Phantom Nipples

I have phantom nipples. They get hard when I get chilly. I can feel them from the inside. The feeling registers in my brain.

And I still have boobs. I can feel them from the inside. The tightening sensation of my scar tissue is actually a very tight sports bra, in my brain. It feels as if there are still boobs there. Then I look down, and see that they’re gone. But my brain doesn’t even believe my eyes!  I actually have to press my hands down onto my flat chest to prove the truth to myself.

There is currently a huge disconnect between my body and my brain. There is a disconnect between reality and my brain’s perception of reality. The nerve endings have been severed, but the pathways to and from the brain are still there.

Those pathways are like trails in the woods. They have been traveled and trodden for almost 50 years. They are well worn. It will take some time to cover them over with new growth. It will take some time for new paths to be worn.

After my father died, he was still alive for months. I could still feel him, from the inside, in my brain. When something would break and I wanted to know how to fix it, I reached for the phone to call him.  I had to stop and catch my breath to actually remind myself of what was true.

That path was well worn.

Some of the changes in our lives happen slowly over the course of time: wrinkles, gray hair, wear and tear. The pathways change slowly, and we have time to adjust course. Some changes happen quickly: illnesses, deaths, births, new loves. A giant tree falls on the path, and there is no way to move it. We have to find another way to go. Or we can simply stand still forever.

Take a moment right now to picture yourself. Without looking down, just imagine yourself from the inside:  your face, your body, your whole self. Close your eyes for a breath and see yourself from the inside. What do you see? What does the ‘self’ in your mind look like?

Is that your real self? Do your insides match your outsides? Are you on the right path? Or are you fighting reality, struggling on your old paths, still trying to chop through the new growth?

I find it easiest if I follow the path that my breath carves out for me. Breathing deeply, I establish my presence in this current moment, my presence in the real-actual-reality.

The pathways of our brains, the habits of our lives, the way we feel on the inside, they are not always the reality of the situation. Our minds have the awesome power of tricking us into believing things that just are not true.

I know the magnitude of this power, because my entire nervous system has currently declared mutiny on reality! I look down, and see nothing, but the phantoms are there! In my mind they are there!

I will form a new path with my breath. Each inhale and exhale gently clearing the way. And I might need a machete.

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