Thursday, April 18, 2013

To the Left, to the Left

Sometime during my yoga apprenticeship I was seized with the notion that the left side of my body was the creative side. I must have combined the (true? false? inconclusive?) idea that left-handed people are more creative with that thing about the thought processes of left-brained people vs. right-brained people, only I think I mixed it up and it's the right-brained people who are more creative. It might actually have been in some book I read about chakras or meridians or something. In any event, I haven't been able to clear out the belief that my left side is related to my creative life.

I previously interpreted this to mean that things which happen to the left side of my body are sending me cosmic messages about how I need to behave toward my creativity. As one example: when over-aggressive yoga created a mild injury in my back and caused me radiating pain along my left leg, I presumed it meant I wasn't listening to my creative side enough and needed to nurture it more. The pain was meant as a telegram of Pay Attention to Me.

Over the last year, I've set aside many of the ideas I picked up during my four-year assignation with yoga, but this one, silly as it is, won't quite let go. Rather than existential cause and effect, I've tried to believe in more practical versions. When I get that radiating pain, it means I've been sitting too much or have otherwise strained the injured disk, not that I have failed to sound my barbaric yawp for the week. But last week's medical issues have made me wonder if there is some kind of cosmic, woo-woo aspect to left and right and what I'm doing with my body vs. what I'm doing with my head.

I had what I thought was a mole under my left arm that protruded quite a lot and had started to hurt when brushed or pressed. I've had it my whole life, as far as I remember, but recently its surface had erupted in a weird way. The last time I saw a dermatologist, a few years back, I was told to watch my many and various moles carefully for changes, because I am pale-skinned and of largely northeast-European extraction and skin cancer is not a fanciful notion at all for me.

The dermatologist I saw last week told me that the underarm mole was actually a large skin tag and she buzzed it with a canister of liquid nitrogen that looked like something a welder would carry around. She said it would fall off on its own after this treatment. Over the following days it swelled alarmingly and became very painful to the touch, but apparently this behavior is to be expected. The male nurse warned me repeatedly, in a sort of safety-rules-for-the-roller-coaster voice, not to pick at it. He sounded like the ski instructor from South Park.

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The doctor also said she wanted to biopsy a mole on my left arm and a mole at the wingtip of my left shoulderblade. I was naive about the meaning of "biopsy" in this case, which I thought would be a mere scraping of cells, but which in fact involved local anesthetic, stitches, and a cylindrical tool that reminded me of the scrapbooking aisle at Michaels. (Google "punch biopsy" for more fun details.)

The mole on my left arm has been there as long as I can remember, and I had major teenage emotions wrapped around it, thinking it was an obvious and repellent blight. When I was in college, some kind of switch flipped about this particular mole one day, and all that insecurity felt unbelievably ridiculous on the other side. Just a mole! And I had felt that it was the only thing people saw, and found hideous, whenever I was in a sleeveless top.

The mole on my shoulderblade I hadn't even noticed, and had in fact come to the office in part to ask about a mole on my right side, pasted on the back of my ribcage, that had darkened veeeeeery slowly over about a year. It had uneven borders and odd coloring and basically looked every bit the melanoma, if you ever scour Google Images for that sort of thing, which of course I didn't at all during the four weeks between when I called for the appointment and when I walked into it.

This was last Thursday, the 11th, that I had the skin-tag frozen and these moles hole-punched out of my personal envelope. Over the weekend and the days that followed, I wasn't really able to sit or recline comfortably in any position aside from flat on my back in bed, motionless, shoulderblade set down very carefully under my skin. I remember this feeling from the last time I had stitches, the "there is something foreign here and I do not like it" message that was sent constantly from my left index finger up to my brain until the stitches were snipped and taken out at last. I can't concentrate for very long, because there's always either pain or discomfort from one of these places or all three. It's extremely mild pain or discomfort, such that I feel like slapping myself for being such a wuss when my nerves go "ow," but it's constant and ever-shifting from pinching to pulling to aching to itching to stinging as these places heal.

All the while, I've been writing this irritating story, about a teenager and his mother and the crisis that has shattered them both, and I can't seem to set down more than a few hundred words before I have to stop. I'll come to a section break, and I'll just dread starting the next sentence, as if it's going to be the worst sentence I've ever written. This story has felt like squeezing a flattened tube of toothpaste, sweating and exerting to get the very last bit out because there is just no time this week to buy a new tube and you have to make do with what's left of this one, and the amount of toothpaste you get out is totally inversely proportional to the amount of effort it's taken to attain it.

It did not escape me, even as I was leaving the dermatologist's office with wonder in my heart about the evaporated-insecurity mole no longer being a part of me, that all three of these wounds were on my left side. That despite the picture-perfect melanoma mole on my right side, the dermatologist had found a suspicious-looking mole I hadn't even known existed on my left side to excise and test. It does not escape me that the discomfort that radiates from the biopsy sites and the hideous swollen skin tag is part of why I can't seem to get to the end of this miserable story, because my concentration is so shitty.

The left side being the creative side doesn't have to have a grain of truth in it, whether scientific or hippieish. It's something I've internalized, even if I'm not sure how much I believe it anymore. Like the way William Peter Blatty defended the mechanism of exorcism working on a kid with no religious beliefs: if the demon personality believes in exorcism's power, it'll work. If I'm injured on my left side, will my creativity genuinely suffer? Is it some kind of message about the suffering my creativity's already undergoing? Or do I just need to slap myself in the head and sit at the work until it's done?


Denise said...

I know what you mean about this kind of feeling. I have some things sort of like that, some coming from yoga and some other random things. I haven't been able to resolve what it means to me or how I really feel about it myself.

I hope all this biopsy stuff amounts to nothing more than temporary discomfort.

Katharine Coldiron said...

Thanks, Denise. I hope so too.