Yes, I have a confession to make and I am not calling it that just to get your attention. I am calling it that because it feels BIG, like it did when I was a kid growing up in the Roman Catholic church. On confession day, I would get so nervous just thinking of all the things I had done “wrong.” I would picture myself telling the priest my “sins”, him judging me and thinking how bad of a kid I was, and then would imagine being told by the priest to say endless Our Father’s as repentance. I thought that I would never be able to go outside and play again. I wondered how I was such a bad kid when I didn’t feel bad. I felt normal. Sure, I said mean things to my friends when we had a disagreement, and got snooty with my mom every now and then, and even took the Lord’s name in vain on occasion. I can feel my body contract and my breath become shallow as I write this. The anticipatory jitters I felt before confession feel very similar to the feeling I have right now, as I divulge a piece of myself that feels very vulnerable.
I have never had back pain before. Well, not like the kind I recently experienced. Yes, my low back hurt with all three pregnancies, but that was somehow easier to handle because I almost expected it after gaining fifty pounds each time, combined with my center of gravity ever-changing (hello, big belly!) and other mechanical mishaps, like slipping on the ice or carrying my toddler on my hip all day long. Other than that, I have only ever experienced mild soreness after a new or especially challenging workout or what I would call very sporadic menstrual-related tightness. So, yes, this was BIG.
It started the day after I was inspired to do a glute-focused lower body workout (because who doesn’t love tone glutes?). The next day, the pain crept up on me like the biggest jump- scare scene in a horror movie, complete with quintessential feelings of drama, dread and darkness. I was left audibly squealing like the slasher suddenly appeared in front of me. You get the picture, both literally and figuratively. Now, I can say that I have been there (not that I like saying that), but I really SEE you now from a whole new perspective. You--meaning the people that come crawling into my office yiping like a hurt puppy with every breath, with the kind of despair in your eyes that looks like your spirit has been crushed.
Yes, EVERY breath hurt, no position was comfortable, there was very little reprieve. I have never laid in bed before because I was physically incapable of moving. This type of pain and discomfort took me to a place I have never been before (Well, I was very briefly there during transition when I delivered my babies, but that was a fleeting moment). This was way worse than transition during childbirth. I wanted to jump off of a building and claw my eyes out at the same time.
As I lay in bed feeling sorry for myself (why me?), judging myself (you should know better than this!), and not knowing if this would EVER get better (powerlessness). The pain was so big, both physically and emotionally that I wondered if my life would ever be the same again. The short answer is that it isn’t (not because I am not completely better as of writing this), but because I have been forever changed, or shall we say enLIGHTened.
All the time I got to lay in bed led to reflection. I was being so hard on myself, putting an enormous amount of pressure on myself trying to figure this out, to get better fast, to get to the next thing, to find a solution, all the while shaming myself for my current condition. It all echoed my real life so eerily. Sound familiar?
It turns out that reflective surfaces, a.k.a mirrors, are also used in horror films for the scare factor, only in horror films the way to survive is to not look in the mirror (oh, the irony). Mirrors are an avid tool in cinematography as a way to illuminate and visualize depth. In other words, to help build tension. As my tension built, I decided to look into the mirror that was right in front of me (gasp) and to really take a long look.
Enter Mise-En-Scene, another technique horror movies use to scare, which simply stipulates the representation of space within a film. I do not think this is a coincidence that this technique is oftentimes referred to as one of the most important aspects of filmmaking. It plays with proportions, from depth to proximity, drawing the audience's attention away from what is most necessary, while also keeping what is most important hidden from view until the most opportune moment.
What was necessary for me in this moment that showed up at the perfect time was choosing to allow my experience to be as it was without judgement. That’s it. It was that simple. No, it wasn’t immediate, but it truly was perfect. The allowing that I surrendered to was so freeing inside even though I could barely move. I opened and welcomed a whole new degree of compassion for myself. Once I entered my heart from a place of courage, I felt my physical body soften and with that softening came an increased range of motion and a decrease in pain. This didn’t happen because I was trying to make it happen or even expecting it to happen. It came because I invited more of me to show up, the real me, the one who has access to infinite resources. I was able to transcend the place I was, which was where my “problem” was and invite something greater, true freedom--the kind that isn’t dependent on a specific outcome, like feeling better. I started to feel more joyful as I lay in bed listening to the birds just outside of my window. It sounded like a symphony as all of my senses had heightened. I got out of bed a new person, appreciating every movement in total gratitude for being alive.
We all want to feel better when we don’t feel well and there is nothing wrong with that, as a matter of fact, everything is right about that because we were designed to feel good. Also, we were designed to feel it ALL, and it was through being able to feel all of it through my own willingness that my situation felt a lot lighter and more clear. Sometimes feeling better means embracing what is EXACTLY how it is, while also showing yourself some love. I could have kept resisting what was, but that would have meant abandoning myself and I have done that enough times in my life to know that it doesn’t work. Instead, I made a conscious choice to look in the mirror and receive myself with pure love. I showed up for myself like never before and I am so thankful that I did. This conscious choice of mine provided an opening for more resources to make themselves available to me and to assist me on my healing journey.
There is a clarity that unfolds when you can enter a space of more love and less fear. Embracing what is does not mean that you don’t take action, but that you take action from a higher place, whether that’s getting a chiropractic adjustment, resting, taking Vitamin C--whatever it looks like for you. (I will share what it looked like for me soon).
The characters that showed up in my horror movie turned out to be dear friends of mine: appreciation, courage, compassion, love, peace, joy, clarity and fluidity. They all showed up to assist me with this and remind me of who I truly am. They can show up for you, too, if you allow them.
Cue The Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends”