I am fortunate in my life to be able to take a bit of time to contemplate, to reflect, and to consider my experiences. I am not often in reactive mode any more: I don’t know if that is a change due to my age or to my life circumstances. Maybe both…and maybe a lot of therapy in the middle has been influential!
Anyway, I have noticed two things lately that have made an impact on my thinking. First is this irony: I recently posted with great joy about the silver maple trees preparing to bloom (see here). Well, now they are open and my sinuses are responding: I am foggy-headed, thick-thinking, and have a dull pain that moves around in my head. Yes, I can claim the source but it still left me wandering around the house yesterday, wondering what it was I needed, what did I want, why was I feeling so…bleagh?
So I did what I know is the thing for me to do when I can’t figure it out. I drank two glasses of water and headed to the gym.
What is it about the gym? What is it about moving all that energy around in your body that makes you feel so much more like yourself? I don’t have any answer for that, but the experience made me remember a “rule” I had made for myself back when I was running long-distance. The “rule” was this: “It is always better to run.” This was a guideline for when I was waffling around indecisively. Without fail, running improved my waffling and generally improved my sinus symptoms, even though I was often out in the offending allergens.
The second one is a bit different. I have an injury to a shoulder: something a bit intractable that I hope will be cured by strengthening my back and chest, providing more stability to a joint that is easily strained. Today is a rough day for the shoulder, probably because of having to use it to work with back and chest. I found myself wallowing, in that fogged-in, wandery kind of way, having work to do, having things to consider, having many items that probably needed my attention, but being completely unable to point my attention where I wanted it to go. I finally acknowledged some organic realities: I was hungry, my shoulder hurt, and more caffeine was not going to unfog this brain. So I found food and ibuprophen and then took twenty minutes cuddled up under a blanket, gazing at my most miraculous blooming cactus and breathing. I didn’t try to do anything at all, didn’t “try” to meditate, contemplate, or even reflect. I just sat with what I was experiencing.
It seemed sudden, my awareness in an instant, my noticing that my shoulder was easing and more relaxed, my head was clearing, and my upper body beginning to relax. For the first time I was able to see clearly how that low-level discomfort (read: pain) in my shoulder was creating tension in neck, jaw, head and face, and how creating some space there shifted everything. Soon enough I could get up and move into doing something…not because I HAD to (I can always do what I HAVE to do) but because I actually wanted to…my body felt more like it belonged to me.
I have been a body psychotherapist for years and for years before that I was in training and in therapy myself. Yet I am continually amazed to see how my body IS me, and how the messages from the parts of me other than my mind are so very influential. Allowing for space and time to explore my inner experience allows me to see how that experience may limit me, or how it may free me. The experience of chronic, low-level pain pulls on energy reserves and causes the body to tense as if to protect itself. Finding a respite from the pain means that the body has a respite from its vigilance, and there is more energy available for living life.