Tag Archives: back pain

Riding the Waves

I forced myself out for a walk yesterday even though the weather was being particularly indecisive. It went from sunny blue skies to windy dark grey to pelting rain in mere minutes. As I headed up the street, raindrops began to appear, slowly at first like the initial deliberate bursts of popcorn, then hard and fast and loud. No, I muttered silently. Please don’t. Then I realised that my resistance, my pleading and cursing, wasn’t going to stop the rain from falling. It was just going to make me feel miserable.

Desiring something to be different from the way it is brings us out of alignment with reality, which naturally creates unhappiness and frustration. So I looked up and said, Do what you have to do. I shrugged off thoughts of Everything’s going to get so wet, dumped them on the ground beside me and walked away, eyes scrunched and hair matted against my face.

I felt a strange sense of elation. A Fuck you world mixed with Bring it. I wanted to punch the air and sprint past sheep and shriek along to Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon.

You know that point when you understand that you are powerless? That life will continue to roll no matter what reservations you might have. That moment when you simply give up. And in that instant, you feel oddly powerful. Free. Like you’re riding the waves instead of swimming against them. It’s exhilarating.

My lower back is still stiff and painful but now, instead of struggling against it, I’m leaning into it. I’ve stopped the hard-core gym sessions and started doing gentler exercises at home. I discovered a Pilates studio in Newbridge and attended it for the first time this morning. A man approached me about a new yoga class he’s setting up next week. And I’m getting out in the fresh air and daylight for invigorating walks in the Irish weather.

As I neared home, the sky cleared. I gazed at enormous tree trunks, orange berries and smiling daffodils, and I nodded: Yes, all is well.

Check out this lady making the most of her time waiting for a bus. It brings to mind the following poem:

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
                                                         Love like you’ll never be hurt,
                                          Sing like there’s nobody listening,
                                     And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

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Broken Windows

Since injuring my back at the gym on Sunday, I’ve had to take it easy. This means not doing my usual workout routine. And it’s been hard. I joined the gym in January and, while I signed up because I enjoy exercising and sweating and being healthy, I’ve also delighted in toning up, wearing tighter outfits and having people tell me that I look amazing. Who wouldn’t, right?

Part of me knew that I shouldn’t put too much value on my physical appearance. It’s dangerous attaching how good you’re feeling to something so transient. And another part of me told myself to relish it while it lasted. Which may also be saying something about an unconscious belief that good things don’t last very long. But that’s another day’s work (or blog post).

So, I haven’t been able to hit the gym this week and I noticed my mood dipping a little. I started wearing looser clothing as though I’d gained weight in just a few days. Another reason for feeling out of sorts was that I’d been, quite literally, stopped in my tracks. I had to accept the situation and understand that these things happen for a reason. There was a learning here somewhere (lots of lessons, in fact) if I were to cease feeling sorry for myself long enough to go looking.

Gretchen Rubin writes about the “broken windows theory” of policing, which holds that when a society tolerates minor crimes such as broken windows, graffiti and drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes. Rubin suggests that this can also be true on a personal level. These are the signs of disorder that make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. For me, they are not leaving the house all day, not getting my class preparation done and not exercising. Rubin says that enforcing small signs of order makes us feel more in control and happier.

The theory makes sense and it’s great to get things done and to look after yourself. However, this does not mean being rigid. Sometimes, we have to let go of control or we’ll end up miserable. Life happens. We cannot base our happiness on how we think we should look or on how much exercise we feel we should be getting. If we have too many “broken windows” and those shattered panes are destroying our inner peace, we need to look at building the inner peace and self-love and to hell with the windows for a while.

This week, I’ve been watching TV series GirlsThe main character is a 24-year-old writer who’s carrying a bit of extra weight. She gets lots of men and struts around naked. The more I’m watching, the more I’m used to seeing a fleshier actress. This goes to show that the more exposed we are to skinny celebrities, the more we believe that this is the way we all should look. It’s refreshing to watch a show where the characters’ appearances are a little more normal. Even the sexiest female character has a bit of belly and often doesn’t wear a scrap of makeup. And she’s still a beauty. A natural one.

In one of the episodes, leading lady Hannah admits that she’s just like everyone else, that she wants to be happy. That she feels alone. And that she’d been trying to control the way things happened and how she was feeling. Isn’t that why we do what we do in life? To feel happier, less alone and more in control? Why we diet and exercise? Why we purchase new clothes and cut our hair? Why we study for exams and work? Why we save money and buy houses? Why we search for partners and start families?

