At the mechanic's, as a part of my seasonal transition maintenance program.
When I lived in the States, I pretty much knew nothing about maintenance. I took my car for regular oil changes (I guess, that's maintenance) and I re-stained my two decks in early summer. Oh, and I changed the furnace filter too. AND got the furnace serviced every year. Ok, so I guess I did do a bit of maintenance.
But NOTHING like what's going on over here.
Between the beating sun, the wild rain, the 90% humidity, and the occasional hurricane - as a start - it seems that maintenance is a way of life. A new-to-me way of life.
I thought that once the house was built, that would be it. HA! que loca! Not at all. And I get it now, I get it. Things can rust and fall off, they can disintegrate, stop working, leak ... just to name a few.
I have surrendered and I have given "Maintenance & Repairs" their own line on my budget spreadsheet.
Which is why I was at the electric-mechanic's shop (you know what I mean. The guy who takes care of all things electrical on the car. Uvaldo is not actually electrical himself) to get a whole bunch of small stuff fixed.
I left my car Mitsu there, took the bus home, which was fun, and at the end of the day between a lift from a neighbor and another bus ride, I was ready to pick up it up. The windows moved up and down easily, the back door lifted without me having to crawl inside the car to open it, and even though there were still a couple of things to address, we were moving in the right direction.
"But I can't get you the windshield wiper arm," says Uvaldo.
Dang, that's pretty important. I have been making do with one wiper for the past six months, just to wipe up the dirt/dust, but when the skies open and the rain pours in buckets, I am going to need all the help I can get.
"So, what do I do?" I ask. One thing I have learned living here is that there is pretty much always a solution.
"The dealership." He says. "You have to call Mitsubishi. This is a proprietary part."
Ok, I can do that.
But I wasn't prepared for what came next.
"It's just like the peyote car," he tells me without skipping a beat.
The Peyote Car.
Having been here almost three years now, I am aware of the many beloved medicines available. What in the States would have shocked me, no longer does. Medicines abound, they are a part of life, of culture and even though I have not experienced them myself, I have a growing respect for all this traditional culture I am just now encountering. In fact just a few weeks ago, as a friend mentioned feeling low energy, another friend had handed him a little bit of peyote to pick him up. Which it did.
But a Peyote Car? What is that? Is that a car that goes around dispensing Peyote just like the Tamale Car and the Shrimp Car? I had never heard it and I was super curious.
Seeing my questioning face, Uvaldo points to a car in front of his shop. This one, he says, The Peyote Car. You haven't seen a Peyote Car before? I thought they were French.
French. The Plot thickens.
I turn around, look for some sort of psychedelic-colored vehicle but all I can see is a red Peugeot sitting there, looking as though it has been sitting a while.
I turn to him.
Si! He says. That one. The Peyote!
Oh boy. The Peugeot. In Spanish, where they sanely pronounce every single letter written - as opposed to us French who like to randomly add not-to-be-pronounced letters at the end of words, just for pretties - Peugeot had turned to Peyote. I am delighted.
It is rarely boring around here.
The seasons are strong here, and because of this, so is the transition between the dry season and the rainy season. Or as I have come to realize, the dusty season and the muddy season.
For the last month or so, I have been in transition mode, preparing my house for its first rainy season, doing some maintenance on my car. It seemed fitting to keep the rhythm going and schedule my yearly OB/GYN check-up.
A few clicks on Whatsapp and I had an appointment with Dr. C, a few miles from my home.
He had suggested we do the three-part exam: Pap, coloscopy, and ultrasound and I was on my way to doing just that.
(By the way, do you know what the Pap part of Pap smear stands for? I didn't. I had vaguely thought that it was an acronym of sorts, something about the P standing for Pelvis. But no. The first time I booked one of these in Mexico, I was told that I was actually asking for a "Prueba de Papanicolaou," which felt both intriguing and tough to pronounce. It turns out that Georgios Papanikolaou, a jovial-looking Greek doctor - and zoologist, but I digress - invented the test that would years and years later continue to detect cervical cancer. How about that?)
I arrived at the office which is adjacent to the hospital, checked in with the receptionist who wanted to confirm that I booked with the doctor directly, and a few minutes later knocked on the door of Dr. C'. s office.
Handsome, friendly, dressed as though as was on his way to a nice restaurant, he invited me to sit down on the other side of his desk. The room was shielded from the hot sun by some muted color blinds, there were several thriving-looking plants and some nice art on the wall. It was cozy, felt safe and until I looked around the half wall to my left, had no medical feeling to it at all.
He asked me a few questions, jotted down my answers, and then gestured me to the exam corner of his office. A lavender chair was in the middle, two stirrups on each side and what looked like a lever that would easily transform it into an exam table.
There he handed me a brightly colored cloth to put on my lap, reclined the chair until I was comfortable, and lifted my shirt, telling me that we would start with the ultrasound.
I had never had an ultrasound while not pregnant and I was intrigued to see where this would lead, what he would see.
