Tag Archives: bodyluv

reconnoitering with the body’s old injuries

There were lots of friends in my dreams last night, but I don’t remember anything else. I have things to think about: my cup of water with lemon, a candle, and the typewriter that I’ve covered my eyes from being able to see — my chiropractor gave me a hard time about my ergonomic setup, and now here I am typing away at a kitchen table. So I lower the monitor, type with just my hands illuminated, and look straight ahead, hoping that I’m striking the right keys. Trust that old learning, the typing lessons you got when you were 12 years old, or something close — and trust that you won’t lift the screen in twenty minutes and find only gibberish.

Today my body is better. What a thing to be able to say. There are places that are sore still, inflamed, along my spine, in my knee, in my ribs, after years of being out of alignment and now adjusted, corrected. But my body is better. Yesterday I went to see a structural bodyworker, who talked with me a little bit about what is going on for me — the spasm I had two years ago, old injuries that might be manifesting now, the sort of trauma I might hold in my body — before starting to work on my body.

I explained that most of my pain was on the right side of my body. He’s been a long time in this work — almost 30 years — and had some ideas about what might be going on even before we got on his adjusting table. He worked with his hands, feeling along my spine for places that are out of alignment and then making the adjustments by hand, too, using a table that drops out from underneath me when he pushes down for the adjustments. Mostly, it didn’t feel like anything was happening. I heard the loud ring of the table, felt him pressing on my back, but most of the adjustments were slight and small, I think — gentle corrections that will help energy and blood flow more smoothly through the contours inside me.

He talked to me all the way through the process, explaining when and where he felt something stuck, and when he felt things start to move and loosen again. He found major obstructions in my neck and in the ribs closest to my shoulder, in my lumbar spine, and then had some adjustment to do on my knee (which he said I’d hyperexended). My lumbar spine is the place that’s most inflamed now, after a long time  of being out of whack. This morning I am not sure what I feel. I kept waiting for some major release of emotional energy, and though I did tear up once or twice, I also laughed a lot, in surprise and curiosity — what’s going on here (especially when he cracked my neck manually, the way you see chiropractors doing on tv). The changes are mostly subtle — I still have some residual pain in the places that have been hurting, but I also think things are better there.

And what’s most astonishing is that the place in my butt under the glute muscle where I thought for sure that something was spasmed and held tight (this is the trouble with self-diagnosing when you don’t know anything about the problem), that tension is gone — it wast the torquing of my lumbar spine causing all of that trouble, that tight muscle. None of the stretches that I was doing would have ever helped “pop” or ease or relax that muscle out of spasm, because that wasn’t the problem.

Today I mostly feel peaceful, quiet inside, and grateful.

He was able to help me know what bones are connected where, and to start to explain what happens when they’re out of alignment. He was not rushed with me, and was willing to answer questions throughout. He asked me about old injuries and I described: the weekend before the spasm back in November 2012 (leaving day job, hard dancing in high heels, helping my sweetheart on her moving day); the time I fell hard right onto my back when I was up in the Tiburon hills with Sophie and she was running around with another dog, playing chase and keep away, and she ran straight for me, hit me at full speed, knocking my legs out from under me and dropping me to the ground; and my stepfather’s assaults. He found evidence of all of these (and more, likely) while he worked on my body. Later, at the end of the session, I mentioned something about my dad. He clarified — Your biological dad? I said, Yeah — my stepfather is in jail. This was the second time in a week I’d made that particular clarification in that way for somebody. He was delighted to hear this news, after feeling in my body and bones some of the aftermath of my stepfather’s violence. That’s a great end to that story! He cheered. And I thought so, too.

He was kind and direct, confident in a way that could have come off as cocky but didn’t — or at least didn’t bother me. I think I know what I’m going to find when I get there, he’d say after listening to me explain what I was feeling. Ok, I thought. I hope that’s true. And I hope you know how to fix it. And then he did. I feel like I have found another someone who may be able to help me understand my body. What a gift.

At one point I stood, transitioning from the adjustment table to the massage table. How does that feel, he wanted to know. But I didn’t really have words for it yet. Better–maybe. Can you relax your shoulders, he asked? But I thought I was relaxing my shoulders. No, he said, not yet. And then after he did some work on my ribs, he said, There — now you’ll be able to relax them. Not, now you’re relaxed, but: now you’ll be able to relax there — now the muscles have he opportunity to remember what relax looks like, after they shift out of this reactive posture, tightening up and around in response to a torqued spine and bone structure.

