Nothing left to hide. And it was ok.
I went to the Dermatologist today for my annual mole check. It had been several years, due to the pandemic, so I thought it was time.
I have gone to this particular doctor for several years, have watched the family photos change on his wall showing how quickly his children were growing up. We have aged together, acknowledging this in our brief annual contact.
There I stood, ready to have my entire body examined for any possible signs of things to worry about, such as skin cancer. I get other check ups too, and more as I age it seems. Older models seem to need more maintenance as we go along.
But this exam is different. This one is where I stand naked, in front of someone. These days the only one who sees me naked is me. And my mirror. And I have to work hard enough to quiet all the judgments there. Yet here I am, voluntarily standing in front of a doctor. And in this case, a male doctor.
I was referred to him years ago, felt immediately comfortable with him and trusted his expertise. But, here I stood naked. And that pushes limits and touches vulnerabilities in a way that not much else can.
Interestingly enough, because I have been seeing him for years, we usually talk a bit about various topics during the appointments, as much as his hectic schedule will allow. Today, before he began the exam, he seemed to want to talk a bit more. I reflected on how his children have grown, how quickly time passes, as evidenced by the changing photos on his wall.
This seemed to open him up. He talked about where his children were in their lives, two of them graduating from college already. And then he stopped for a moment, looked at me and began talking about how surprised he was at the grief that he felt about that, how he had not expected that. I listened and reflected that back, how yes, there really is grief associated with aging, with changes that occur. I empathized and validated that of course he felt that grief, that the losses were real. I talked a little about how I write about grief and aging. How retirement has brought some of this home to me, the losses that we face, the changes that occur. He resonated, talking about that he would turn 60 soon and could begin to feel more of what I was talking about. He said he sometimes thinks about writing about these things as well.
And then it was time for the exam.
I am happy to report that all looks well, that he saw nothing that looked worrisome to him. I am grateful.
He left, wished me well. We both said it was nice to see each other again (although he saw much more than I did!)
And I realized that this was a wonderful connection today. In the brief time that we had (and I could feel the pressure that he was under to get to the next patient), he opened up and shared a bit of who he was at that moment in time and in his life and about some of the things that he was struggling and working with. And that was a gift to me. And, I also realized, this made it much easier for me to stand there so completely exposed in front of him.
Because I had seen some of his nakedness too. And we both were together in that moment in our vulnerability. And it was a human connection. In the space of a few minutes, there was a deep connection and understanding, before we each once again went our separate ways. Each to deal with our own grief, each knowing that others share this human bitter-sweet experience of life.
We each stand naked in front of each other in our deepest grief, in our losses, in our fears, in our journeys of aging. And having the courage to share that with each other can bring the sweetness to the bittersweet. We can offer each other some comfort and understanding along the way. We can see each other, truly see each other. See beyond the faces, the roles, the masks. See, honor, and cherish the beautiful nakedness of the humanity in us all.