(nablopomo #4) how long it took to get to that chair

graffiti of a red heart on a blue lockGood morning! The chill has landed — it’s cool enough that I could easily be in a cap and happy for the extra warmth. Too cool for the puppy to be out here with me in the office — she’s still curled up in her warm bed in the bedroom.

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Today’s prompt from nablopomo is this: When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer? I’d prefer, always, the notebook, the good pen, the smell of coffee nearby; the writing flows so much differently for me, less edited, less self-aware, when I’m handwriting. I’ve begun doing more generative writing on the computer, because I have such a hard time making space to type up my notebook writes. At this point in my writing life, I do my workshop writing in notebooks, and the rest of the time, I’m writing into the computer.

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Yesterday I went to acupuncture for the first time. I’d kind of like to be handwriting this, but I need it typed in already. The pain in my neck got so bad that I was feeling nauseous, and couldn’t really focus at all. I made an appointment at circle community accupuncture, which I found last week while walking through soma to the csc for the erc (these are my necessary acronyms). They’re sliding scale, $15-35, and $10 if you’re unemployed. They treat several people at a time, in a medium sized room with reclining chairs set in a circle. I was in so much pain yesterday that finally, finally, I made an appointment.

I said at the beginning of the year that I was going to make this the year of creative engagement, of radical self care. What I know is that releasing these old patterns, that sense of identity with pain and stoicism, really, is difficult — I have come to understand myself  as someone who just deals with the pain and moves on. It’s somewhat easier to just move through emotional pain, to swallow it and keep going, to ignore it. I know, intellectually, of course, I know that we do that at our own peril, and still, it’s so often easier to just feel some of the sad, write it later, but not to get any support or care around it. Who can afford therapy, or other treatments? Insurance doesn’t cover most of what we (I) really need. And so I think my body has begun to take on the burden of this swallowed emotion, the years of rage, the deep sorrow, and it’s giving back to me what I thought I’d disappeared. No: still here, until you acknowledge, until you release.

So, for the past couple weeks, what had been a fairly steady, chronic ache in my shoulders has gotten much worse, tightening all the muscles from my neck through the top half of my shoulderblades, and not much helped to release the tension. Hot water in the shower helped a little. Focusing on something else (like writing) helped a little, but that was more about shifting my awareness and less about actually alleviating the hurt. I did some stretches, but don’t know which ones to focus on. Ibuprofen doesn’t help that much, which is mostly why I think this is psychosomatic.

Of course, I think every one of my bodily experiences (illness, tension) is psychosomatic (except for injuries, and then sometimes those, too) — every time we were sick, when I was a teenager, my stepfather wanted to know what we weren’t saying, what psychological issue was manifesting as a cold or flu, or as a tendency toward clumsiness, or any other physical ‘symptom.’ There was no bodily experience that wasn’t in some way related to a psychological problem, at least for us. His bodily shit didn’t get examined at all. Of course, there was some truth to his story of psychosomatic manifestation (underneath this demand of his, that we constantly scour our psyches and offer him more fodder for his control and manipulation) — we were manifesting physically what he was doing to us, what we had to keep secret. The worst part of his interrogations was that he and I both knew exactly what it was that I wasn’t saying — I’m dropping things because I’m scared/enraged about your constant rapes — and instead I had to come up with some other explanation that would sound plausible to mom, who was sitting with us in the living room on the couches, thinking that she was somehow being helpful. That kind of psychological confabulation and espionage is sure to layer mind and body with all kinds of mess that will have to get untangled one day.

One day comes when we walk into therapy, when we walk out the door, when we begin to take care of ourselves.

Yesterday was good. I walked from my day job over by the ballpark up to the clinic at Harrison and 10th, made it there in 25 minutes, had time to sit quiet in the warm space and fill out my paperwork. They ask you questions about your body, for the file: are you dry or damp, what’s your elimination like, where are you tense or numb, do you tend to run warm or cold, and where, how much do you sleep — I was glad I had a little extra time for these questions; even though the folks at the clinic have worked out a pretty accessible form, and asked specific questions for each section, still I would freeze up, ashamed: do I know how I feel? how can I talk to a bodyworker if I’m so removed from my own body? I went through it slowly, breathed deep, felt all the overwhelm. The place was quite warm, at first overly so, since I was rushing and a little bundled, but then I unwrapped and settled in, and it just felt comfortable. I had a brief chat with my acupuncturist for the day, Rachel, who asked about the different pains I was worried about, and then who told me some more about acupuncture itself. Then we went back into the space where I’d receive my treatment, and she helped me pick out a big comfy recliner with a yellow sheet over it. When I arrived, there were only a couple of other people in the acupuncture space. Everyone is treated in the same space, we keep our clothes on, our acupuncturists speak quietly to us, there are white noise machines, warmth, soothing music.

As I got to the chair, I panicked a little about having to sit still for a half hour — suddenly I had to pee, was all kinds of thirsty, how was I going to do this? Just go to the  bathroom, Jen, drink water, take some breaths.  Finished, I got into the chair, and felt how I was going to cry — it was too much, this self care, how long it took to get into that chair, how much pain I had to be in before I decided I was worth spending 35 bucks on. As she got started taking my pulses (just the ones in each wrist, then she looked at my tongue), I said, I’m probably going to cry, but it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. The first needle she put in went at the top of my head; as soon as she inserted that one, there was a feeling at the bottom of my foot, I think my right foot, a heat. Then got a couple needles in each ear and hand and foot. There was one supposed to go just between my eyes, above my nose, but it didn’t want to go in. I said, oh, there’s probably a scar there, where I hit my head on a chair when I was little. She left off that needle, then said, oh yes, I can see it. I felt some relief, then, that I knew something about my own body and had been able to report it accurately to a practitioner, and that they’d been able to verify. I lose track of body stuff, of my own illness history (and let’s not even talk about family history). Once she had the needles in, I sat in my recliner, tears streaming down my face, willing down sobs because I had to sit still, just breathing deep with the sorrow and release. After a little bit the tears eased off, and I felt what was happening in my body, watched my mind race around, went very deep inside — sometimes I felt so heavy, like I was pressing hard against the recliner. Turns out, I was perfectly able to sit still for a half hour — I was there for close to an hour, or more, probably fell asleep, but always felt half-way conscious. A long first session, but no one shook me up or said, Hey! Your time’s up! I opened my eyes, and the room had filled with folks — all the chairs were occupied by then. I made eye contact with my acupuncturist, who asked if I was ready, and I nodded. She smiled and came over, quickly removed the needles, sat me up, and I moved back out into the day. The rain clouds had cleared, and now the city was that post-rain bright.

I felt so grateful and so held, and the pain in my shoulders had eased considerably. It wasn’t gone totally, and it’s back now this morning, but I feel ready to start a practice, going a couple times a week for now, to start moving what needs to get moved, what these needles can help me move.

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Prompt ideas for today: Give yourself 10 minutes, or even 20, and start with one of these — remember, if you feel pulled to write about something completely different, follow your writing off in that direction!

Taking from the BlogHer folks, do you prefer to write by hand or onto the computer? What are each of those experiences like for your writing self? Do you do different kinds of writing in each modality?

Another idea: What self care practice have you (or your character) started recently, or do you want to start? What feelings/emotions/sensations arise for you as you think about this practice? If you just recently began a new practice, did you celebrate yourself for that beginning? What might that celebration/honoring look like?

Thank you for your generosity of spirit with others, and for the ways you are beginning to allow it for yourself as well. Thank you for your creative revolution, thank you for your words.

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