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Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Happy Place

A major part of preparing for surgery for me has been perfecting my happy place. I have a significant fear of anesthesia, stemming from dental work I had done in the seventh grade. Apparently I had too many baby teeth in my mouth, so several had to be pulled, and one stubborn tooth had to be pulled down from the gum in which it was hiding. Enter the anesthesia, which in the seventies when this took place, was probably not the best. All I know is I awoke screaming for my mother, convinced the dentists were talking about how they couldn't wake me up; that I had died. Scary, huh?

Fortunately I have a wonderful therapist and weeks ago she began working with me on finding my happy place. She calls it trance, which I find a bit frightening. Trance makes me think of losing control- of Fred's hypnotized state in one Flintstones episode where he walks around repeating, "Yabba Dabba Doo." (Or maybe those were alien or robot Freds or something. I tried to find the clip on YouTube to no avail - yet I stumbled upon this fascinating clip of Fred and Barney smoking instead).

Still, despite my fears about trance, I wanted to surrender, to give up control, since that's what I would need to do for surgery . So, I settled into the couch, closed my eyes, and placed my hand on my therapist's dog's tummy for life support.

Now imagine your belly as a balloon, she said. Any color balloon you like. Now fill that balloon up with air, breathe in, and out. Think Strong on the in breath, Calm on the out breath.

This I could do. This was good. We practiced this for a while and then she asked me to think of a place, a place where I felt calm, a place in nature. Like the forest, she suggested. Uh, no way. Wild animals. Crazy conspiracy theorists living in log cabins. Or by the water, on a beach. Yes, a beach. Good, OK.  I pictured myself on a beach. In a hammock.
"You can hear the waves, crashing on the shore," she said. "The birds...everything is peaceful."
Crap, I realized, this wasn't going to work. I'm covered in freckles, making me a perfect candidate for skin cancer. I already had one basal carcinoma removed from my nose. Long gone were those high school days when I idiotically covered myself in baby oil and held one of those reflectors up to my face. How could I relax here?
How are you doing? she asked.
"I'm scared of getting skin cancer," I said in a trancy voice.
Imagine there's a bottle of suntan lotion on your hammock, she said. SPF 30.
A bottle of Coppertone magically appeared, but it wasn't enough. So I put a hat on my head. And an umbrella next to my hammock. Still, I couldn't shake this feeling that someone was watching me; a woman alone on the beach.
Maybe you want to go for a walk? Or a swim?
Was she f'ing kidding me?
"I think I'm going to go inside now," I said.

That was weeks ago. I'm happy to report that since then, I have perfected my happy place, which includes books, a fireplace, a black lab, and occasional visits from both Will Ferrel and Brad Pitt. I'm hoping to spend as much time there as possible in the coming weeks.


  1. So, so sad to hear you have cancer. (Just tell me you are still doing bootcampt this summer.) But gotta say this entry made me laugh - outloud. And I admit iPhone vs Boob - I choose the iPhone any day. Feel better my friend.

  2. Lauren, you just made my day by actually posting on my blog! I was going to offer a $5.00 reward to the first person who commented. I haven't done bootcamp since what's his name left...but I hope to be in bootcamp shape by then! xo

  3. 238You have a talent for taking scary things and making them relatable and funny. Thanks for sharing such a private scary thing and making others feel better while you're at it. You are a marvelous sister.And yes we are a family of scaredy cats...xxxx

  4. Great blog, Missy. And I'm so glad you can make fun of stuff. I can't wait til three months from now when I hope I get to hear you say saying anesthesia and everything else was "way easier than I expected."

  5. I love this post. Not the least of which because it makes you, Amy, sound like Woody Allen as played by George Costanza. I can easily imagine your therapist starting to go to her own happy place when you brought up the possibility of getting skin cancer at the imaginary beach.

    And your description of 1970s-era dentistry is dead on. My own dentist growing up was about 110, and he would always refer to me using one of my two brother's names while he made notations in my (their?) chart. But then, in his defense, he did have the defeated air of a man who had long ago succumbed to the siren songs of incompetency and laziness, which meant that he never found anything wrong with my teeth (even though, as a child, I would often fall asleep at night with partially chewed caramels still stuck to my back molars). Plus, at the end of each appointment, he would give all of us McKenna kids our own giant Charleston Chew candy bar (which, from a dental hygiene perspective, was the equivalent of asking an unruly barfly to hit us square in the jaw with a well-thrown haymaker).

    But mostly I loved it because it touches upon something that seems to become more apparent to me the older I get. And that's the inherent difficulty of casting a blind eye toward the seemingly endless amounts of peril that exist in this world. Maybe it's just a natural part of aging process or one of the burdens we choose to accept once we decide to become parents, but the ever-present potential for tragedy often seems to cast a slight pall over the joys of everyday life. Or, sadly in your case Amy, drops its facade altogether and blindsides us with a dizzying, unexpected viciousness.

    I'm heartened that you were able to find your happy place. It led me to put more thought into my own.

  6. Kevin - this was funny AND deep/moving. wow. Now cut it out as you are not allowed to outdo me on my own blog (just kidding).
    Here's to 1970's era dentistry! Thankfully both dental care AND medical care have improved greatly since then.