Holy shit, I’m a slow learner (NOT stubborn!). Shocker, I know. I went to see an acupuncturist today for my lower back pain and my historically horrible knees. I used to see a crazy acupuncturist who swore she could heal everything with one needle. I bought her snake oil and loved her brand of snake oil. I did recognize her crazy though, and this time wanted to try someone a bit more reputable–someone who didn’t wear a fur Russian Ushanka hat and snow boots in the middle of summer. So today I saw someone different–someone who came highly recommended. But I still wanted to buy more snake oil. Hell, I wanted a damned miracle. I wanted to run my 13 miles again and pretend I was never injured.
Turns out this new acupuncturist is a very quiet, measured, careful physician who dresses appropriately. She took my medical history with a lot of “Mmm-hmmm”s and nods. She examined me. And got to work. I asked her what the prognosis was. “Balance,” she said.
That was a complete sentence for her.
We stared at each other for awhile in silence–I was waiting for the rest of her answer. She was waiting for me to hear her answer.
Because I’m a slow learner (NOT stubborn!), and Life thinks I’m in denial, I ask pointedly if I can run again and at what distances. She reminded me that running was the activity that created these problems, and running is what aggravates these problems. Yes, of course–I just told her that for God’s sake. Just answer me!
She tells me I shouldn’t ever run more than 10 miles at a time again. Hm, not what I wanted to hear…so I press her for more details. I’m like a kid–if I pester her enough maybe I’ll hear an answer I like. How many miles? How often? Will this treatment take away all the pain forever, or will I need maintenance to keep running? Tellmetellmetellme!!!
She looks thoughtfully at me, her expression never changing. She kindly reminds me that I’m at a point now where I have a chance of alleviating the pain. The pain could get worse and become chronic. She points out that I could run a lot now, for a little while. Or I could run a little, for a few more years. Or I could be forced to pick up another sport entirely. I ask her what she can do for me. (Tellme!)
She looks at me and says simply, “That’s up to you. This is about balance. You need to decide what to do. There are consequences to our choices. We all have choices to make.” She refuses to tell me what I should do. She points out I already knew the answers to my questions.
I was so sad she wasn’t offering me snake oil. Not even a little taste. I realized that all the doctors were only helping me cope with the pain–there is no fix. The scans show a tear, some bulging, and my lower 2 discs are degrading. There’s no reversal in this process, period. Life has put her in my path to point out that everything else: the meds, the physical therapy, the steroid shots–those relieve the pain but don’t solve the problem that has plagued me for over nine months. This is the same lesson as the neurologist/brain injury doctor conflict. I thought I just learned this lesson of coping with life versus dulling pain. I must not have passed the test and am now signed up for the remedial class. I need to stop acting like my 7-year-old, searching for the answer I want to hear. I need to put on my Big Girl pants and hear what the answer is. Listen.
I also need to let go of all the emotional, psychological, and spiritual meaning I’ve attached to running. Running has meant so much more to me than exercise and weight loss. It was so empowering to me in so many ways. It was meditation for me. It was a comforting ritual. I tied so much of who I am into running. I need to embrace that I am so much more than a runner. I need to let go of my expectations and goals and vision of what I wanted my body to look like and accomplish. I need to learn to accept that knowing I can accomplish certain goals is enough. Enough.
I also understand the other lesson that Life keeps bashing me over the head with is Balance. She said that word (again, as a complete sentence!) several times. Balance. Recently I’ve been struggling with parenting my daughter’s personality and just the general concept of being a parent and the sacrifices one makes for the family. How much of the self each of us chooses to give for the sake of another or the greater good. There are no right answers to this, but I have been having a really hard time balancing feeding the souls of my family and feeding my soul. So this really hit home today. Balance.
And Balancing how much loving-kindness we give to others AND to ourselves. I keep forgetting to take care of myself and to be kind to myself physically and psychologically. I think I am, but I’m clearly not. I’ve been pushing and throwing and forcing myself and my body through life and it has served me well until now. Through the years though I’ve torn it to shreds and beaten it up. It is begging and screaming at me to slow down and rest. Through all of this, I have been hard on myself for my shortcomings and flaws. I am having a hard time right now accepting all of me–my impatience, my stubbornness, my selfishness, my judgments, my mean streak…and those are only the ones I will fess up to publicly. Yes, yes–I know we all have our moments and overall I’m a good person. But the issue is to stop beating myself up over them. Work on them, AND be kind to myself. As kind to myself as I am to others.
And being kind will bring me to the point where I am not walking around daily with ice down my pants, carrying a lumbar pillow everywhere I go and sleeping in a soft collar. And that folks, is how I’m welcoming in my fourth decade of life–with my internal struggles somaticized throughout my entire body, literally head to toe. I’d like the next 40 years to be good ones, so I’m working hard on learning these lessons and quieting these struggles. Please note I may need a tutor or additional instruction so don’t be surprised if you read more posts on this topic. After all, I’m a slow learner, NOT stubborn.