The laser, the neurosurgeon explained, was only slightly cooler than a microwave. It would, in a process that sounded like something out of one of the Isaac Asimov novels in the junior high school library, travel through the needles, through a layer of skin and to the nerves. The nerves would then — as I imagined them — sizzle like a struck match and go out.
Out as in incapable of producing the cervical migraines that had prevented me from sleeping for months. Vertical I was fine. Horizontal I felt as though a jackhammer was making its way through my brain. Needles in my neck and a microwave-hot laser sounded like a good idea.
And it was. That very night I slept. Soundly.
I had become what amounted, in my mind, at least, a lab rat as a result of degenerative disk disease, which I told the doctor I suspected it had something to do with the fact that, on three different occasions, I’d been involved in rear-end collisions. He smiled and shook his head. “No, this is from 38 years of bending over a desk practicing law.” Sigh.
Whatever the cause, the laser did its job and, except for the temporary numbness on the injection sites and the unsteadiness that required me to sit with the office manager until I was clear enough to drive, the surgery was a complete success. Additionally, there have been no side effects. Except one.
I am suddenly hypersensitive to the labels in my clothes. All of them. Labels that heretofore had never even been noticed. Labels in cheap clothes and in expensive clothes. Labels made of cotton and labels made of polyester. Labels that slide across my skin with the slightest of movements and cause pinpricks to dance across the base of my neck like a foot that falls asleep and refuses to wake up. So I’ve had to start cutting the labels out.
Last week, on Wednesday, I sat in my quiet living room on my quiet farm and watched, saddened and horrified, the television images from Washington, D.C., that were anything but quiet. I watched the building we call the seat of democracy and the people we elect to guard it become the objects of an angry, unrestrained mob, many of whom were wearing labels of one sort or another.
As the night wore on and the senators and congressmen returned to the floors of their respective chambers, I noticed it again. Everyone who stood up to speak was identified on camera not just by name, but by label. As if an R or D was determinative of something. As if it told me whether she is honorable, whether he cares about the same things I do.
In those moments I realized something. Life is better without labels. People are more approachable without labels. Things get done, progress is made, conflict is avoided when we lose the labels and look at people as, well, people. When we lay aside pompous rhetoric and speak the truth.
I also realized that I don’t want anyone assuming that he or she knows how I feel about something because of a political affiliation, so, for what it’s worth, let it be known that I have no political affiliation. I am an American and a Georgian. I am a lawyer and a writer and a Christian. I am a daughter and a sister and an aunt. I will always be a friend. Beyond that, I bear no labels.
And I am sleeping just fine.