***Warning: This is a more personal post as I’m heading into surgery next week and wanting a little extra tenderness from others and also myself. When I come out, it will be time to do things differently than I’ve done them the last 20 years. Please send love and Jedi powers.***
Bear with me now as I try to flesh out all that is happening here and how you and I can glean some beautiful insight to make our lives a vivacious dance!
The body is an important vehicle in life. It not only takes you to the grocery store to buy food, shuttles you to dates and celebrations, but also must sit patiently (and hopefully quietly) in a chair, strong in its health, as a writer types away the ideas that come. The body must be able to sit for periods of time, letting the fingers move, while the rest of you stays put. Now, that’s hard for a body to do, day after day. A body was built for walking, hunting, throwing spears, making love. To ask it to calmly sit and not bother you, while you crank out 65,000 words, is a tall order.
This is what I have been asking of my body. Year after year. Only, I can see now that haven’t ask nicely. Mostly, I’ve ignored my body and put it in a corner, doing whatever I want, with no thought to its feelings or needs, all the while expecting my one-and-only-skin-and-bone-vehicle to stay happy. Mostly, I don’t seem to pay attention to my body until it becomes a loud siren pulling, tugging, screaming in retaliation. When it’s rebelled, I’ve been angry. Like now.
Recently, I’ve joined the millions of people diagnosed with a trendy “autoimmune” disease.
My head has been hurting, almost every day.
When I write, my hands cramp, my back aches, and my neck throbs.
And the chronic pain I’ve had for the last 20 years often keeps me on the couch, away from kiteboarding, hiking, tennis and an array of other fun, physical experiences.
While I’ve laughed a hell of a lot during that time, I’ve also spent days in bed from panic attacks and a whacked out nervous system.
I have other symptoms which are too private to mention.
Now, the tear in my shoulder from competitive college tennis days requires a surgery that, as the doctor put it, “hurts like a motherfucker.”
And I’m tired.
Even in the wake of all this, I’ve mostly let my body keep on screaming while I ignored it, hoping it will just shut up so I can concentrate on my real life.
In the past, I normally did one of two things:
1). Bash & Eat
An autoimmune disease is, literally, your body attacking itself. I consider myself a pretty aware human being, conscious that “thoughts become things” and yet, I’ve notice lately, how many lies of hate and unlove that I send to my body on a daily basis. I am impatient with the ‘messages’ of pain my physical body sends to me, and I bash myself for hurting and cramping with responses like: “stupid shoulder.” Then, I attempt to quiet (a.k.a. Numb) my body with Netflix or popcorn or sugar or some other fix so it will stop talking to me.
Yet, every time I eat a scoop of Belgium Chocolate Ice Cream or enjoy a slice of pizza, I also feel the anxiety racketing up, because I know I will ‘pay for it’ tomorrow, and probably for the next week, with uncomfortable and often painful symptoms. Of course, I do routinely attempt to ‘whip myself into shape’ with an internal bashing of “just don’t do it, Elizabeth.” But anyone who has every tried to live their entire life eating like a saint knows that “don’t do it” mantras aren’t helpful. And so continues the cycle of bash-and-eat, bash-and-binge, bash-and-numb.
I can keep this emotional addiction to food a secret because I’m one of those ‘skinny bitches’ as my boss used to call me. (Though I do prefer the term “tall drink of water” instead.) Good genes have carried me to the forth to decade of my life, with no one questioning my habits, not even me.
My other “coping” mechanism? I’ve been reading all the books I can on how to solve this problem. I truly love to learn, grow, expand, breakthrough, and repeat. So, logging in to read articles is a natural action; one I’ve always prided myself on. I’ve read countless WebMD posts! But as a trusted friend recently said to me: “Trump and WebMD are the devil.”
Not to mention, basically, what I’ve read leads me to believe the ONLY way to live a vibrant and exhilarating life is to never eat another chocolate croissant again. Or take a sip of bourbon from my friend’s hidden flask.
The Root Cause of the Pain
My body is desperately trying to get my attention, and I have my head in a hardcover.
My body is ready to say what it needs, but I don't believe it.
I’ve turned to doctors, books, and the Internet to see what they say I should do.
I’ve turned to chiropractors, surgeons, aryuvedics, massage therapists, acupuncturists. I’ve looked at conventional medicine, eastern medicine, and functional medicine. I’ve consulted energy healers and googled a million homeopathic remedies. I’ve been planning, plotting, and gathering advice from Amy Meyers, The Clean Program. I’ve researched a array of supplements and zinc, and copper.
