When the ultrasound tech squirted the hot slippery stuff on my legs, it felt like a cat peeing on me. I was lying in the half-dark, trusting her. I’d asked Ming if it was going to hurt, and he said no. But one of the first things the tech told me was it was going to hurt.
I was like–uh, ok. Not knowing what pain is, in her perspective.
The pain was not so bad. It was worst at the beginning, as she pressed the ultrasound thing really hard in my groin. It was bad because it was the feeling of pain mixed with the feeling of being tickled. The combination was the creepy part. It was hard to stay still.
“Can I wiggle my toes?” I asked.
“Yeah! You can wiggle your toes!” she said.
I wiggled my toes to comfort myself, and talked kindly to myself in my head. “You’re doing great. I’m proud of you. Thank you for taking care of yourself. We’re getting through this really well.”
I treat pain as a spiritual experience, like most things, but more intense. I breathe, stay curious, welcome it, feel it, trust myself to be there for myself, trust the moment will pass. Usually I stay in my body. I treat it as an opportunity. I don’t drink or use drugs recreationally. So it’s a free altered state.
So far in my life, I’ve been lucky not to have too much pain. Some people, it’s a whole different thing. Not a visitor, but constant or nearly constant torture. Not a toy for a crazy psychonaut such as myself, but a huge destructive intense lonely suffering.
I’m lucky to play with pain, rather than having my life wrecked by it. Maybe one day my life will be pain, like so many people experience. I’m sorry, suffering people.
A song played I had not heard in a long time. My ex loved this song, and I heard it a lot, 20 to 10 years ago.
“Is this the radio, or is this your mix?” I asked the tech as she did the ultrasound on me.
“It’s mine,” she said.
“Do you know that piano piece that just played? What was that?”
She looked, and it was Debussy. “Clair de Lune,” she said. Oh yeah, something I found schmaltzy and borderline sentimental, at the time. But now, having lost that person and having such a fuckton of feelings about those years with him, it’s time for sentimental nostalgia.
So much good and bad in that relationship. But the music was mostly very good.
“Is it Sviatislov Richter, playing it?” I asked.
The ultrasound tech looked again and told me a name I didn’t recognize. She explained it was only playing because she’d recently seen the Twlight movie, and the song was on the soundtrack. That made sense, because the other music playing during the procedure sounded like corporate crap.
“Oh, I thought maybe you were a pianist,” I said.
“No,” she said. “No!”
She seemed to have emotions about that, like maybe her older sister was a concert pianist, and she had avoided the whole thing very purposefully. Or maybe she hated piano music, or she’d been harmed by piano lessons as a child, and had fled that world. I’ll never know.
But she played the song for me again. I was moved, that she was giving me this treat, caring for me this way, which she did not have to do.
Other highlights were when she couldn’t find the artery in my left calf, for a minute. An inch or two farther left than expected! Also she asked me some surprising questions I had not been asked before, like if I’d had lymph nodes removed from my arms.
“We need to do the blood pressure in your legs. Are you going to be ok with that? Sometimes it hurts a lot more than doing the blood pressure in your arms.”
“Uh, yeah? Sounds ok. If it hurts too much, can I ask you to stop it?” I asked.
She said yes, and she put the cuff on my right ankle. I breathed, felt the cuff fill with air, felt the pleasurable pressure sensation, then felt that turn to discomfort, then pain. Wondered how bad the pain would be, and could I endure it. Stayed with it and heard it click, click as it slowly released the pressure.
“Are you ok?” she asked, when it was almost done.
“Yeah!” I said.
Hoping this info would help my doctor. The left ankle was an acceptable amount of pain too, and my arms.
Then it was finally done, and I was outside again. I’d been in for an hour. Ming had said he would park in a certain place, and he was not there. I called him–he was walking. He said he would come to me.
I was crying in the parking lot, as I waited for him. Oh, crying in parking lots. They can be such lovely liminal spaces to cry in. I asked myself why I was crying. The answer was something like, “Of all the cultures we could have made, why did we make this culture where people go through stuff like that alone?”
The painful absurdity of it. And that ultrasound was a rather easy procedure, with a mostly gentle tech.
I am super lucky Ming took me back to the airbnb and made me a sweet potato for dinner, as I washed the ultrasound gel off my legs in the shower and lay down, destroyed.
I’m sorry for everyone who’s not married to Ming or otherwise doesn’t have an endlessly kind person to care for them. It’s too easy to be alone in the world. Emotions are treated as non-existent, not relevant, or a silly weakness, by medical persons. It’s painfully wrong, to separate bodily health from emotional health.
“Suffer, suffer unsupported. Then go home and cry. Have your feelings where I don’t have to see them.” A culture of emotional denial and hardcore repression creates shooters, rapists, child abusers, killer cops, destruction of Mother Earth. And it can’t help other violence like racism, fat shaming, queer hating, demonizing of sex workers, and dehumanization of the poor.
I’m an anarchist and don’t believe the solution to violence is gun control laws. More like–start showing up emotionally, and touch people who need to be touched. Help make a culture where no one is so harmed and neglected that they want to shoot. That’s a lot more work than a law. But having a functional culture that knows what to do with feelings would be worth anything.
Right when we got back to the airbnb, the sun was getting low in the sky. The light was so golden pretty, and I was crying again. Missing my mom and even my dad. Wishing for people I was related to, to hold hands with.
I was visited by two dogs–silent, curious, sweet. They nudged my hand for affection. I lay in the sun with my eyes closed. The magical dogs felt like fairies or angels checking me out, going away, coming back.