Isn’t this nice?

Gosh that sucked, I think loudly, as I exit the radiology center. I try hard to imagine what could be worse. My frontal lobes ache. I mean, not knowing, that’s worse -right? I mean waiting too long, that’s worse. Right? Yet I’m involuntarily shaking. Why? Because I don’t want to be “brave.” I don’t want to be anyone’s “inspiration.” Translation? “Brave” means by the grace of God I got it, the “c” word. “Inspiration” equals lucky you not me. Frankly I’d rather be healthy and fine. Right? I want to hear my physician say, “I see no further problems.” That would be nice.

No one is not “nice” at the radiology place. The staff moves me, like a car part on a conveyer belt, from one room to another. Yet nothing is conveyed. They assume, I suppose, my doctor will talk to me. They don’t mean to be unkind but are compelled to deliver services quickly and in peace. This feels robotic. Absent of compassion. Nice, but not quite kind. I hate the basic uncertainty that clouds my visit. Just when am I supposed to leave the examining room, wearing what, to go where? I seem like the only one who never knows. grrrr.

I have to use the rest room. I venture through the lobby in my rude cotton gown, although no one has offered me invitation. My cohort trail me. Two other uncertain patients. At the waiting room they pause to sit awkwardly on the edge of chairs. Backs straight. Feet flat on the floor. We don’t dare get comfortable. One patient choses the chair closest to the changing rooms. The other sits seven seats separate from her, nearest the entrance. I opt to stand. Watching the TV absently. The woman by the entrance is called first. She’s old enough to be my mother. I am called second.

In the mammogram room the technician sets and squashes me as impersonally as I might chose a cabbage or a let’s say, a blood orange. I discard my complimentary gown completely to allow her necessary access. If I’ve embarrassed her she doesn’t say. We avoid eye contact. We hardly speak. One, two, three views on one side. Three views on the other. Then back to side one. I don’t know what we’re looking for, or should I say “she” ? I don’t know what she’s seeing nor what she’s looking for. Two months ago “mammogram” sounds like a rudimentary rite of passage for women my age. Now? Not so much.

My second round feels less ritualistic, more problematic. I hold my breath when instructed to stay still. After the mammogram I return to the empty lobby to wait for a sonogram. Nobody warned me I’d be receiving a sonogram. The news left me numb. Yoga is skill in action. Yoga is meditation. Yoga is endeavor. I yoga my first sonogram. I’d like to cry. Not because I am sad. I’m not sad. I want to cry as a welcome release of tension. I vote for social acceptance of crying. If I can’t cry in a radiology center where can I cry? I cry later. In private, on the back porch of Cafe Smitten. Over a four dollar pour-over and molten fudge cake I write my younger brother an email.

This post is going no where, I think to my Self proudly. I am here now. In eight days I will be leaving to see my teacher. DW sent me a friendly note. “Cherish every moment from the first day.” DW advises me. “The time flies by so quickly. Every year I want to stop the clock. Om….” My clock is stopped. I absorb my situation. I’m in the best place of my short life so far. Perhaps not financially, despite the education I received. I fail to become a billionaire because the things I strive for, dream of, grasp at – can’t be had at a price. I want time not money, ideas, conversation, interesting and loyal relationships. I want value not vanity. Emotionally, I have a rich “inner” life, as they say.

There’s nothing like a four dollar cup of coffee (plus tip) to redistribute the wealth. Every day in every way some fee some tax some luxury service is compared to the cost of a cup of coffee. In 1985 I slipped into an out of the way cafe with my mother, once, in what was the last year of her life. We were taking a respite from the ever-prying eyes of her family. She had what I had, the same unrelenting tension. As her Japanese family refused to realize us as American, wishing us to be neoJapanese. My mom, was a fossil, crystalized in her pre-war slang, and me? I’m American without apology. Thirty-two years ago we drank Viennese coffee with whipped cream. That was nice. I’m having pour-over just the same.

September 11th is my second biopsy. This will be after my two week trip to see my teacher. That’s good. No matter what the results, I will have seen the wine-dark sea, the rosy fingered dawn, the land of Greek myth. The last time I was in Athens I saw the Acropolis. I traveled so much by the time I was 20 I was ready to stop rambling, grow roots and establish myself. Only with reluctance did I venture out after that. Mostly to see family. To see friends. To see my teacher, because I want to learn. I want to learn the yoga of splendid candid renaissance. Not the pop music slow dance form of vinyasa yoga. I want the eight-armed Ashtanga of yore to carry me through what ever happens.

Even if I get a clear report I will need strength and endurance, fortitude, tenacity. What the Buddhists call “adherence.” Without it, I’ll fall. Fall prey to indifference. I can’t have that. When I’m no longer charmed by pink pigs in foam I’ll be lost, un-electrified, unnerved. Empty inside.  I mean to stay charmed. To stay awake. Alive. Alert. To paraphrase Alex Vonnegut if this isn’t nice, what is?

Alex? Not Kurt?

“…Alex Vonnegut was locally useful in Indianapolis as an honest insurance agent. He was also well- read and wise. One thing which Uncle Alex found objectionable about human beings was that they seldom took time out to notice when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and he would interrupt the conversation to say, ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?'”  Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Now y’all play nice

Sat Nam