Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Paging Dr. Haller

“Embrace asymmetry.”

That’s what Ken Haller said some years ago as he helped me rearrange my living room furniture.

Brought up under the influence of such straight-laced shows as “Father Knows Best,” “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Donna Reed Show” before being thrust into the turbulent freedom of the late ‘60s, I hesitated before agreeing to give the new set-up a try.

Today, as I ponder the rearrangement of my body after a mastectomy, Ken’s pithy directive is remarkably on target.

Living rooms are personal spaces; bodies even more so. Accepting change takes time, whether we’re talking a new hairstyle or color (on females), the addition or subtraction of facial hair (on males) or a dramatic scar (both genders).

When we look different, we feel different. When we feel different, we imagine everyone notices. They don’t.

A natural self-absorption keeps all of us from picking up on minor adjustments in the personal landscapes of others. Teenagers don’t get that, but what a relief as the years go by to discover that signs of aging -- natural and un -- go unnoticed by people who look at us every day.

And if they do notice, they don’t care, because they love us anyway.

“I’m not drawing on eyebrows during my recuperation,” I announced to a visitor yesterday. She replied that I looked just fine with pale eyebrows. Later, I wondered why I would fret about indiscernible eyebrows when I am obviously missing an entire breast.

I miss it only in the abstract. Where there was something, there is nothing. I had read that after surgery I might experience a sense of loss. Losing a small body part, especially one that can easily be replicated, has not caused me to experience loss so much as an awareness that something familiar is absent.

Along with it, the cancer is gone.

"Embrace asymmetry." That's what Ken said.

P.S. You can see Ken Haller’s outstanding cabaret show “Putting It Together: The Music of Stephen Sondheim” at 8 p.m. this Wednesday and Thursday at the Kranzberg Arts Center. Give him an asymmetrical hug for me.

1 comment:

  1. How is it that in all my conversations w/Ken, I never realized that you knew him??
    Another one of those natural self absorptions that prevents us from truly seeing the landscapes of others!
    wrap the sluggie tight - and think of it as a hug from me!