Don’t say it! Don’t say it!
This is Part 2. Here is Part 1.
The post I made the other day on finally facing what the hysterectomy means to me has been, understandably I think, in the subtext of every thought I’ve had since it popped up (unwanted) from the fathoms of my psyche. Granted, I’m not avoiding it anymore, so it just sits there like a smelly turd in the middle of an otherwise pleasant mind. Not that I’m bitter.
Following my usual M.O., I began researching in books and websites to see if there were any other women who are having similar problems with sexual identity post-hysterectomy. There’s surprisingly little, but maybe they’re not talking. It’s not exactly a ‘nice’ topic for conversation. Turning to medical sources, I found out that there is a particular name for the procedure I had done- one that they would never actually use in front of the women who willingly, like me, even eagerly go under the knife for it. Are you ready for this? A complete hysterectomy is called female castration. Every time I think of it (which is a lot), I throw up a little in my mouth. It also means that I don’t have to ask myself ‘What am I?’ anymore, because there’s a special name for people like me: eunuch.
No blank for that on my tax forms. Is your hair standing on end? Because mine still is.
There are no words. Just effing damn.
Also revealed in my research is that about a third of American women over 60 have had a complete hysterectomy. Eunuchs all over the place, crocheting shawls that no one wants to wear and building their Facebook pages to see more pictures of their grandkids. Should this change the way we think of them? No… but it probably will anyway.
There’s no avoiding it. I think I’m kind of in shock… but it’s just a word. Nothing is different about me since last week, except on the cellular level. But that word is haunting me. I keep thinking about that man who’s looking for a face transplant after a horrible burn injury that was in the news a few weeks back. How brave is that guy? My face is fine… you can’t see that there’s anything wrong with me, aside from the scars on my stomach. I guess there really isn’t anything wrong with me… but like him, I wasn’t born like this. It’s the adjustment that’s unpleasant. Uncomfortable.
Everything relates to suffering. There’s pain present in every part of your body and mind. All of them. Place your attention on any body part or any subject and the pain in it will come springing right up. It’s the ‘yes, but…’ factor.
Suffering is a bad translation for dukkha, the Pali term for the concept I’m grappling with at the moment. Really, it’s more like discomfort. Nothing is completely comfortable, and as it increases in degree it becomes an new level of discomfort we call pain. It’s also discussed from the other side, with the term ‘satisfaction’- and that’s not really right either. Satisfaction is what happens after the fact, but we never really get to after. There is only now. In the moment, we can feel the absence of a particular discomfort, but are never totally without it somewhere, to some degree. Never. It’s just a matter of learning to cope. Only perhaps the real question should be, why? After a lifetime of experiencing everything uncomfortably, why doesn’t it feel natural? Because we delude ourselves into thinking the universe should be different than it is. It’s a primal instinct- the same thing that makes a plant reach out of the darkness and into the sun. Survival. But since we are self-conscious creatures by nature, we personalize the experience. Thus is born the dichotomy of mind.
So what, exactly, dissatisfies me? If I’m the same person physically that I was last week, then the only thing that’s changing is in my mind. My identity. If I had amnesia, I could forget my name and my past, but I would still have considered myself female.
Everything is mind, the Buddha taught. See images when you meditate? Mind. Participate in concepts like ‘marriage’ and ‘ownership’? That’s mind too. It’s not right to say that it should or shouldn’t be a certain way, because it is what it is right now. We can make choices that affect the future, but we can only experience them in the present. My present is running like a horror story- all in my mind!- as I sit here placidly clacking away at my computer in my cozy little house.
Change is replete. Uncertainty is a principle of science, a fundamental building block of the universe. Time moves at the speed of change. Without it, we would not be. What are we being? Human, in infinite variety. Human… being.
Humans lose parts of themselves all the time. Limbs… faces… relationships… identities… and eventually, the body itself can’t sustain and discorporates. I lost a lot five years ago, but I also lost the pain and misery brought on by disease. Now, of course, there are all kinds of treatments that prevent the necessity of having a hysterectomy, but that’s irrelevant to me. That guy may be able to get a new face, but my uterus isn’t ever coming back, and that’s a fact. Dwelling on alternative treatments is pointless- especially since, as I said before, my issue in no longer physical. It’s mind.
A lot hasn’t changed, however- like how I don’t like to waste time. We all get the same amount: just enough. It was too late at night yesterday when I realized all this to make an appointment with a therapist, but you can bet your ass I’m doing it first thing Monday morning. Mama didn’t raise no fool. And, though I am sorely tempted to check every single Star Wars book out of the library so I don’t have to think about anything else until then, I will instead continue to love my children… and kiss my beloved… and do the dishes… and go to my new job (which I love, by the way).
Thank you to everyone for your kind comments and thoughts the other day. It’s wonderful to be part of such a beautiful becoming as is occurring in the American Sangha, and to see the overwhelmingly positive amount of acceptance there has been from practitioners around the world. It speaks to the issue at hand, that Buddhists in their respecting countries have different cultural identities… a different face for ‘our’ Buddhism. But dhamma is dhamma. What ours is, is. So is theirs. All human.
It will all be different tomorrow, but for now, we breathe… we live. And I’ve just decided that I don’t regret having surgery. It was the right choice at the time, with the information I had. I can do more with my time this way than sleeping all day, in pain while my children grow up without my guidance. And for myself, too- can’t leave the self out of the equation or we deny our humanity. In the end, all I have to do is abandon a version of my self for a new one… and I do that every moment of every day.
No big deal.