Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Good Pain

This morning at Breugger's Bagels, I ordered my favorite breakfast: a rosemary olive oil bagel. Toasted. With butter and an egg. And a small coffee. The best part was that I was blissfully alone!!! Yum, yum. A couple of minutes later, after discreetly pouring nearly half of the contents of the sugar jar into my coffee cup, I was ready to indulge. I perched myself over the chair, coffee in hand. Bent my knees. Began the familiar descent. About half way down, I nearly yelped. My left hip nearly gave out on me. Ouch! I felt a hitch in my giddyup - literally. What the heck was that? I wondered to myself - grateful that I hadn't fallen and spilled the coffee all over myself and the floor.

After regrouping and restoring my dignity, I thought about my dearly beloved father, may God cause his gorgeous soul to dance. My day had a funny limp for the last 15 years of his life. Every time he got up from a chair, sat down in a chair, shifted from one position to another, he hobbled. He stumbled. He winced. In a flash there at Breugger's, I had a vision of myself, hobbling and stumbling and wincing and groaning for the rest of my days. Not a surprise for a 65 year old with a history of arthritis - who ended up living happily and peacefully to the ripe age of 78. Not a pretty sight for a 44 year old with a history of nothing but a serious sweet tooth - which I inherited from my dear old dad. I hope arthritis does not soon follow.

I recalled having gone to a new exercise class at the Y last night - zumba! Taught by a former college buddy of mine. (Which makes me wonder - How do two, count 'em 2, New York City-born black alumnae of Williams College in miniscule Williamstown, Massachusetts, end up in the same area of south Charlotte, North Carolina? In any case, I am glad we reconnected. That girl, Jatrine, is one of the most energetic, encouraging fitness instructors I have ever met! I cannot wait to get back to another of her classes.)

Anyway, back to my story.

Oh, yeah - last night's gym class. But that wasn't the problem. I've done zumba before. And soreness that comes from exercise doesn't usually hit me for a couple of days. Besides, I had felt pain in my hips while I was in the class. This morning's discomfort predated last night's dancing/sweating/singing/shaking-my-groove-thing class.

Nope, there were no recent wild antics anyplace else in my life either of late... hear my deep sigh on that account.

So what could have caused this sharp ache in my hips? I wondered.
Then I remembered. It had happened yesterday morning.
I had engaged in some wild antics of a different kind.

Wild in the "sitting cross-legged and still, closed eyes, deep breathing for twenty minutes" sense of the word.
Wild in the "be still my soul, quiet my thoughts, choose a prayer word and repeat it over and over" sense of the word.
Wild in the "why have I taken so much time away from starting my day this way?" sense of the word.
It was wild indeed.

There I sat. Breathing. Thinking. Praying. Watching untoward, unsettled, unrelenting thoughts of fear and doubt and sadness and sorrow and self-pity flit across the warbly screen on the inside of my eyelids. Watching emotional, spiritual, maternal, marital, fraternal commentary flutter past like the subtitles of the Hindi films I have indulged in of late... the words go by too fast because I am focused on the beautiful, tormented faces of the actors on screen. I want to see it all and read it all and ponder it all. Slowly. But sometimes it is just moving too fast.

But there I sat. Still. Letting the words and images do whatever they did. I breathed deep breaths. I released my grip on the reins of whatever I thought I was in control of. I let them go. Once again, I was reminded that they have never been attached to anything anyway.

I sat. I breathed. I released. I dropped.
Sit. Breathe. Release. Drop.

And as I sat, my crossed legs also dropped. Lower and lower. Ouch.
I switched the position of my feet. Shifted my weight. Ouch.
I kept sitting. Breathing. Dropping. Releasing. Ouch.
That's when the pain in my hips started.

This morning at the bagel place, the pain flared as I sat down.
When I returned home after breakfast, I went back to the scene of the incident.
Slipped out of my slippers. Sat down again.
Same place. Same pillow. Same pose. Same pain.
Actually, it hurt a little bit less as I sat this morning.
In any case, it's a good pain.

As my hips open wider, so does my heart.
As my thighs slowly fall, so do many of my defenses.
As my joints loosen, so does my grasp on so many of my preconceived notions.
Ouch - yet again.

As the day has progressed today, I notice that as I sit down to eat or drink or read or write, as I climb in and out of the minivan, as I get into and out of my exercise clothes, I am being more careful to move slowly. To maneuver myself gingerly. I try to imagine ways to get from point A to point B without having to bend or reach or twist excessively. These hips are talking to me, loud and clear.

But it's not only my body that is talking to me. I am hearing my spirit and soul reminding me to seek peace and pursue it - starting here at home and extending outward to those with whom I vehemently disagree on so many topics. To love others as they want and need to be loved - with patience and words of encouragement, with quality time and easy conversation. I've got to stop insisting that "they" seek peace with me and that "they" love me and give more time and energy to me. (Whoever "they" are. ) I am newly committed to doing my part. To seeking peace. To being peace.

I am listening to the advice of two dearly beloved friends who, on Sunday, reminded me that "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" - so I'd better take better care to keep myself happy and rested. (Hence the trip to the bagel place this morning!) I've got to stop expecting that "they" will figure out what I need and give it to me. Either I have to ask for what I want or go get it for myself. Enough pity partying.

I am listening to my bookcases and file folders breathe sighs of relief as I continue the divine duty of decluttering this house of mine. Because, as the FlyLady reminded me earlier this week, who is going to want to deal with my old workbooks and greeting cards and wrinkled magazines and grad school handouts when I am dead and gone? I've got quite a few recently unemployed paper clips and an overflowing recycling bin to show for my efforts. My hips were not happy when I carried the last batch of stuff down to the garage and tossed it into the aforementioned bin a couple of hours ago. Once again, ouch!

I expect I will be back on my pillow tomorrow morning. On the floor in my study. Sitting. Breathing. Praying. Thinking. Watching the internal movie screen. Repeating my lines. Shifting my body weight. Shifting as my soul waits.

I expect that it will hurt, hopefully a lot less than yesterday morning and a little less than this morning, but it will hurt.This is a new kind of pain. But it's a good pain.


Lisa said...

Oh! Sorry to learn of your hip pain!

I've been saying lately that "pain is God's megaphone". Louise Hay has a good explanation of the spiritual/emotional cause of various ailments in her book You Can Heal Your Life.

Go here for a similar explanation:

You could also find some yoga stretches to help open the hips. (there are several online)

Glad you are paying attention and re-adjusting as necessary.

Your new commitments and full-lived examples are inspiring! Thank you for sharing the joy and the pain of authentic living.

Enjoy some bagels for me :-)

michi herself said...

sitting here enjoying your post, encouraged by what you write. I also have felt the need to get back into a prayer/meditation routine. I so appreciate your willingness to share a piece of your journey.

Lori said...

"But it's not only my body that is talking to me. I am hearing my spirit and soul reminding me to seek peace and) I am newly committed to doing my part. To seeking peace. To being peace. " Hey Gail I love your writing and this blog "Good Pain. "To seeking peace. To being peace." Clarify, can we do this with out God. On my facebook page I posted a question answer it when you get a chance. Im doing a little study on peace right now and this is why I am intrigued with this paragraph especially. blessings.