I tweaked the hell outta my shoulder a few days ago.
This happens from time to time, a flare-up of my “Impingement Syndrome” — a painful rotator cuff reminder of my grueling years as a landscaper slinging mulch bags and whatnot.
Stuff in my shoulder that’s supposed to move smoothly gets all scrapey and inflamed … and my shoulder, neck, and back muscles on that one side ache and complain and get all bunched up into a quite painful mess of knots.
As my dear sweet wife (Hi, Toonces!) said to me this morning as I turned my entire body to look at her, “Honey, you’re falling apart!!!” Sigh.
My initial care plan was to pretend there was nothing wrong with my shoulder. Go to the gym as usual — keep that shoulder moving to loosen everything up, try to ignore the shooting pain when lifting my arm… or putting it down… or moving my head… or just sitting there doing nothing.
Day 2: Roll over in bed to turn off alarm and gasp in pain. Decide to try different care tactic: try not to move the shoulder at all. Pin that elbow (figuratively!) to my side and conduct all shoulder shifts as an entire right-side movement. Try to ignore the deep ache throughout shoulder joint and surrounding muscles. Think constantly about the muscles on that cadaver I dissected in college, picturing each striation of muscle running down my back and thinking about the irony of having a painful trapezius when the last thing I could do right now is hang from a trapeze…. because of that damn trapezius muscle.
Day 3: Roll over in bed to turn off alarm and gasp in pain. Decide to try different care tactic: Work with the pain (not against it). Take it easy on the arms at the gym and pick on the legs instead. Make all head and shoulder movements carefully, gently. Vary shoulder position when typing. Get a heating pack and melt the pain into submission. Sleep on the other side. Remind myself to sit up before rolling over to turn off the alarm in the morning.
And here we are, day 4 – shoulder smiles in between the aches. Range of movement has improved. Fresh scone and Americano at the coffee shop easily sweep away remaining awareness of pain. Healing has indeed begun.
That’s how it works with emotional injuries too.
Old wounds get tweaked into present pain, and our feelings get all scrapey and inflamed.
We pretend nothing’s wrong, powering through the emotional gunk that’s risen to the surface. We put our fingers in our ears, squeeze our eyes tightly shut, and wishfully proclaim “I can’t seeeeeee you!”
And the heart pain mounts.
So we decide simply not to use our feelings … at ALL. We attempt to go numb by over-eating, over-TV-ing, over-drinking, over-this-that-or-the-other-ing.
And the heart pain mounts.
So we decide to work with the pain. We look it in the eye, take a deep breath, and tell it “I’m listening – what do you need?” We spend time with it, we honor it, we give it an attention time limit, lovingly melt it into submission, and we begin (again) to heal.
Oh, it will likely come back — most deep wounds need several rounds of resurfacing to build their layers of healing — but for today, for this present moment, we heal.