride. i love that picture. you both look so FINE. oh wait. you ARE.

    and i get happy thinking about your boys growing up with a dad like harry and a mom like you. i just wish they were old enough for my girl.



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