I had my first mammogram this week. As I stood there, half-naked in the hospital room, I realized that even though my Italian pronunciation is pretty good and I can ask nicely for basic things, “I’d like to make an appointment for… please” there are many words I do not know. Like the word for bra.
That was nothing compared to the instructions to shove myself up against the giant plastic and metal contraption that captured the images. Ladies, how come we never talk about that it’s like something out of that 1997 Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey movie, Contact? I vaguely understood the tech’s Italian when I winced and she said, “It’s supposed to hurt a little.”
And okay, let me just say here… if men regularly needed a machine to look for cancer in their own parts, they would not put up with such an awkward, uncomfortable testing device. Picture man after man after man lining up and parading through all day long to drop his drawers, shove himself up against a cold machine, and have the family jewels squeezed til he winces. It wouldn’t happen. I’m just sayin’.
The whole procedure was odd. It’s strange enough, I suppose, in your own home town, and totally surreal in another culture, in a foreign language. Chalk that up to another thing I didn’t think about when I moved overseas.
If I had thought about all these things, I’m not sure I would have moved. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I wish I’d stayed or I want to move back. It’s more about the thought process it takes to get things done, to live your adventures. Kelly Corrigan, in her great new video Dare You, says:
Starting things, relationships or non-profits, screenplays or marathons, takes a certain willing suspension of disbelief. This suspension is hard to maintain but its perpetuation is Job 1. I’ve written two books and I can tell you that writing one word at a time when there are 60,000 words to go requires a state of flat-out dissociation.
Here’s the thing, and you can probably see by now that it’s not just about becoming an Expat, it’s about becoming Anything. It’s about the kind of thinking you need to set out on and live your Adventures, whatever they are.
You cannot start out with the thought, “I can’t.” No adventure worth your time ever started that way.
Two different people this week, one I know very well and one I barely know at all, said that phrase to me, “I can’t.” One said it quickly, in a long conversation we were having about finding a job and moving overseas, “You can’t just up and do that.” He meant I, not you. The use of the second person pronoun was dissociation of a different sort. The other said, “I can’t do that…” and listed a couple personal reasons why.
Oh, but you so completely can. It makes me wonder how many things each of us is longing to do, but we never get to it because of the voices in the back of our heads shouting their bad advice, “I can’t,” “You can’t” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Those voices are no fun. They’re never going on any good adventures.
What would you do if those voices in your head had a really good day and said out loud, in the back of your head, “Sure, you can!” or “I’m not sure how, but I will…” What are the things you think you want but you never do because of “I can’t?”
Because you know what? You can.