It's All Part of the Process
This is Part 24 of a serial blog originally titled 'Martha Carter's Healing Journey'. In Part 23, I circle back to the topic of Somatics to update readers on my research and experience with this incredible healing practice since my December blog. In Part 22, it’s All Retreats, All the Time! I share the value of retreats, why they’ve long been a part of my life, and what they reveal, heal, and shift in all of us, alongside some great photo collages of past TOPS retreats. Missed the earlier posts? Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, and Part 21.
This is a confession.
A confession in that as much as I am completely dedicated to exploring everything possible to help my body, it can be really hard.
Both physically and (sometimes even more) emotionally.
Sometimes, for a few hours - a few days - or even much longer, my emotions get the best of me. It can be very depressing and frustrating to have a physical disability. No wonder... It is a constant fight, and the pain is always there. It can be very draining.
But then I feel better again, and I get back to my practice.
It is all part of the process.
To illustrate my point, I am sharing a ‘script’ of what went through my head during a retreat I recently attended…
Lying in the studio, under the fan; feeling hot and bothered.
I don’t understand why I suddenly feel tears rising, a tightness in my throat, frustration and anxiety in my stomach.
I am in the first day of a week-long workshop where we are studying deep, applied anatomy. My favorite kind of multi-layered ‘pilates-somatics-yoga-dance-organs’ class. Every exercise requires complete focus, reaching into profound sensations of contraction and extension as we arch and flatten and lift and twist.
As I follow the teacher’s words, I feel my body ‘give’ in some places and resist in others.
Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it feels really strange - disconnected; painful. And sometimes I can’t do it at all.
My emotions follow this pattern too.
Shortly after we start, my inner ‘devil’ voice chimes in:
“I can’t do this movement.
I want to, but I can’t do it well enough.
I feel like such a loser. I can’t keep up.
I am too slow. Too stiff.
Damn fused spine!
Everyone else is so much more ‘abled’.
Oh shut up, Martha.
Quit comparing yourself to others.
Comparison is violence.”
I keep getting up for yoga props.
More props than anyone else.
I can’t find a good position.
I keep shifting, feeling fussy.
Between my scoliosis hump and fusion, not to mention my bad knee, there is always something calling out for attention; something crying out in pain.
I grab another pillow.
“I am so crooked in this position. Where are my scoliosis pads?”
I get up to find them and lay back down again.
(The class is already moving on to the next exercise.)
“Oh shoot, I really need to move to the wall for back support.
Shit, I should have grabbed a chair.”
I turn over and spill my water.
“Damn! Stupid water!!
It’s not my fault I can’t do the five kneeling poses in a row thanks to my bad knee.
Or those delicious looking twists and backbends due to my fused spine.
Or… or… or...
I feel left out.
What’s the point of even being here if I can’t do half the movements?
I should just keep doing my own practice all alone, because this is way too challenging.
If I am not careful, I am going to hurt myself.
I feels like nobody understands.
Boo hoo hoo...”
On some level, I am aware of the total and utter unhelpfulness of my inner dialogue, and I know that I am completely torturing myself with it.
Of course the teacher knows me, and understands my limitations. I don’t have to do anything I don’t feel comfortable with. And I can totally recognize that I am not alone as every single person faces their own challenges.
But I can’t seem to stop. I am on a roll:
“Only scoliosis warriors really understand.
So nobody in this class understands.
Should I tell them?
If I do, maybe they will understand better...
But who cares if they understand?
Just breathe into your own sensation, and shut up!”
For the rest of the class, I fight back the tears as my emotions rise to the surface.
Against my will, my talk becomes ‘double-talk’. The first voice is my devil voice talking everything down, and the second is my reasoning (yet scolding) voice, telling me to stop being difficult or fussy.
Double negative talk!
“If I talk about how much it hurts then I feel like I am complaining, but
if I don’t mention it, and just try to take it easier, then I feel like I am not trying.
I can’t seem to feel what the teacher wants me to feel.
I feel wrong - unable - DIS-abled.
Oh, I really feel the need to explain that I cannot do that pose…
Ughh... but I don’t want to seem resistant - negative - unhopeful.
I don’t want to come across as defensive and unwilling.
If I can’t do it, why am I here?
Oh for pete’s sake, SHUT UP, MARTHA!!”
My yoga training kicks in and I observe myself as I get more and more stressed. I remind myself that I know how to look after myself, so I should just calm down and try to enjoy what I can.
But I can’t.
It suddenly occurs to me that this is a place I have been many times before. That place in a movement class where I realize (again) that my fused spine DOES get in my way; that there are certain things I simply cannot do, and I am still having trouble accepting that.
It seems like everyone has a key to a special door that leads to a special place, but when I get to the door, my key doesn’t work. I don’t get to go in and experience the wonders.
Instead, I have to wait outside.
This place is the moment when my ego takes over... I hate being different.
My reasoning goes out the window as I melt into a complicated mess of vulnerability, sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, abandonment, rejection, shame, fear, and impatience - and it starts to spiral.
I sigh as I realize that these are all the same feelings I had during my long bed stay after I went through fusion surgery as a teenager. Hmmm.
Feeling sorry for myself.
“Feeling weak… I should know better by now.
Haven’t I finished releasing yet?”
As the tears roll down my face, I feel something release in my lower back.
What did I just feel?
Is that a friggin’ release?
Did my sacrum actually move beyond its usual limited sway??
If I tilt like this, and breathe like this, and feel my organs like this, then...
Through the depths of my blubbering, I suddenly find a new connection.
A whole new world of possibility. A deeper layer.
An awareness that I have been working towards without truly believing it was ever going to be possible.
I am reminded of a line from my performance, ‘TWiSTED’, where I say “things can always get better, but sometimes they get worse first.”
The teacher reminds us to be curious.
I roll onto my back.
“Wow, my middle back feels funky.
Good? Bad? Not sure.
Tender, but it’s moving!
It doesn’t feel blocked, for the first time ever.
Things can still get better! My back can still change!
So quit your complaining.
Buck up and have fun.
All is well.”
I reluctantly start to realize that I am okay...
The teacher comes over:
“Wow, Martha, your movement is so much more clear than the last time I saw you!
Less disorganized; more integrated.”
I start to laugh…
In my next blog, I explore the concept of patience.
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