On Prostituting Myself

…in the doctor’s office.

Today, I was wearing a hospital gown and having my body minutely examined by a melanoma expert when I held her hostage making her listen to a reading from my blog. Not exactly a literary environment; there were digital pictures of my body splayed on a big computer screen and a medical assistant clicking her way through all 83 of them in conjunction with the doc checking each one with a loupe. All I could think of was how much she would enjoy my blog about my ex-husband’s underwear.

Standing there naked on a platform in front of her and her assistant is one of those truthful moments when you just can’t care about anything anymore; apparently I (or any of us high-riskers) can have malignant moles in our pubis, our mouth cavity and our scalp. So you get it? Anyone who has given birth really would get it. No barriers. Just let it go.

But I wanted her to enjoy my humorous blog while we were at it.

We have fun during these bi-annual examinations; we laugh and exchange brief pleasantries about life and love. Since I have been this cutting edge melanoma expert’s patient for some 20 years, she asks about my kids. my divorce, my career, my writing. She’s got it down pat; she’s smooth. She admits to being slightly OCD and the pace in the office is…how shall I put it… high volume and high energy. Before she enters the room, I hear her draw a deep breath outside the door to my examination room. She’s on a roll and she’s a leader. She doesn’t have a minute to waste. I wonder what it’s like to be her and I feel slightly overwhealmed.

Six months ago her hair was a distinguished salt and pepper. I’m guessing she’s in her late fifties-early sixties; slender, quick moving, wearing horned rimmed glasses and now a headband with a neat dark dyed bob. Gone are the sexy grays of last summer, but her daughter gave her ultimatum, she told me. No gray. So the gray is gone.

Last time I was here – disrobed, examined –  I gave them both my blog-card. A colorful, creative thick stock business card announcing something creative and, I hope, curious. A never ending pusher of my writing, I take any opportunity I can get to promote my blog.  “Oh, I remember that,” said the assistant, “I have the card on my desk, next to my computer.” Ok. But have you looked at my blog? Have you read any of my pieces? Are you a follower? Have I amused you, entertained you, puzzled you for just a minute of your day? 

Because that is what I yearn to do. Affect someone’s day in a minute way. Someone’s moment. Momentarily.

So I told them I’d read them my blog about my ex-husband’s underwear while they were finishing up scrutinizing my skin and it’s clumps of malanin. I fished the blog up on my iPhone and, seated at the edge of the examination table, I inhaled deeply and thought I might read it all in one long emphatic breath.

They were supposed to continue their examination; but oh, how I loved it when the doc stopped in her tracks and just froze in front of me, a gleeful look on her face while I rapidly read the blog like a kid reciting a poem too quickly in front of the principal at a timed and graded school event. At just the right moments I thought I heard them sigh, “hm” in affirmation and giggle at my verbal twists and turns; my observations about life, love, hurt, and…laundry.

It ended before it had even begun. My impromptu reading and performance was done before I could say ‘boo” and the doc matter-of-faclty asked me to lift up my foot. She checked between my toes for mysterious moles.”You write well” she added in passing while swiftly making observational notes to the assistant, relevant to my body, not my blog.

Then she left the room with a smile and some check-marks on the billing sheet, reminding me to make another appointment in 6-months time. My four minutes of what felt like redemption and release was over. It was, I realized this before it even began, a quickie in all senses of the word.

The situation I put myself in to have an audience…To have my writing heard. My words listened to. Really? I told her it exhilarated me as much as it shamed me, because it was as if I held my doctor and her assistant hostage in the examining room so that they would listen to me read my own blog. “Just tell them you had a situation in the room,” I said as I decided to do the reading and fumbled with my phone. I thought I saw them nodding eagerly.

I shared my writing with two more people today. But I think I paid them, so maybe I wasn’t the prostitute after all? Life can be confusing.


I Was on Fire

Have you ever been “on” for a job, project, or event, and while engaging with your audience (of one or many) realize you are on fire? I don’t mean the accidental, literal, “oh shit my shirt caught on fire! Help! I’m going to die!” kind of realization, but the sort that invites you to recognize, in delightful albeit brief, fleeting moments of pure presence, there is a sort of combustion going on, of magnificent, sparking energy between your mind (your knowledge), your body (the way you move and interact) and the other participants. And although you were perhaps a bit worried (in some other chemically unpleasant place different from the fabulous fire site) while waiting to go on/in/up, you now notice you are on some mind-blowing auto-pilot, where all your bullet points and plans simply vanish into the thin air, as the magic takes over and you hear yourself think: I got this. I love this. Shit, I’m on fire!

On Fire

The other night as I was speaking at an annual film festival at a local college, this happened to me, and it was almost, dear I say, an out of body experience. These are clearly other chemicals at work now (yay, yummy ones: endorphins!) than the pre-show worry ones, and the lingering feeling of euphoria for hours later is truly something to behold. It’s the same high that happens when I teach a really good class. I realize that the precious present (the now and the gift) of that dynamite moment is all about connecting with others, and what a marvelous experience it is when you know you’ve managed to connect. The associations of bright light, heat, and smoke that the state of being on fire necessarily brings are of course not actually real, but in their own right practically palpable. When your inner world successfully connects with the outer world around you, there’s all that. Schwing.

My elixir might be just this. All the reading, research, thinking and planning I do on topics that interest me is my alchemy, where I am the practitioner of a kind of transformation of matter – but theoretical matter, to convert it into a magical potion. And when I am able to share this offering, in all its fully present enthusiasm, life and work makes a lot of sense, because it feels right.

So, c’mon baby, just light my fire.

On Fire II