Burr Bears – ABPsi.org

On my return trip from The Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) which met in Houston last week, I got stopped at the TSA checkpoint.


Usually I am pre-checked, so I don’t have to go through the machine where you put your arms over your head (keeping your jewelry on) and the outer part of the device spins around. However, this time I wasn’t pre-checked, so I had to go through the metal detector.


Good News/Bad News
The good news was, I had minimal jewelry on that day. Even so, I barely had time to take off my rings & bracelets. The bad news was, they stopped me and asked, “Is there is any reason your photo looks like this?” When I looked at it, I noticed the area around my lower abdomen where fat and tissue were removed for the tram flap was bright yellow. I told them “I had breast cancer a few years back and mesh was placed in that area, where the yellow indicator is.”


The lack of a breast showed up on the monitor prior to another plane trip. Yep, it can be an issue. At that time, they examined me as I showed them the prosthesis area, I explained it and I moved on. However, I never expected the abdominal area to flag me for a “pat down”.



This time I wasn’t expecting it. As I stood there and tried to explain why that area was highlighted. In my mind, I got pulled back into three years ago when I had the surgery.     


This was really interesting to me. Just when you think you’ve finished: Breast Cancer experience the 1st time (chemo & radiation), the 2nd onset of Breast cancer, finished taking that 5-year pill, tramflap and attempted reconstruction. It’s all behind you – or is it. Then, this unimagined thing shows up. You get snatched back in time by a simple request from a TSA agent.


I started to tear up and then I thought why? All I needed to do was explain the situation and I did. But, I was still a bit rattled. More positive self-talk is definitely needed!



Reflection Time
So I sat down, put my shoes back on and stayed there a minute. Edward and I were on separate flights but he was still in the airport. So I called him and told him what happened. He was comforting and I reassured him I was okay. But I told him I could not understand why I teared up as I explained to the lady why I was flagged.


It’s funny how that request, that little stressor, brought back something I thought I had moved past years ago. It was still a little burr, just under the skin.


I mean, in an instant, I got pulled back into that tough time. So, what’s the point? I’m not saying you can’t let an experience pull you back. But I had to take a moment to relax and realize:

1) Why it happened – They were just doing their job,
2) It was unexpected, so it caused a little stress, (but that really depends on how I take it),
3) I don’t want to stay stuck in the negative moments, and
4) I can be present & stay in the positive space.


Things like this can occur at any time. We try on a dress, we thought would look good on us and it doesn’t, nor do any of the other 5 we selected. We are running late for a meeting and we promised ourselves we would not ever be late again.


Hopefully, you see what I mean. These are tiny instances, micro-aggressions, sort of like a mosquito bite, get enough of them however and then there is a real problem!


Each year I try to attend the ABPsi Conference and present a paper. It re-invigorates me and I know I can go back to my institution, life and family with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm. This International Conference never fails to deliver!



What Counts?
So, why do we let the little things throw us off our game? We must keep our “eyes on the prize”. We’ve got to get back on track continuing on with what we know is important.


When something occurs to jar you, what do you do to cope with the intrusion?


“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” Haruki Murakami

Dr. Harriette

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