Tag Archives: pain

grounded just before liftoff

Ouch.

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.

learning to deserve release

what do I want to tell you this morning (this barely-still-morning morning)? The ache has lodged itself in my muscles at the center of my body, that I am learning about the physicality of unrootedness, that I’m not at all sure that I’m ready to write about this yet.

I woke up today thinking about what it means to have to (get to) be so tender and slow with this body that I have driven hard for all these years. What does it mean that in October I had to spend so much time and energy thinking about my breasts (with the mammogram, then biposy), and now here I am tendering to my butt (where the still-left spasms have lodged, where the soreness still lives). All on the right side of my body. One website tells me that the right side of the body is the feminine side, the yin side. Another site explains that the right side of the body expresses our masculine side, and our material/money/job concerns. My body just tells me that the right side is the one that hurts most right now, and it’s ok now to listen to those hurts and attend to their backstories. Continue reading

writing the hurt

graffiti of hands forming the letters o u c hThese days hurt. These days it takes me hours to get out of bed, months to stretch enough to risk putting my right leg on the floor, years to walk the dog half a block and back home again. During our walk, I stop repeatedly to bend over double, easing the pain in my leg. I stand up again, I take deep breaths, I keep moving. I know it’s necessary for me to take this walk if I want the rest of the day to get better.

After that first walk, though, time changes, de-elasticizes, returns to something that feels more like normal. After that first walk, something shifts and opens. I have to show my body (yes, my own body; this pain body that is mine) that I’m willing to walk in on with the fire. After that first walk, I lie face-down on my bed again and let the muscles and nerves relax (such as they do). Sometimes I take the bedspread into my teeth and chew. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just breathe and scratch the puppy’s neck — she comes in to check on me, to be where I am. She is patient, no longer tries to wake me at 6 or 6:30 — we have a new normal now.

I don’t want this to be my normal. I’ve lost my morning writing time because it takes so long to get out of bed and get to a comfortable enough state to be able to sit at the computer or sit with the notebook. I am watching too much silly tv these days — I have (re)discovered what tv is good for: occupying the mind. When I am pushed into the bright colors and constant stream of someone else’s story, I do not feel as much pain. TV as pain medication; sometimes it’s necessary.

I don’t know this pain body. It’s not yet familiar to me, even after a month. I feel like I’m walking in someone else’s skin, trying to move their skeleton — it’s not mine; that’s why it doesn’t fit. That’s why my hip hurts so much, right? How could it be my body dealing with this? Why, after a year of powerful re-embodying, am I having to shape myself inside these new bones now? There’s a heavy and consistent nausea riding just at the top of my chest, at the lowest part of my throat, that feels fully connected to this ribbon of pain/ache/weirdness that has (for this moment) taken over my right leg. Why wouldn’t I be nauseous in response to this embodied disembodiment? It’s been a long time since I’ve so strongly wanted both completely out of and more fully into my own skin.

I am thinking about the embodiment of identity. How do we stretch our creative selves to accommodate unchosen or unwelcome changes in how we do our work, how we write or otherwise create? How do we allow ourselves to hold on to who we know we are when we can no longer do what we have consistently defined ourselves as able to do?

Every one of us has to engage this question, repeatedly, in our lives. Our sense of ourselves is always shifting, even as we (maybe you don’t do this, but I do) try to hold on tight, make ourselves certain. But we are uncertain. We are always in flux. How many times will I have to learn this lesson? Maybe, if I’m very lucky, a hundred hundred more times.

Yes, there is this pain, and yes, I am lonely, and yes, I am scared about the future. Also, I am in a space of sheer delight and wonder about my life and love. How to allow both realities to exist in flow against each other, to feel the pain shunting itself alongside the joy, to allow the joy to ribbon through and around the pain?