It turned out that I would see just as much as he would because as soon as I was positioned, Dr C. pressed a button on the big flat screen just to the left of the table, and just like that, we were looking at the inside of my body. Wow.
I was not expecting that and it took me a few seconds to ground myself around the fact that no, we were not looking for a heartbeat or tiny hands. This time, it would be all about me, my body - and not whomever I was hosting. I settled in.
The doctor took his time - he seemed to have all the time in the world - to point out my uterus, to measure it, then to do the same with my two ovaries. I was mesmerized.
He showed me the little pouch that pumps estrogen into my system, bless its tiny powerful self. He took photos, he guided me on this fantastical tour, assuring me that all was perfect. As he moved the wand on my body and the screen changed a little, I was feeling a mix of peace and awe, combined with a sense of being some sort of magical being, as though I was the first woman to have two ovaries. It was amazing in the true sense of the word. I was amazed. Amazed to meet for the first time these beautiful organs that had had such an enormous role in my life and the life of my children.
He took photos, explained a couple more things, and then quietly turned off the screen. I felt altered as did the cozy office. It was as though we had moved into a sacred space and in this sacred space, I had met me, my me-Woman, my me-Mother, and my me of a new chapter. I didn't want to move. I wanted to recline the chair some more and take a nap.
But it was now time for the Prueba de Papanicolaou and the table/chair was straightened out while I was handed a beautiful little blue, backless gown to wear during the exam. It was soft as cashmere and if it weren't for the fact that it was completely open in the back, I could have worn it to the beach. When I asked him to take my photo in the soft blue dress, he was kind enough to oblige.
Back on the table/chair, it will soon be time to put my feet in the stirrups. I know how this works, I have done it many many times as have most women I know and yet, there is always this little pebble of anxiety.
But not today.
The room is dimly lit, the world outside is far away, I am wearing a pretty dress, and as my feet go up to where they need to be, the TV screen comes back on again. Before I can ask what we will be looking at this time, there it is.
There it is about ... oh, 20" tall. My vulva.
I am stunned. STUNNED.
Suddenly, I have zero awareness of the stirrups, only of the screen and what's on it, brightly lit and oh so ... real. Now, it's not like I have never seen this side of me. I have plenty of times and I am generally fond of it. But ... this big?
I am torn between looking away and being unable to. I forget he is in the room. I have no words.
Before I can come back to using some sort of language and oh I don't know, maybe make small talk, ask about the art on the wall ... the screen changes and now I really don't know what I am looking at.
Without me even noticing, the speculum has been inserted inside of me and well, I guess we are now looking at ... wait, what ARE we looking at?
This is your cervix, says Dr. C, as though introducing me to a famous and very special person.
My left hand is covering my mouth and I hold my breath just in case the small movement would cause the screen to turn off.
My cervix. Yes, I remember my cervix. The one that I had to wait three times to open up to 10 cm many years ago. The one it seemed as though several people had met and commented on while I was pregnant or giving birth, but never me.
Today, I am meeting my cervix and it is achingly beautiful. Pink, sweet, looking as though it is both inviting and guarding. My Cervix.
I am fascinated.
Until the Dr says: this is the door through which your babies came into the world.
The day before was Mother's Day and I had seen all my three kids on Zoom for the first time. It had been an unruly event, all of them out-joking each other over the fact that we were using technology to "connect" and even though I left the call feeling a little weird (there they were but I couldn't really feel them, touch them) I had just seen all of their three faces. Their sweet faces.
The same faces that I now imagined slipping out of this pink glistening circle.
I had become a full-bodied mass of emotion. No thoughts, no opinion, just this awe, this gratitude. This sacredness.
I'm afraid I am about to start sobbing.
Dr. C. was kind enough to talk little, even as he continued with his exam, painting my cervix the color of coffee to check for any abnormality.
By the time he raised the chair back up, I had no recall at all of anything medical having happened. No pain, no cramping, zero angst.
Just the feeling of having gone on a magical voyage, a holy journey inside of me.
I walked out of the office feeling so very soft, so very rich, so very full.
So very in love with Life - and with me.
I was on my wait to leave the lobby when the receptionist called out to me smiling, and said: Laura, could you please pay before you leave?
I sure could.
We can't avoid them forever and we know it.
And yet... ugh... they feel so sticky and terrible.
I remember when I was much younger, feeling as though as would actually DIE if I dared to enter into one of these. Die. Really.
It has taken me many years and much work to know how to lower the inflammation on these "big human moments."
Years ago, I took what I learned and turned it into a weekend course.
Since not everyone is going to want to meet me in Mexico this weekend (it is getting hot!), I decided to teach it online.
If you ever get sweaty or squirmy at the idea of a Difficult Conversation, if you ever feel that you would rather re-organize the fridge or pretend that "it's not that big a deal after all," I invite you to join me.
It is this Saturday and the next on Zoom - and I will record the class in case you can't be there with us.
10:30 am to noon Puerto Vallarta time.
You can sign up HERE and I will send you the link as well as the coupon code to access The Lizard course for free, since we will talk about that too.