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.