COVID Isolation and Human Dissection

In the dissection lab we cling to one another in unprecedented ways. All that we are seeing and cutting into cannot be shared with those who are not present. It’s a grave imposition to ask anyone to hold space for what we are looking at. Beyond the tissues of a human cadaver we are excavating intricacies of our own existence as we penetrate the layers that make up the skin to eventually dive into viscera. 

It’s thought provoking and exposing in unexpected ways. The light as it enters the spaces normally shrouded by the busyness of life, is brilliant. We take it in stride, but are keenly aware of the impermanence of this moment in time. Once the donors are neatly reassembled and laid to rest in their boxes, we must leave one another and continue the work from the still mysterious spaces of our own bodies. The lab provides a tiny amount of x-ray vision, but there are so many blanks to fill. I can name the structures of anatomy but still cannot find the link between it and my emotional awareness, which seems to deepen following a week of dissection.

We keep each other on speed-dial for a few days or weeks, comparing the revelations of sleep or lack there of. We laugh about the ways in which dreams link the most fucked up sections of our psyche with the mundane bits of our home routines and connections. Eventually these things fall away and life goes on as usual. The dreams fade and the phone is quiet. The work however, continues at a low murmur behind the scenes.

The stillness that follows is welcomed at first, but eventually turns to boredom. There is comfort in the friction of an unsettled mind. It propels me forward into tasks that either avoid (in this case), or feed what is rising. Either way, I am productive and creative in satisfying ways, and it works. Now that I have done all the domestic tasks I can stand, my habitat is clean and well prepared with sustenance, I sit down to enjoy the space. Sounds a little like COVID isolation, no?

The disquiet inside surfaces just as the last bit of a well earned sigh is released. I know better than to busy up the mental space the pause from my daily routine has offered, but I do it anyway. I come home from the lab ripe to explore my own insides but an old habit makes me pick up as if nothing transpired the week before while I was literally cutting open a human heart.

I go back to work following the same bike path. I stop at the same spot for my coffee and once I arrive at work, I eat the same breakfast. I problem solve the body and its aches with my clients. The comfort of routine envelopes me like a soft but impenetrable armour. Months pass and the seam around the neglected revelation of my scalpel has mostly bonded again. The moment will come when some benign event, a popped tire or expired coffee cream, (a pandemic), will rip open the vulnerable tissue that had been ripe for healing a short time ago. The once clean incision is now frayed and raw at the edges demanding immediate attention.

That avoided thing, be it physical, mental or emotional, is taking up precious space. How do you recognize when to dig in? There are times when it’s so obvious it hurts. This is probably one of those moments.