Now I’m trying to sit upright in my chair, look straight ahead (instead of down at the keyboard), keep my body in alignment as much as possible. I feel fortunate today, and grateful that I stumbled on a therapist I like, who then has been able to give me some ideas about steps to take with other practitioners to help me with my body. And I feel quiet and kind of heavy, like something deep is going on in me — and it probably is. My body is recovering from a chronic issue — it makes sense that I wouldn’t have an acute emotional response. The response will come slowly, I think. Everything in me feels a little tender, a little looser. I walk around gently, looking with my inside eyes: does this still hurt? What do I need to do differently here? My bodyworker wants me to wait for a few days before I start really exercising again, to let the swelling in my lower back heal, let that part of my spine get better before I go compressing it again like what happens when you jog.

I had made a lot of assumptions about what was going on in my body, based on how I felt — it must be spasms, muscle knots, tightnesses — but these were all reactions to something more structural, deeper.

Are there metaphors in that for writing? Sometimes the trouble isn’t in the symptoms — it’s in the structure; change your framework, the bones of your book and your story, and suddenly everything flows a little better, things get a little looser, more agile, more interesting, more limber.

Also: sometimes we can’t fix the problem ourselves — in our books or in our bodies — sometimes we have to get some damn help from someone who knows more than we do. And that doesn’t mean we’ve failed. It means we’re smart; we know what we know and what we don’t know, and know we can use guidance and suggestions around what we don’t yet know.

Anyway, today I am grateful for this skin and bones, these fingers on the keyboard, and your eyes out there — I am grateful for the generous response I got to my posts about what was going on with my body and how scared I was of dealing with it. Kindness goes a long way. Thank you for that. Big love right back at you today.


good morning to this skin and these muscles

(I am not a fast runner)

Outside, the city is still quiet at this pre-five-o’clock hour. The wind haggles all the trees, tossing them around, telling them dangerous stories. Yesterday when my sweetheart and I were out for a mid-morning run, we looked at the bruised-cloud sky and said, doesn’t it seem like rain? But, of course, it’s California — we all know it doesn’t rain in springtime. Oh, wait. Surprise.

~~ ~~ ~~
What to do with this knowledge
that our living is not guaranteed?

Perhaps one day you touch the young branch
of something beautiful. & it grows & grows
– from “Elegy,” By Aracelis Girmay

~~ ~~ ~~
This morning I am thinking about how excellent it is to have a body, and how astonishing it is to have reached the place where I can think that way. It’s early here and I would like to roll around on the ground for awhile, do some stretching, do some yoga, do some qi gong. I would like to wrestle with the puppy. I would like to be in my body. I am trying to figure out when I can go for a run before I get in the car and head into the work of the day — who is this person?

Something has shifted in me recently. How do I want to talk about it? It feels precipitous, actually, to say anything at all — I have these slight shifts and feel like something has changed irrevocably, but then, lo and behold, it’s been over a year since I’ve had any alcohol, and it’s been years since I could take a drag of a cigarette. My body changes its mind like this and says, I need something new. And I have learned to listen, to attend. I have learned how to hear that the body has needs that are as important as the needs of these words.

How can I talk about athletics or bodies? I have spent all of these years only in my head. This was one of the biggest capitulations, I think, the way I climbed as far into my head as I could after my stepfather his hands on my body, though I never could get in so deep that I couldn’t feel him touching me.

I was an active child, would almost certainly have been an athlete if not for the anxiety I felt about my body, my deep disappointment in my own skin to save me, to repel his hands. I had been the sort of kid who spent an entire day riding her bike around the neighborhood, around the city, weaving and unweaving stories into the air around me as I pushed through neighborhood after neighborhood. The whole city was mine, because I had a body that could take me there. I played softball and ran sprints. I swam and played basketball at my dad’s house — once there was a dad’s house to go to.

