Thursday, June 25, 2009

Three Times Under

Going under is a scary feeling. I can imagine that it feels close to death—as the light and faces fade around you and your thoughts drift to memories and white lights. To be afraid of this feeling requires experiencing it more than once. The first time, it is only fear of the unknown, but the second, you know the loss involved. You will lose your time and space, your friends and relatives, your beliefs and values. For the time that you are under, you are just a speck of sleep on God’s realm of surgeries.

Tomorrow, I will go under for the third time, and I am scared to death. I remember the night before my gall bladder surgery, David asking, “Megan, do you want me to stay?” At first, I said, “No!” After all, I have experienced BRAIN SURGERY! Surely a little cut along my abdomen isn’t going to phase me. But as the nurse put morphine into my I.V. I panicked, “Yes, yes, please stay.” For the first time since my brain surgery, I was reminded of that “going under” feeling. I needed David there to keep me in the present. He was my connection to the living world, when the rest of my mind and body felt only the dead.

I don’t think it is an accident that I have been so fascinated with graveyards. The connection I feel with the dead is indescribable, and most would consider it crazy. When I feel that sinking feeling of “going under,” I feel death with me, on the other side of the door, just waiting to be greeted. At the same time, it is scary beyond belief. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to be with those people. Studying them, writing about them, that’s all okay; but I don’t want to be them. And as I sink into the deepest sleep, I beg for life.

When Mike Young saved me from the Mediterranean Sea in Italy, I didn’t know that I was yet to encounter two surgeries that would put me at the pearly gates. Looking back on that experience, it was the sinking feeling I related to in all of my surgical conquests. The closing of the eyes, slowness of breath, and ultimate relaxation of body…all of it made me afraid and yet, at peace. That is what is so frightening about going under: it is scary and peaceful.

I have been told that given my history with brain surgery and emergency gall bladder removal, my wisdom teeth will be a breeze. I didn’t hesitate at all when asked if I wanted to “go to sleep.” I know what’s coming, I guess, and I also know that I shouldn’t be afraid. The sinking feeling is a memory, now, and unlike its one time occurrence amongst most people’s souls, this will be my third. How many times can I escape the drowning purgatory of anesthesia? The more I experience it, the more I fear that moment.

And then, as all liberals might do in such a situation, I realize my privilege. I have dental insurance. I have medical insurance. I am privileged enough to get my wisdom teeth out. I have a father to drive me to the procedure and stand by my side. It is selfish to be afraid, when I have been so lucky in the past. After all, after tomorrow, I will have had three procedures that could have been pushed aside due to financial conflict. Three procedures that made my life easier and made my heart stronger. Three procedures that, though many of them might need it, most of my students will never even get the option to have.

So, is it okay to be afraid? Can I justify my fear of the drowning of elements? Can I cling to my father in immature, unneeded anxiety? I have to. My fear overwhelms my liberalism and nests in my doubt. It conquers my past experience and settles into my worries. What if I just keep sinking? What if I never wake up?

Daddy will be there. Thank God for that.