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Driving around my Austin neighborhood recently, I spotted the addition of a new road sign. The yellow “Speed Bumps” had been replaced with one that reads “Speed Cushions.” Well that’s a relief. Or just good marketing by the road caretakers? Did driving over them feel any different to my car and passengers? How we reframe things in our minds makes them easier to embrace. Wrinkles around the mouth? Laugh lines. Muffin top-ness? Love handles.

It made me wish that my gyno nurse practitioner embraced the fine art of euphemisms. For 15 years we had our annual trysts on the exam table… me in the stirrups; she with the ice cold metal thingy.

We always exchanged small talk as she wandered around my ovary-filled living room with gloved hands. Cheryl never got my name right… It was “Mary” this, “Mary” that. For those of us with double names, she might as well have called me Boris. But I never corrected her. It was like my female equipment was in a witness protection program, and I was good with that. Until that visit… the one that was like an open mic assessment of my female parts.

She pinched my ovaries and declared them “shriveled.” Then she moved on to my taco with pinched expression. There was a “hmmmm,” a pause before she pronounced it way past its prime. Assuming her best “All is not lost missy” clinical smile, she prattled on: “But with the right partner, it won’t matter.” Really? Ouch. Guess they didn’t cover that in med school. But since she called me the wrong name for ten plus years, I told myself she really didn’t know me… or my taco.

Euphemisms come in handy for speed bumps, like the ones in life: Illnesses, divorces, loss of jobs and loved ones. Recently, I went through a lift shift (let’s play spot the euphemism) that had me saying, “Hello, I’m sitting a spell” to Señor Rock Bottom. In September of 2015, following months of unusual physical symptoms and weight loss, I tested positive for Lyme Disease. While I was flapping around a bit, trying to figure out treatment paths, my husband of two years would disappear into his office and re-emerge with new factoids to disprove my diagnosis. It was clear this was not going to be his rodeo. Instead, the man I loved vanished. Making a home in his body was someone in denial, angry about my illness and adamant I not pursue treatment. My “Can we agree to disagree on this?” was rejected. That, and his too many viewings for comfort of Gone Girl during that time, led me to leave home to heal. And to a divorce.

This bump sent shocks through my system. I stumbled around in my surreal new reality. Then my survival system kicked in. I threw everything at healing the body and the mind: antibiotics, acupuncture, reiki, magnets, meditation, singing bowl therapy. I inhaled those inspirational aphorisms you find on Instagram–sayings like “Cracks let the light in”–for their little squirts of dopamine to my hope-hungry brain.

Months later I realized this bump realigned me on the path where I’m supposed to be. I’ve learned much along the way. My compassionate, funny kids and great friends–along with gratitude–buoyed me around the healing bend, as has this gem from my wise pal, Cindy: “Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.”

Speed bump or speed cushion? Perhaps it’s a “So what? Who cares?” This is what matters: We will move over it.

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MP Mueller is a marketing consultant, writer, former NY Times blogger (Branded), and hay farmer. In another life she did stand-up comedy. Her kids pretend not to know her when she does leg lifts in line at Target. She lives in Austin with her dog Buddy.

20 thoughts on “SPEED BUMPS OR CUSHIONS?”

  1. I feel your pain, girlfriend. What a witty and spot on glimpse into our new world. You just might be my new bff! Xo Jonet

  2. Thank you for sharing your great attitude and sense of humor about a rather crappy situation, and all-to-common bump in the road. Laughter is one of the best medicines, after all!
    And – I’m going to remember “speed cushions!” If only…

  3. I have not seen MP in years but have always loved her and her positive outlook. Sending lots of love!

    • Francelle! How are you?? So great to see you here and thanks for your sweet note. Hope all is well in your world amiga. Big hugs backatcha!

    • Hi Brenda,
      So excited to be part of your crew at 1010 Park Place now! Yes, it’s true about people leaving relationships in their partners’ time o’ need. One of the Lyme practitioners I consulted with, Ginger Savely, shared that men leaving their mates during disease crises is all too common. Talking to other practitioners confirmed this. Why? Perhaps because women who give a lot can attract men who take a lot. When they are depleted and don’t receive, they get sick. Those women have often attracted men who take a lot—males who also tend to have narcissistic tendencies or are full-blown. When women in these relationships get sick and are no longer able to take care of all their needs and don’t have the energy to look great on their partners’ arms, their husbands reject them. They simply don’t know how to give and cope in these situations—they have never had to. A psychologist told me recently: Breast cancer chemo wards are full of sweet women who are so giving but were not good/or hadn’t been adept at receiving (either accepting or being in a relationship where give/receive was a regular practice. Diseases of the breasts is believed to have it’s origins in sadness held in and ability to give and receive. Maybe this is another blog post but something to be aware of.

  4. Welcome! Great piece. Your bravery is fabulous. I’m in a bit of a speed bump season: certainly they don’t feel like cushions! xo

    • Hi Jen. Here’s to you getting over your speed bump in good form. Just remember to not look back too much and keep going forward.

  5. So glad you are writing again. Love the way you framed this awful experience. You have emerged stronger and more beautiful.

  6. Great read and so very relatable to my own speed bump and surreal new reality. I, too am now in such a better place. Looking forward to your next post!

  7. Wonderful writing, Mary Pat! You are very inspirational! I’m also very impressed reading your list of accomplishments since our Corpus Christi days! A stand up comic too??? How fun!

    • Thank you Mary Beth for taking the time to read and comment… you are so kind!! You might notice I didn’t say a good stand up comic. 🙂 Are you by chance going to the RHS reunion the weekend of September 8th? It would be great to see you and hear about where life has taken you.

  8. Hi from Ireland. What a tonic you are. You write about such a horrific time with great humour… can not wait to read more. I blog too, a recent hobby (about growing older and all the bullshxx) but alas I am not in your league.

  9. i know well that your name is Mary Pat !!!……..i loved your blog, and i had no idea you had Lyme disease…’s an insidious disease, one that i’m way too familiar with due to family members that have it………i wish i could’ve visited w/ you at Bj’s service, but i got to see your sweet face…..i will look forward to more blogs… you email them?…if so, my email is ……..i will end this with, Go Mary Pat Go!!!…..and i grew up with people pronouncing my name wrong, Jena is pronounced “Gina” ….and it’s been a constant battle to have them NOT call me “jenna”………okay enough, but i know all about the “name thing”….love, jena (gina) (jeena)

  10. Wonderful, fresh, funny insight. Yes, whether they’re bumps or cushions, they’re all part of life. And I like to say, “Live it, learn it!” We’re usually stronger because of it. Well done, Mary Pat.

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