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“What do you mean she’s closing my file?”
A pinwheel of emotions spun in my chest—confusion, indignation, hurt, sadness—when a chipper medical assistant informed me that my gynaecologist could no longer see me.
I crossed my legs, not wanting my vagina to hear the shocking news quite yet.
“Was it something I did? Did my vagina say something offensive…she can be quite sassy.”
My mind reeled, searching for possible reasons. Was it the way I cloaked my anxiety with humour? Didn’t she find it funny when I asked, “I’m missing a blue sock? Could you have a look while you’re down there?” Or, “I’ve been getting laser hair removal! How’s it look from your angle?” Or, “How many uses do you get out of those gloves?”
To be sure something hadn’t gone horribly wrong down there, and my gyno didn’t know how to break it to me, I immediately went to the hand mirror. Alas, reflection showed all was good in the hood.
Our relationship began 15 years ago with her helping me with an unwanted pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage and one sketchy lump a few years after. And other than that, I would classify myself as a star patient—an overachiever in most things. I brought my lady parts to be examined every two years, as recommended, and have stellar health. I even fancied myself a highlight of her day; my fabulously healthy reproductive system and I were easy breezy, neatly trimmed, and spotless.
Pre-pandemic, I moved a few hours away from my doctor with the assurance that my place in her practice would remain. Post-pandemic, however, the story changed, and my relocation warranted kicking me and my squishy bits to the curb.
It is essential to note the timeline. Unless you’ve been nestled under a big ol’ rock for the past few years, you know everything has changed. We are in the upside-down world, where women’s reproductive rights are arbitrarily snatched away. Trump is stealing far more than photocopy paper from the White House while gearing up for another run at POTUS, and checking baggage at the airport has somehow become a death warrant for your belongings.
You might say, just find another doctor. Post-pandemic, it is easier to find a leprechaun than a gynaecologist, family physician, nurse practitioner, or anyone who knows how to work the business end of a stethoscope.
My OB-GYN breaking up with my vagina caused me to reflect on a pattern as of late. Over the past year, my financial advisor, my somatic therapist, my counsellor, my osteopath, and my literary agent—each for various reasons and in various ways—have been minimizing, downsizing, taking an indefinite hiatus, or retiring.
Several truths emerged when I stopped taking all of this personally, checking my armpits for ponginess, my breath for garlic, and generally making it all about me.
Every one of these professionals: a woman.
Each of them an achiever of excellence in their field.
All have consistently gone above and beyond in each interaction.
Each strive to serve those who need them most.
All have families whose needs we don’t see while complaining their ear off.
These women are the scaffolding of a society that has experienced severe, perhaps irreparable, physical, psycho-emotional, financial whiplash and generalized political f*ckery over the past few years.
As a therapist myself, I know the reflex to overload in the face of societal turmoil. As “helpers,” there is a bone-deep urgency to put people at ease, to point in the direction of healing, to soothe the internal struggle of others, to strive to create origami out of an endless stream of nonsensical, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breather political leadership that only makes sense in the upside-down world.
In the midst of trying to talk my vagina off the ledge following the break-up with this fantastic unicorn of a gynaecologist, I paused to ask a few questions:
I wonder who takes care of her?
I wonder how her heart is—how this woman who dedicates her life to caring for women’s reproductive health and choices is managing her rage over the retraction of Roe v. Wade?
How many patients or loved ones has she watched be washed away by the tsunami of COVID?
How is she keeping her head above the waterline in a sinking healthcare system?
How have all these exceptional women, helpers, and scaffold-holders managed the suffocating fog of dis-ease and incredulity encasing the world?
While it is impossible to answer those questions on behalf of these masterful women, we can reflect on our wellness, specifically, what we are or are not doing for ourselves—being realistic about whether we are or are not capable of managing on our own, situation by situation. Reflecting and revisiting our daily practices, you know, the ones that seem far too simplistic to make any lasting shift, like breathing and walking from time to time. Pausing to question the immediate reach for an external silver-bullet-quick-fix, which is always temporary at best.
In no way is this an encouragement for isolation, stoicism, neglect, or bypassing. In no way is it a request that we all disconnect from our therapists (please don’t, I would miss you terribly). Nor is it a call to withdraw our investment money and stuff it all in a fish sticks box in the freezer (now you know my top secret cash stash). And it is certainly not a suggestion to ignore the weird lumps, the oozing rashes, or the missing fingers or toes, especially if these are happening concurrently.
Instead, this is a reminder of the power of daily, dedicated, priority-one self-care—on all levels and realms of your existence.
It is a reminder that you are in a relationship with every aspect of your existence: your body, emotions, mind, spirit, soul, and your money, home, creative endeavours, and worldly possessions. These are yours to steward.
And as with the relationships with those we love—partners, family, friends, pets—these other relationships require attention, time, listening, action, rest, and breath. Most of all, relationships require presence.
Being present reveals the truth, which a surprising majority of the time is this:
Nothing is going horribly wrong right here at this very moment. I may be projecting and predicting into my future something difficult from my past and making my present unbearable.
This is a call to pause, breathe, move slowly, nurture and nourish yourself. We could ask, are there any tools in my kit that I have been neglecting? Meditation, movement, hydration, sleep, good food, rest, making art, making love, pleasure and play? Time with loved ones or time alone? A good book? A belly laugh? More forest, less phone?
While my vagina may still be a bit disgruntled (she’s known to hold a grudge), and there may come a day when she needs a gynaecologist, the truth which comes from practicing presence and self-care reveals that today is not that day. This moment is not that moment. Nothing is actually going horribly wrong.
Our helpers are doing desperate climbs for high ground these days, a reprieve from the tsunami. Longing for time to grieve losses they keep tucked within the folds of their brilliance. Aching for space for their own meditation, movement, rest, love-making, and good books.
By taking conscious care of ourselves—our worlds—we offer our brilliant healers a helping hand. It is what we can all do, without cost, in return for their willingness to be the scaffolding of our teetering world.
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