But beneath the need for happiness, connection and control is a longing for love. And where better to begin than with yourself? Just because. No only-whens and only-ifs. Unconditional love. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to do anything, have anything or control anything. It wouldn’t disappear as soon as your job or relationship ended. It wouldn’t crumble when you gained weight or grew older. It wouldn’t elude you until you had a house and a successful career. It would be a part of you always. It is you. You’ve just forgotten. It’s already there. And it strengthens with use. Today, instead of going to the gym, I choose to exercise my unconditional love. It’s tougher than any workout but the reward makes it so worthwhile.

im not beautiful like you

Alive

On Sunday, I put my back out at the gym. For the rest of the day, I was in a considerable amount of pain and could hardly move. I felt rather sorry for myself as I lay in bed. I was cranky and bored. I realised that I don’t make a very good patient. In fact, I am incredibly impatient because I want to get better quickly so that I can do all the things I had planned.

Last night, I went to see The Sessions in The Riverbank Arts Centre. The movie is based on a man with polio who was mostly paralysed from the neck down. He was a poet and a journalist with a great sense of humour. Despite his predicament, he was able to reach out to experience life and love.

This morning, I sipped a soy latte in the Keadeen Hotel while a large group of deaf people laughed and signed excitedly beside me. They were full of fun and togetherness.

And I just watched a clip from The Saturday Night Show with 16-year-old Donal Walsh who is terminally ill with cancer. This brave, inspiring young man spoke out about suicide and how he is grateful for every extra day he has to live. He hopes that his death will make people appreciate life more. He is sad to be leaving behind all the beautiful things of this world. Since his prognosis, he has given up school, travelled, and raised over €50,000 for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

It was as though I was being constantly reminded of how lucky I am and how I need to put things into perspective. A healthy or seemingly perfect life may not be as rich as the lives  of some of these so-called dying or disabled people. If you are able to open yourself to love, able to share and enjoy the wonderful moments of life with family and friends, able to laugh and learn and experience, and able to really live life, then you are truly blessed. It is then that you are really alive.

alive-cute-girl-life-life-truth-Favim.com-432554

What a pain!

I came across an interesting quote in a book last week. It went something like this: “The purpose of all suffering is the development of compassion.” For the past few days, I’ve been suffering with a pain in my right hip. I’ve noticed that, because of this pain, I haven’t been in as good form or as present as I had been.

As I was crossing the street this morning, a car came towards me. I decided not to run as I was afraid my hip would crack out of place. I remembered those times that I felt angered by people who sauntered in front of me as I drove. I thought such pedestrians were cocky and the dark side of me had wanted to rev up and give them a fright. Today, I realised that perhaps some of those people were physically unable to speed up.

The other night, a friend was describing his travels in India. He had stayed with a number of Catholic families on his way. He couldn’t get over their unshakable faith. He said that, each morning as they rose, they gave gratitude that they were alive for one more day. They were utterly joyous. They even gave gratitude for the “negative” parts of their lives. In fact, it was the first thing they did upon hearing bad news. They believed that everything was unfolding exactly as it should.

My attitude regarding my hip was wrong. It certainly wasn’t serving me in any positive way. I was annoyed that it wasn’t disappearing immediately, I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to do as much in the gym, I didn’t want to look like a cripple as I walked, and I was afraid that it wouldn’t get better. I decided to shift my attitude to gratitude.

Perhaps I was given this pain to, quite literally, stop me in my tracks. Maybe I needed to rest more or look at or change something in my life. This pain was also lending me compassion and understanding for others. Each time I winced as I moved, I remembered my aunt who’s been suffering with chronic hip and back pain for many years. I thought of clients who’ve told me of their debilitating pains. I’d always wanted to help these people but now I actually understood how they were really feeling.

Recently, Denise Linn spoke on Hay House Radio about steps for releasing fear. One of the steps was to give it new meaning. She asked, “What could be really good about it?” One of the answers she gave was cultivating compassion for others. This step can be used with any unwanted emotion or circumstance. It also allows you to face, allow, accept and even embrace the situation.

I still have the pain and I’m still struggling with the resting part of the equation but I am aware of the extra understanding and compassion I’ve gained as a result of this. Simply bringing acceptance to it is a relief. It takes away the struggle, the resistance, the fight. This even helps me physically as I’m letting go of the emotions that are causing tightness and rigidity in my body. And when I add gratitude, I remember the Indian families my friend spoke about and I feel humbled.

“The purpose of all suffering is the development of compassion.” Alicia Lee (2010) Homeopathic Mind Maps: Remedies of the Animal Kingdom.