I had an ultrasound done yesterday. No. I am NOT pregnant, not even close to considering this as a faint, remote, possibility. No. I had an ultrasound done on my arm.
About ten years ago, I noticed a lump on my arm. Like a wide, crescendo, the lump swells up from my forearm, swells over my elbow, and crests back into my upper arm. I call it my “shark fin” and usually don’t notice it until I’d be doing yoga at my gym and in the middle of warrior pose, all these beautiful women surrounding me with their straight, symmetrical arms and I….with one straight arm and the other with what looked like a parasitic growth.
I asked my doctor about the growth, worried that I had a tumorous growth. He haphazardly palpitated my arm, pinched at the growth, and pronounced that I had a herniated muscle. I was perplexed. Wouldn’t I have felt the tearing of the tissue? Wouldn’t I have some sense of pain from where the muscle was pinched in whatever fabric holding it in or out or whatever?
But I held my tongue and shoved off the examination table and went about my life.
Until last month when I was at my new doctor’s office. I had noticed some discomfort in the shark fin or in my elbow and, while I was at the doctor, I figured I would find out what could be done about my herniated muscle.
“Herniated muscle?” she asked, her face perplexed. She prodded her thumb into the lump, pinched the circumference, pushed down into the soft tissue.
“You can’t get a herniated muscle on your arm,” she said, her cold fingers encircling the lump and testing its flexibility.
Her voice receded into herself as her grew distant and she re-examined my fin.
“I’m going to order an ultrasound,” she said. “I don’t think that it’s anything malignant. And it’s likely just a fatty growth. But I want to be certain.”
I was a bit amused by the idea of my fin just being a fatty growth. I was a bit frustrated that my first doctor had been so blatantly wrong. But I left the office and moved through the Christmas holidays and ignored the weird pinching pain that every-now-and-then reminded me of why I wanted my arm to be examined in the first place.
Yesterday, I went to the ultrasound appointment. With no fear of pain or discomfort, I exulted in the rare sense of relaxation while being in a doctor’s office. I figured that having had my lump for close to ten years and yet still being in good health meant that I really didn’t have anything to worry about. I was curious. I wanted to understand what was happening with my body.
Maybe that is why this moment really is important to me. Throughout my life, I have always battled with my body. I was too heavy, too short, too stocky, too unattractive, too stubby, too whatever. Any form of expected beauty was far outside my ability to attain and I couldn’t or didn’t make the necessary changes to live within the beauty expectations that society embraced. And yesterday was me, for once, being in synch with my body, my left hand touching a growth that held no fear for me or need to remove or change.
I was called in and invited to sit by the examination table. My sleeve was rolled up and warm gel was smeared across my arm and over the growth. The ultrasound wand applied to my arm and the computer screen awakened.
In the background was soft music playing, instruments spiraling up and down chords and octaves, and the room darkened as the tech ran the wand up and down my arm, my skin a yielding map with the sub-dermal topography yielding its secrets.
The growth was a soft grey, shaped almost like an oblong egg, and beneath it, a white nodule would emerge…a bone, my elbow joint?
The outline of the growth became more clearly delineated with a small nucleus tucked within. A yolk. A center of gravity with no pull.
The music softened, lowered and deepened. Everything was velvet and smooth and warm. I sat in a plastic chair and watched as a nebula of my muscle and tissue spilled out across the screen. My bone breached the surface, looking like the long tendril that rears from the Horsehead Nebula.
A nebula is the lifesource of the universe. It is the womb for stars, the creation of the heavens. It is where God berths life and encloses galaxies with threads and strings of color and gas and dust. It is where the ugly is made perfect, where the unlovely has its beauty.
I see nebulae as the quintessential feminine. I have been the lifeblood for and nourished my children. I arched my arms first over my belly and then around my children before opening my arms and letting my children loose into the world. My imperfections were made a little closer to perfect because of and through my children.
For fifteen gorgeous minutes, I sat in a galaxy of sound and monochromatic color. I watched the sweep of two-dimensional sound undulate across a screen in lines of black and white and grey. Once, the ultrasound tech turned on the heat sensor and my blood, in surging reds and purples, pulsated around the growth. I watched the nebula spin and form. I was within the nebula. I was the nebula.
The banality of normal life returned. With a simple click of the computer and a few sweeps of a clean washcloth on my arm, I returned to normalcy. The nebula was just a flat grey shadow on the screen devoid of sound waves or magic.
And yet, even thirty hours after, I still feel the ebb and flow, the push and pull of something much greater than me being within me and being me and being a part of me. I was more than a flaw or an ugliness. I was life. I was creation.
In a way….I was beautiful….