My prompts are few and far between in this just right now. For the workshops, I come up with ideas. For me, they look like this: Just sit. Just write. Just take as many minutes as are necessary to write out your three daily pages. Get up and stretch if you have to, lie down on the floor and take the notebook with you. Yesterday it took me an hour to get them done. Ridiculous, but done. Painful, but I know I have to take that walk if I want the rest to flow.

Keep writing. Keep breathing all the pain and all the magnificence that is your very own tender body. Thank you for the bone and brea(d)th of your words.

 

the gifts of radical breaking

graffiti of a hand emerging, strong and full, from a just-cracking-open eggGood morning this Monday morning. Outside my window the thick grey fog is just beginning to lift, and the song birds have returned themselves to my feeder (now that I’ve replenished the seed stock). I’m back in the saddle today, even if the saddle has shifted, even if I am sitting in it a bit oddly in order to accommodate the pain that’s still wrangling with me. I’ve got the tea and the candle, I’ve got the quiet apartment (outside chainsaws and jackhammering notwithstanding) and I’ve got the pull into these words.

How are you rising into your (creative or other) saddle today?

This morning I am thinking about how different this month turned out from what I had originally planned. After leaving my day job back at the beginning of the month, I fully expected to erupt into busyness. There was so much I needed to do, now that I was my working hours were going to be devoted only to my writing and to writing ourselves whole: I’d opened conversations with many folks around the area about new writing workshop ventures; I had promotions work to do for the workshops scheduled to begin in January; there are two (just two?) books to write; I needed to figure out my weekly schedule, exercise every day, calendar lunch/coffee dates with friends and colleagues, run the puppy, go go go go go.

And then guess what happened? I’ve spent the month recovering/recuperating from a back spasm that hit me on the fourth day of my new life. Instead of continuing on with the busy that I have built a worklife and work-identity around, I was forced (allowed, allowed) to find a new way to interact with my work as my body took full-on precedence in my every day. Continue reading

gratitude for the stories in our bones

graffiti of a llama skeleton with the outline of fur/skin/body drawn around the outside Good morning — it’s still, barely, Thanksgiving morning here. I’ve got some acorn squash in the oven (roasting itself with butter and brown sugar), and am getting ready to start making an apple pie.

This is a miracle.

Not the pie. I mean, I make a pretty good apple pie, but what feels miraculous today is the fact that I know that after I finish this post, I will stand up, move over to the kitchen, and start working on pie crust. After spending the better part of the month in the land of pain (lower back spasm which transformed into significant sciatic nerve pain down my right leg) which has kept me from writing, from walking, from much of my work — today, for the ability to write this, for the chance to stand in my kitchen and work with dough, I am grateful.

And I am grateful for you, here, for the pains and stories in your body, for how present you can be with those old songs. We don’t always want those songs, and yet those songs in our bones carry our whole lives.

Continue reading

what’s at our backs?

stencil graffiti: "Et Apres...?"Good morning this good morning. Barack Obama is still our president this morning, isn’t he? They didn’t take that back, did they? Let’s hold him accountable to his commitments once again. We welcome the news this morning, and we move back into our work together.

I’m diving into a ten minute write with this quote:

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Yesterday was a day with this body. We stretched and talked to friends about exercises, we let our vulnerability show. Today I’m conscious of how unergonomic my various writing locations are around the apartment, and, too, how much my body is trying to tell me. Continue reading

breathe into what tightens

sticker art of a turtle with one bulging eyeGood morning this morning. The light outside my windows today is warm and bright, and the crows are gathering on the other side of the fence to argue with a seagull about some tasty morsel. Today I am just in the moment. It’s all I can do. It’s what I get to do.

This morning’s blog is coming to you from a standing position — I’ve adjusted things in my apartment so that I can place my laptop on top of a bookshelf. I’m typing in between walking around my apartment and stretching, in response to a terrible lower back spasm. I’ve never experienced anything like this, and I’m scared. My body is talking to me in a new way this morning. How can I learn to listen?

Continue reading