The room was astoundingly bright and bone-chillingly cold. There was banter and chatter, some directed at me yet somehow not to me. I was told to move from gurney to procedure table. In doing so I went from being me to being an object to be examined and explored. The words coming at me became less and less personal. I could feel myself disappearing among cloths, wires, instruments, and tubes.
The medical personnel in the room were friendly yet detached. I was moved about and positioned and poked and I was prodded. As the outer became less personal my interior became more and more intimate and alert and spacious. I remained centered in a compassionate awareness of what it must be like to do this critical and even dangerous testing day after day. To be faced with people in fear and in trauma. People with vast histories and storylines and loves and with losses. People who do not know whether this is just the beginning of the end. People who do not know whether their entire life experience will be changed in the course of a short and devastating diagnosis. Delivered with an equal amount of deference. Of subtle indifference. Of survivable detachment.
I was exposed both emotionally and literally. Lying naked under the bright cold lighting, with only a far from private privacy towel held precariously in place, I was as defenseless as I have ever been. I had not been medicated and so I was left to feel that defenselessness, the exposure, the objectification. The raw, complete nakedness.
Even as the banter continued, I knew this experience was going to be all about how I chose to talk to myself as I was in it. How I chose to either remain open or to armor up. How I internally attended to those who were at least physically attending to me. How or whether I would choose to stay open in a situation I so wanted to close to. To run from. To scream at. To escape.
As a second IV blew in my arm and the third was being attempted I could feel something rising within me that was like a tsunami of something that absolutely needed to happen. Searing pain coursed through both arms which were held down by restraints. My entire body was anchored down so that there could be no movement to interfere with the delicate testing. While there could be little physical movement the flow that was seeking to happen could not be avoided or suppressed.
I began to cry.
For a moment I was horrified. I was embarrassed. I wanted to hide the tears, mostly for the sake of those attending to me.
It could not be stopped.
For the first time the room grew momentarily silent. There was hushed talk regarding the unstable vitals of that person on the table. The objectified became in a Nano-second personalized. The 9:00 a.m. scheduled heart-catheterization became a person that was in pain. A man that was in tears. A fellow human being to be compassioned. A heart to be entered and consciously, tenderly attended to.
I shamelessly allowed the tears to flow. I opened to let myself experience the totality of the experience. I held my own heart and leaned into my own pain. The more I allowed the internal flow the more I was able to consciously relate to the others in the room. I was sensitive to their pain as well. To the rude awakening of another’s tears being a radical call to increased sensitivity and mindfulness.
After the test there was a systematic undoing of all that had been done in preparation. It is likely that it was mostly me, yet the quality of activity seemed somehow different. The interacting more direct and personal. The touches more tender. The nakedness more respected. The person more seen and experienced.
I write these words and describe this experience very aware that it will be read and interpreted in a myriad of ways. It will be commented on from various levels of consciousness and from varying levels of comfort with pain. If you have difficulty with your tears mine will be intolerable. If you cannot endure your own pain, you will discount and minimize mine. If you fear defenseless, exposure, and nakedness you will recoil from what happened for me.
And yet I write. And yet I expose. And yet I allow my deeper being to be real and raw and true. I am grateful to express for the pure experience of letting myself freely express. Of letting my tears be seen. Of letting my heart be felt.
Just as in the glaring and stark coldness of that impersonal sterile medical procedure room I am no longer afraid of being freely and fully seen. I am not afraid to cry. I will not be shut down in fear of being judged or commented upon. That cost has grown to high.
And if my transparency encourages just one of you to let down your guard and let your tears flow then the pain I moved through will well be worth it.