I’m sitting in front of an aquarium watching four bright yellow fish and some friends swimming around their underwater home. It’s a fitting opposite to what’s going on beyond the doors 15 feet away. I’m in the hospital waiting for word of my husband’s minor surgery, but I am calm. And judging by the smile on his face when I had to leave his side, so is he.

Sitting in a hospital waiting room is a serious wake-up call. The reality of other people’s lives are evident here, and I suddenly feel very lucky I only have to take one little thyroid pill a day. I’ve noticed that every year the state of my health inches up on the priority list, until it’s no longer an inconvenience to exercise, it’s an important part of my day.

Sitting in this tidy little waiting room is incentive to take better care of myself. I need this motivation because it’s so easy to skip walking when it’s raining or when I just don’t feel like it. It’s so easy to stop for pizza when there’s healthier stuff at home — the smell alone gets a grip on my senses. I’ll never ever be able to give up pasta on Sundays or popcorn at the movies!

I’m having a good time eavesdropping on conversations around me. She drove two hours to be with her friend, he’s ticked off at his daughter because she parked in the wrong place and has to move the car, those two friends are exchanging stock market strategy.

I know the woman on right wants to talk which I do briefly. But then I tell her I want to write and she thanks me for chatting with her. By this time all the chairs are filled with conversations. I wonder if I can write but decide it would be good practice in tuning voices out. I’m easily distracted by noise, and this is something I want to overcome. Absolute silence is too hard to find.

I was alone 15 minutes ago, and by now there are 10 of us. Mr. Emphysema has oxygen tubes in his nose, and Mrs. Knee Replacement is holding hands with her anxious daughter. Mr. Bladder Tumor’s wife is across the room crying, and I change seats to be next to her in hopes of bringing some comfort.

My eyes drift back to the aquarium where a dozen fish weave in and out of obstacles. Oh wait, there’s one more. This one’s been hiding and is just now poking her head through the carved out rock — seeing if I was still here no doubt. She swims right for me and then stops short and darts into a little niche, as if she suddenly realized she’s being watched.

I’m amazed that no one besides me is looking at this calming corner. I know it was installed to help us waiters through whatever we’re going through, but most people are too busy talking or jiggling their legs or staring down at their cell phones to notice. Oh wait, I just saw someone smiling. Maybe I’ll change seats.

And… perhaps I shall take a walk later. Perhaps I shall take longer walks from here on out.