Good morning out there. How is this dark morning treating you? Are you enjoying the fall back into standard time — the light that comes earlier in the morning and dissipates sooner at night?
Today I am nursing a tender, aching back. A year ago, almost to the exact day, I woke up in shock, the muscles in my lower back so tensed up and spasmed that I could hardly walk. I’d never experienced anything like that before and was terrified: had something changed irrevocably in me? Would I ever be able to walk with ease again? I had just left my day job (as in, my last day had been three days before the spasm) — and with it, my insurance — so I made do with visits to community acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, all followed by a great deal of ibuprofen and frustrated tears. I wrote a lot while dealing with that pain: what I learned about the wisdom held in the lower back and butt, and about how the body communicates in so many different ways. It took nearly three months for me to feel like myself again, to feel some ease with my body — and even then, when I could run again without fear, when I bounded up the stairs instead of crawling, something in me remained vigilant, newly alert, watching for signs of flare-up. And one small muscle, deep inside my body, remained tensed, keeping the outside edge of one leg and foot numb unless I was really, actively working to relax — and even then, I was left with tingling rather than complete release.
Over this last year, I’ve done more to care for this body’s physical needs than ever before in my life. We’ve had to learn to get over our terror of bodywork, to move through that trauma-aftermath panic that left me sure that any person’s hands on me could potentially be harmful. Of course, more deep was the certainty that this body didn’t deserve kindness, didn’t deserve to feel relaxed and well. And then there’s the fact that to be relaxed was to allow my body to step out of its armoring — was to allow myself to be exposed. It’s been scary and sad and painful and gorgeous to step right up to those fears, take their hand, and invite them to walk through the fire with me.
In this past year, my body and me, we’ve had massages and hot tub soaks and saunas and mani-pedis and acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments and hours spent sleeping on sun-drenched sand near the ocean. We’ve adjusted our working sites so that they’re more ergonomically friendly. We’ve tottered less often in bad high heels. We’ve run and swum and danced and loved. And though that tell-tale tingling remained, the spasm hadn’t. Until today, in a much less-intense form than last year’s.
So why this new spasm now? What can I tell you about this today? I’ve slipped back into some bad old habits — carrying too much weight in my shoulderbag, exercising less frequently, spending more time sitting in front of a screen — but more than that, I think, my body seems to be reacting to big changes in my life, changes that are tied to leaps of longing and the possibility of ease and flight — it’s exactly my wing muscles that have tightened. We are scared of this leaping, me and the body — scared of stretching out our wings, scared of falling, maybe even more afraid of lifting into the wind and finding our soar. We — the body and me — are now a year into having Writing Ourselves Whole as our sole work-focus and sole source of income. Instead of tightening up, body, I think we need to celebrate. We have made it, and we are growing.
So as I stretch and alternate hot and cold on those back muscles, I talk to the protective stuff inside me, the parts that just want us to be safe, those parts that understand safe to mean quiet, hidden, unseen, invisible. I listen to what we are afraid of and I write it down, I breathe into and acknowledge it. We have every reason to be afraid. We also have every reason to keep moving forward.
This morning I have work to do: there’re two book projects calling for my attention. In-between sessions at the computer, I’ll lie down, or put my back into the sun, or take a bath or do some stretching. Time to re-situate into a self-care rhythm as we ease these wings out for flight.
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Is there pain in your (or your character’s) body that’s trying to tell you something? Give yourself and that good body some time on the page today — what are the contours and dimensions of this pain? Is it new, or similar to pain you’ve had recently? What might this pain be trying to communicate to you? Take twenty minutes — follow your good words wherever they seem to want you to go.
Then rest. Be easy with you today. Thank you for what love and spaciousness you bring into the world.
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