The part in me that wanted to move then still wants to move now. And the thing in my body that’s still clenched from the spasm I had back in November 2012 loosens itself when I exercise vigorously — the numbness in my foot abates; this is why I think the numbness isn’t nerve damage but a still-clenched fist there in the part of my body closest to my core, a thing that maybe doesn’t trust our security, our safety, doesn’t believe that we are actually free.

The body carries so much of the story we don’t tell, we never tell. The body carries the physicality of our experience. The body knows and remembers.

I was trained, as a teenager, not to trust the messages from my body — to read every physical illness as psychosomatic; almost any time any one of us were sick, my stepfather wanted to know what we weren’t talking about, what issue we were hiding from that was causing this illness. How come we weren’t thinking our way well? Why were we weak enough to let ourselves get sick? Now, imagine that conversation when you’re not able or allowed to name the thing that is actually making you ill, like a terrible game of “Taboo”: Explain why you are sick to your stomach without using the words rape or incest, since those words are not allowed in his ears.

Maybe I’ve written myself back into my own skin, finding words for those long unspoken truths — the body has let me back in again.

I don’t yet have a lot of language for this body, for what happens in me when I treat my body well. The few supplements I’ve been taking have made a massive shift in how I feel inside my own skin. Eating differently, moving, getting vitamin D from the sun — there’s something about deciding that the body deserves its kindnesses, too, that the body deserves forgiveness, that I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I never learned what my body was capable of. I am loving the experience of physical tiredness — reaching the end of the day exhausted from not just the mental labor of the day, not just anxiety and panic, but, more, from being able to move. It is, I understand, a profound privilege to “get” to be tired from moving my body — rather than fatigued because I spent the whole day sitting on my butt looking at a screen, holding my body in this unnatural position, contortion, butt flat, legs bent and held still, arms up, fingers at the keyboard, head tilted down, eyes tiring from scanning this inorganic light.

How do I get to the words for how extraordinary it is to want to be in my body. To want to feel like I live inside here. To want to be in the body as much as I want to be in words. There is a shift happening here — how words don’t have to be an escape from the body. They don’t have to be at odds with the body. The body can be here, too.

These days I wake up and do a single round of sun salutation — stretching out the back and legs, saying good morning to this skin and these muscles, shaking the dreams loose, releasing them into the whole of this stream of nerves and blood vessels. Later I will lace up my sneakers, put on shorts and a t-shirt, and run slowly and certainly around this flowering neighborhood. I am not competitive about this — I don’t have to run faster than anyone else. I have reached a place in this learning to run that I like the experience of running itself. (Madness!) It’s becoming it’s own meditative process, a place where I can say hello to myself and my thoughts — just like with morning pages.

Once upon a time I came to the notebook to get away from this body, from the feelings here, from the fear and loathing. I came to the notebook because I didn’t want to be in my skin and the words helped me forget what I was feeling, helped me feel something else. Or rather, the words helped me contain the feeling — naming it made it safer. Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe we can still be an athlete of a sort — we can get back to that girl who rode and ran and swam just for the sake of being in her own body’s capacity for joy.

Poem for a Friday – “if it’s not a secret”

My hands are covered with dirt, and my laptop is dusted with flour. These are good signs, I think.

A poem I love for this second Friday of WriOursWhoMo. Consider using that last line as a prompt…

-Matthew Schwartz

My crutches felt heavier than I was.
They landed with a thick thud on the blacktop
each time I took a step. I had to watch how I walked

so I didn’t fall, like the other kids expected.
I liked to leave my crutches half-buried
behind the sandbox, where I couldn’t see them,

and creep up the uneven monkey bars
arced like the upper half of a globe.
I wanted to see the whole playground.

The rungs crowded too close together,
and none of them was shaped the same.
I lifted my feet slowly to keep my braces quiet

against the metal. At the top, I could still hear
the jump rope flying, my friend throwing
handfuls of sand. I slipped. I locked my arms

tighter around whatever bars I could reach, and my leg
tensed and shook and hit the rung too close to me
when I tried going down, and my foot shot

through the gap, and dangled there.
I thought I could maybe slide out.
I thought my body could fit like my foot did,

but I was stuck. Everyone could see me,
everyone could hear me asking myself
What do I do with my body if it’s

not a secret?

Let your body have some joy this weekend. Consider — just consider — letting that joy not be a secret. I’m going to consider it, too.