I’ve been in a self-imposed cocoon a bit this last week and a half, mostly because I’ve been dealing with a feisty, swollen elbow on my dominant side. Nothing like the Universe telling you to take a step back, to reflect, than through the medium of your own body. It might just be the only way I ever listen that deeply. Only when my elbow has swollen up to include its own personal air bag (or water bed!) will I slow down a bit.
It’s only a case of bursitis, but it’s set me back, slowed me down, showed me that I can’t control certain things (again!). I’ve discovered that Naproxen and I don’t really mix that well. It kills the pain, but doesn’t seem to be reducing the inflammation. It also gives me persistent rumbles of headache. The worst part, though, is the difficulty I’ve been having with sleeping. I prop myself up on a tower of fat pillows and ice the heck out of the elbow in question on another tower of fat pillows. It’s not the most restful of poses! So, I’ve spent the weekend in my polar bear pjs, icing the joint in question, and just being more aware of how much we need our body parts to make the whole thing work in concert.
The lesson, though, is the thing I always search for at times like these. I like to be busy. Maybe too busy, sometimes. A friend said to me on Friday, “The Universe has been telling you to stop for a while now, and you wouldn’t, so it’s just making sure that you do!” She was right, I thought, upon reflection. I’m a bit stubborn, trying to find a purpose behind everything I do in life, trying to make a difference in everything I take part in. People often ask me to join volunteer committees and I love feeling that I can help others in that way. Last week, I said ‘no’ to a new request, even though I was flattered to be asked to take part.
Saying ‘no’ is relatively new to me, something I never did before I dealt with a serious case of major depressive disorder that peaked in 2008-09. After walking through those dark places, unsure I’d ever really emerge from the shadows, I’ve learned that saying ‘no’ is a healthy response for me. It doesn’t make you popular when you say ‘no’, especially in a workplace, but sometimes it’s the only thing you can do to help yourself. (Those of you who have dealt with depression, and who are, or ever were, ‘people pleasers,’ will absolutely understand what I’m saying. The rest should consider themselves lucky….)
So, this whole episode has made me ask myself: why do I need to keep busy so much of the time? Why do I feel the need to say ‘yes’ to every request for dinner out or coffee with friends and acquaintances? Why do I not look out for my own well being as well as I should do? I don’t have all of the answers, but I’m beginning to find that sometimes looking out for my own well being means that I might very well piss off people I like, or even love. It’s a strange new epiphany, a shifting of self, a shedding of skin, but it’s starting to settle in.
The last two weeks have been ‘ripply,’ as if I’m a bit removed from the regular rhythm of my world. It may have nothing to do with the bursitis, but in a poetic and metaphorical sense, it may very well be that the bursitis is causing me to slow down to ask myself these questions. So, thanks to my friend, Charmaine, I’ve learned that I need to just listen to my body, my soul, the Universe, and lean into the flow…Rather than repress any leftover grief or upset from the last few years, I need to acknowledge it and let it go. Rather than ‘clench up’ in a spiritual and emotional sense, I need to let go and trust…it’s a big lesson.
One of my favourite poems, which I first heard read by my yoga teacher, Willa, is a piece by Wendell Berry. It’s called “A Spiritual Journey.” It’s short, but sweet…and I share it with my senior English students every semester…because it inspires me. I’ve posted it above my desk at work, so I can remind myself of its message on the rougher, more challenging days:
And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.
Berry’s words always comfort me. They remind me that we can learn from our own personal experiences, without even leaving our own spaces and places. The work, the transformation, takes place inside. You only need to be willing. Once open to it all, the soul blows through and clears out those things that might impair your own growth.
So, I’m off to ice the elbow again…and to hope it is almost done teaching me this lesson as I’m craving a good night’s sleep.