I know many people find the MRI machine claustrophobic, disturbingly loud, even panic inducing. But I kind of liked it in there. There was something comforting to me about sliding into the snug, white tube, like a little chocolate in a candy factory, toodling along the conveyor belt towards its foil wrapper. I liked the aesthetic: the white molded surfaces, the slight dome to the oval shape. There’s a pristine clarity to the space, as if the design team at Apple had a hand in it. From the much-handled menu of in-house radio stations, its lamination cracked and peeling, I chose the “Spa” channel. Who listens to electronica or dance beats in the MRI machine, I wondered. Stephanie, the technician who performed my MRI, was solicitous, handing me the emergency button, a plastic bulb attached to a computer cable that brought to mind a turkey baster, and placing the heavy headphones around my ears. She put an extra pillow under my knees, draped me with a blanket, and when I suggested wincingly that taping my toes together for a better view into my hip-joint was not going to feel so hot for me at this stage in my healing journey, she said kindly, “No problem, I’ll just put a note in your file for the doctor.” Her tone was professionally reassuring, but also personal. I know she does this a bazillion times a day, but she made me feel cared for, and I was grateful.
In the belly of the great white beast, I listened to my Spa tunes–pan flutes, wind chimes, ocean waves–underscored by the not-so-distant droning of the equipment. I kind of blissed out, to tell you the truth, inhaling deeply in my borrowed medical scrub pants, shorn of earrings and necklace. After the initial burst of sound, I felt unflapped by the loud clanging and womp-womp-womping of the machinery. They should offer you a sachet with the essential oil of your choice; maybe I’ll mention that in the post-scan customer satisfaction that surely awaits me. Every so often, a loud buzzer would sound, bringing to mind a basketball game at the end of the quarter. Amazingly, I had a really nice meditation in there. I felt flooded with gratitude for the people in my life and what they mean to me. I thought about trees and their generosity to mankind, uncomplainingly cleaning the air poisoned by humans and our misguided sense of dominion. I acknowledged for perhaps the first time since I fell on Monday how much I miss my trail walks with the dogs, being out in nature, their resplendent joy at the smells and fresh stream water. I decided that, what the heck, I’ll probably go on a Nia retreat to Panama next winter, if I can afford it, because my Mexico sojourns these past two years have brought me such gifts of joy, laughter, and renewal. I had a vision where I was a fantastical, dragon-sized bird, twirling and winging through the sky, translucent and yet multicolored, with lines of energy and light emanating from me and also radiating into me, unifying me with all life, reminding me that we are all One, and that everything is energy and love. Sounds a little trippy, but there you have it. Ibuprofen is the only drug I’ve taken in the last week, I promise.
“Okay, Holly, we’re all done,” Stephanie’s voice came through the headphones. “I’m gonna get you out of there right away,” she said, her tone urgent, as if my leg were caught in a bear trap.
I felt a little disappointed.
“How are you doing,” she asked as I re-emerged from the cavity. She lifted the heavy lead apron from my pelvis and removed my blanket and pillows. “Take your time,” she said, watching me warily as I wobbled up on my good right leg, painfully dangling my left foot above the floor while the hamstring cramp passed.
I told Stephanie I was fine. “I kinda think I had a spiritual experience in there,” I said, laughing. I wiped a little tear away from my cheek, embarrassed to have become so moved at the Shields MRI facility on Washington Street in Wellesley.
She smiled. “Oh, you’re one of those.”
She walked beside me as I limped towards the door. “Probably about a third of the people actually find it relaxing,” she said.
“Relaxing” isn’t the first word I’d choose to describe how I found it. Certainly, I had a few instances of anxiety about what the images will show, and potential dire outcomes passed through my mind as I cocooned. I had to work, initially, at resisting urges to go down the rabbit hole of catastrophe, focusing my attention on my breath and the sounds of the music, rather than my busy imagination. It was noisy and odd and I can certainly think of better pastimes on a sunny Saturday morning.
And yet, it was resonant.