23 June 2011

Only Physical

         After a recent bout of the ‘snots’ – my term for what more polite people call allergies – I was  telling a friend about my methods for dealing with the onslaught to my sinuses, throat, chest, and tummy.  I described the numerous bowls of steaming salted eucalyptus water I inhaled under a towel (an excellent start to a cleansing facial, I might add), the four times daily neti pot nasal rinses (supplemented at 3 am a couple of nights), and sleeping (if you can call it that) on three pillows to encourage drainage.  I spoke  of drinking so much water it will take a week, at least, for my pee to have any color, of having to hold a pillow over my ribs when, as the nasty, viscous white gunk finally made its way down, the need to cough with every deep breath arose.  I spoke of forcing myself out into the sauna we call summer in Louisville for a daily ritual of walk, sweat, breathe deeply, sweat, cough it up, sweat, spit it out, sweat some more. 
         My friend listened sympathetically.  We’ve been friends long enough that this ain’t the first body fluids talk we’ve had.  But when I stated that, thanks to my ministrations and natural methods, my health was much improved after only three days, she countered, “but, if you’d taken sinus pills wouldn’t that have helped just as much, and maybe even faster?”
         She had a point.  Knowing that friends are there, mostly, to keep us honest, I had to laugh while I replied, “yeah, but I’d rather tell myself that it was taking care of myself that made it stop.”  We both laughed.  I coughed.  And when I came back from the bathroom, after spitting out the lingering snot, my friend changed the subject.  That too is what friends are for – to let us be who we are without getting caught up in self-absorption.
         After this conversation, on the drive home I thought about my statement – about the things I tell myself.  Most of us, I believe, tell ourselves what we want to hear, what strokes the ego, what strengthens the image we want, or need, to have of our self.  That doesn’t mean it’s not true, but neither does it mean it is.
         Do I tell myself I can, and do, take care of myself because I need to hear myself say it, and have that affirmed?  Or do I say it to make myself feel superior to those who choose a different path, who take a pill and go on?  Am I serving a persona, a self-created image of myself as “different” from the mainstream, when I choose holistic methods (for choice requires conversation with self, after all)?  Or are the methods I choose arising from what feels natural to me, ways of supporting my own uniqueness?
         Or is all of this consideration simply navel gazing?  Does it matter what I tell myself, or why?  I hold that it does. I believe that it’s important to understand if the messages and choices erupt from the structure surrounding my wounded self, built to defend against further wounding, or if they arise from my authentically vulnerable and unique self.  If I don’t know the source of what I tell myself it’s too easy to get caught up in self-protection, which really is self-absorption, to go through life as a persona rather than a person.
         I was in a relationship with a persona once – the persona I’d built behind that structure that protected and defended me against being hurt.  The problem was that I DID hurt as that persona – that girl and woman who was always “fine,” who didn’t need any help with anything, thank-you-very-much.  I hurt worse being her than I did the spring I got the flu so badly my hair was painful.  Back then I hurt even worse than during my midnight heart attack.  Those events were only physical.  Existing in that persona created soul-level pain, psychic pain that nearly caused me to disappear, certainly caused despair, and spilled out onto those I loved and who loved me.
         The only way to break free, to become a person, was to begin listening to what I was telling myself, and why, to question the source of my messages and choices.  And despite the time and energy and thought it takes to understand the source of what I tell myself, I’d rather be in relationship with the person I am now (who I find rather interesting), than the persona I used to be.  She wasn’t really much fun - with or without the snots.

14 June 2011

The Mystery of Being Here

     The Poetry God is dead.  That's how the others, who'd known him longer, referred to Mark - as The Poetry God.  That appellation was, I'm sure, partly teasing, partly self assigned (as he was often the only male participant at meetings), partly in honor of his amazing capacity to create art as poetry.
     I didn't know him well, had only encountered Mark at workshops, meetings and readings since I joined the writer's group.  No one seems to know the what, or how, or why of his death - only that he died in his forties, that he'd battled depression, that he'd struggled with physical health problems, that he'd been isolating, and he'd turned down an invitation to teach at a recent workshop.  None of that may have to do with his death.  But it's part of Mark's story, of his being here.
     Though I didn't know him well, my impression was that Mark was quirky, earthy, sensitive, shy, incredibly talented as a writer, amazingly knowledgeable and well read, an excellent teacher and a willing editor when someone asked for help.  He once deconstructed one of my poems, seeing images I didn't know were there, praising my use of metaphor, the images I'd chosen - helping me understand my work in ways I hadn't before.  I know I'm not the only one Mark assisted in this way, and that each one must surely have felt the gratitude I did for The Poetry God's help.
     John O'Donohue, the Irish poet and Catholic scholar, wrote that we must, "Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of [y]our own presence."  These are words I struggle with for myself - since I don't want to be in the mystery of being here - I wish instead to know why I'm here.  I struggle too with accepting my immense presence - with understanding myself as the gift others see me to be.  
     Yet today, in thinking about Mark, in recalling the gift of himself he offered to me, the gift he gave to others by being here and being himself, I feel a shift in the struggle, a realignment toward awakening, a move to acceptance.  I'm reminded that, not only don't I have to know why I'm here, I cannot know it.  I am here, as Mark was here, in the immensity of his presence.  What matters is the waking up, the entering into, the risking while we're here.
     The Poetry God is dead.  Long live The Poetry God. 

10 June 2011

and all shall be well

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.  
Julian of Norwich
  The last few days have been ones of forced rest, soaks in Epsom salts, mandatory ice packs to the quads and glutes, ibuprofen every four hours, and an emphasis on hydration - all the result of the muscles from waist to knees becoming overstrained as I tried for two days, and failed in the end, to master physical crisis management skills.  Bottom line - a phrase I really dislike, particularly out of it's correct context, but it does serve here - my body simply isn't capable, nor is my brain either interested in or focused on instructing my body how to accomplish these skills of physically managing an out-of-control client.  
   I understood when I took this job that physical management of clients was part of it.  And it truly never crossed my mind that I wouldn't be able to do it - until my ankle sprain.  But even then, it was only the "take down" moves that I worried about.  Turns out those I was able to do - it was the complexities and brute strength requirements that weren't happening.
   My two days of down time, of needed self care, were the gift of this experience.   Too tight muscles and painful joints from waist to knees forced me to extremes of self soothing, allowed long hours for self reflection and consideration.  During this time I kept thinking yoga would help, IF I could get into a posture without getting stuck.  And that thinking led to remembering the last time I was part of a yoga 'class' - and how one of the teachers would end class with that Julian of Norwich quote above.  There we'd all be, occupying the geography of our individual mats, stretched out and breathing through, and Vince's voice reminding us that all would be well.
   No matter how much discomfort I'd be in during those times, no matter how tired I felt, the comfort of those words, the sound of his voice and the breathing of others in the room, the peace that seemed engrained in Vince's voice, always guided me to a place inside that truly was well.  
   Again over the last two days, revisiting my own "wellness" despite my somatic pains and strains, understanding that all of this is no more than another lesson life has offered, reflecting on the entirety of the experience - and without self punishment (hooray for me), and doing the next right thing for my own healing, soothing, and comfort - well, yes, all manner of things will be well - including me.