Saturday, October 8, 2016

More Than a Body

When I was eight years old I asked my Mom this question:
"Mom, when I get older, will I still think the same way inside my head?"
She kept drying the dishes but turned to look at me.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"I mean, the way I think, inside my head, will I think the same way? Be the same person inside?"
She paused momentarily.
"No, you won't sweetie. You will grow up and think differently."
Even though this happened decades ago, I remember this conversation vividly because this was a VERY important question for me. I needed to know. I HAD to know. What I was trying to ask is, "Am I always going to be me as I know me to be inside my head?" I think about it now and that was a pretty deep question for someone who had just played Atari Donkey Kong five minutes before. No, I wasn't a budding philosopher, but I was the type of kid who always had the sense there is more than meets the eye; that there is more to this world this just the physical--just what we can touch, smell, see, and hear. I knew I was more than just a body, that there was a "me" inside my head and I was curious to know if it was going to grow up like my body. While I would add height and pounds and grow hair in strange places, would my thoughts grow up with me or was I already who I was going to be inside my head and my body just needed to catch up?
I'm not sure my Mom understood what I was asking. I had a hard time putting words to that question at eight. I had to grow up to understand both what I was asking and what the answer was.  Of course, now I know the real answer to that question is both yes AND No. Yes, I would always be who I am inside (my soul/spirit/person-hood), but my mind--my thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and perspective would change.  Just like any good philosophical question, the answer is ABSOLUTELY CERTAINLY MAYBE.

We are more than our bodies.
We are more than just mothers or sisters, daughters or sons, uncles or fathers or cousins.
We are more than just employees or bosses or CEO's or day laborers.
We are souls.

Have you ever had a chance encounter with a stranger and felt that connection? Not a body or mind connection, not a love connection, but a soul connection?
Recently, I had a cancer scare. I had a mammogram and my doctor told me to come in and have another one because they found something on my upper left breast that was "abnormal."  As I sat in the waiting room for my second mammogram with a bunch of women in hospital robes, a young woman came in the room and sat next to me. Her eyes were wide and wet. She fidgeted with her gown, picked at her nails, and shuffled through her purse. She heaved a big sigh and I turned toward her.
"Are you OK?" I asked.
She looked up quickly and just as quickly looked back down at her hands.
"Not really." She said.
"Did you already have your mammogram?" I asked.
She nodded. "They found something and plus I have an infection in one of my breasts and have been on medication and it is not working, so they don't know what it is."  She started to cry.
"I am so sorry." I reached into my purse for a tissue. I handed it to her and she took it and wiped her eyes.
"I have kids." She said.  "I can't even think about..."
I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder.
"I know. I'm sorry." I said, "This is very scary."
She nodded and then looked up with eyes full of tears. "Did they find something in your scan?"
"Yes." I said. "They did."
"I'm sorry." She said and put her head back down.
"Thank you."
Just then her name was called and she grabbed her stuff and disappeared from the room holding her gown around her.
I looked up and the lady sitting directly across from me gave me a timid smile.  I smiled back. I thought about how we were all sitting here thinking the same thing:  "Am I about to be told I have cancer?"
A few minutes later, my name was called and I stood up to go with the nurse. As I walked out of the waiting area, the lady I had spoken to earlier came down the hall.
"Good news!" She said. "It's nothing!" She smiled from ear to ear.  I gave her a big smile and a thumbs up.
"What's your name?" she asked.
"Of course it is." She said with a little chuckle, "Thank you." I hugged her and followed the nurse ahead of me into the examination room.
Turns out my "abnormality" was nothing, too, and for that I was very grateful.  But I will never forget that moment of connection. As we sat in that waiting room realizing our bodies may have failed us, our souls connected. We connected as people. People who were scared. Nervous. Anxious. Fragile.
Maybe I have always been me inside, in the sense that I have always known there is more to me than just what meets the eye.
I hope you feel that way about yourself, too, and see others the same way. It's what connects us all.
We are more than our bodies.

-Hope A. Horner, 2016
Contact author to publish on gmail at hopeh1122. Follow on Twitter @HopeNote