This self-perpetuating flood of outside wisdom is absolutely over-whelming.
Of course, they all have varying opinions which…
Makes me more uncertain.
More scared that I can’t solve this problem, that I’ll be stuck feeling sick and down and out forever.
More anxious that I’m not doing the right thing.
Surely, I’m not alone in this quandary, or else there wouldn’t be a million diet fads, and Paleo cookbooks, and blogs devoted to solve the plight of those with candida, psoriasis, celiac disease, fybromaliga, diabetes, and thousands of other diseases that range from “can live with” to “will die from.”
A dear friend, a beautiful dewdrop of hope, gave me some advice I hadn’t considered before.
“There is a lot of wisdom out there,” she said. “But your body is also an authority. And your body is trying to talk to you.”
What if you listened to your body, actually listened to it?
What if you talked to you body as a being?
Say, Hey Body, since you will be driving me around all day, all my life, what do you want?”
Listening to my body seemed like an easy prospect.
Then again, listening to the body is so fucking hard, when one is addicted to finding the wisdom “out there.” It takes time to learn to trust again.
The day after Letticia suggested I listen to the wisdom within, I found myself scouring the internet for homeopaths cures for psoriasis.
When Annie Rose suggested I throw all out all my books on food and health and just pay attention, I proceeded to Amazon and bought some new books on food and health.
I’m still working on developing my listening skills. Here's what I see so far:
How to listen to Your Body's Inner Wisdom
STEP 1: LOVE
Now, I’m not a complete wanker; I do nurture and care for myself in many ways. For instance, everyday I give my body an oil massage to hydrate. Every day I ingest some kind of ‘food medicine’ like fresh ginger tea or lemon water. The difference is, I haven’t been acknowledging the process in the moment. Rather these tasks are done with the same rush as a mother who, in a pinch to get out the door, shoves a hot pocket in her kids hand as she buckles him into his car seat. (Who me? Yes, me.)
That hurriedness is the same way I massage my body with oil or take in food. No wonder my body feels so neglected, no wonder it’s attacking itself. Not only doesn’t it not feel heard, it hasn’t felt loved or cared for, sexy or desired. Rather, it feels blown off and ridiculed, and potentially, even, abused.
Love reacts in a whole other way. Love is patient and gentle when it needs to be. Love doesn’t abuse or neglect. Love honors and appreciates. At least, that is my view on love. What is yours? What would it look like to love our bodies?
STEP 2: TUNE IN
One day, I woke up from a nap, thirsty.
I didn’t want to quite wake up yet, or get out of bed. But the day was hot, I’d hiked 4 miles in the morning, my body needed water. My body WANTED water. And I felt giddy: So, this is what it is like when my body talks. It’s says, “go ahead get up, we need some water now.” I actually heard what my body had to say. And so I’m here, listening and sipping water. I’m paying attention more and more, beginning to understand the difference between a craving, a desire, a need.
Today my body says it wants to move, to swim, to yoga.
It says it wants to enjoy the spaces around me, so clean the kitchen for fuck’s sake and the closet while you are at it. Stop wearing clothes that don’t make me feel anything but absolutely fabulous, dah-ling!
And so I’m listening, tuning in. I wonder what else my body will say?
I think it’s going to be fun listening to my body.
Take a moment to tune in to what your body is telling you.
STEP 3: HANDLE LOGISTICS
I can love and tune-in all day, but there is a practical follow-through that leads to fulfillment. So the next questions I have for my body are:
Is it grocery shop on demand, rather then a bunch all at once?
It is take a bath?
Time to wrap a scarf around my neck to keep in the warmth?
Have some wholesome ‘sweets’ snacks on hand, so I don’t grab the junk food?
Is it better to bake in the morning, so I don’t put you under strain, dear body, when you are tired late at night?
Do you prefer linen or cotton?
Would you enjoy walking in a weekly hiking group? Or are yoga classes more your gig?
If the body wants a nap, listen, even if everyone is going out, then take a nap.
If the body needs a treat, treat it. Treat it in a way that nourishes and restores.
Be ready to act on any of the million possible actions that can support the body.
What I'm Not Saying
I’m not saying these steps will cure cancer or any other life-threatening disease.
I’m not saying we ought to indulge every craving.
I’m not saying that we should abort the doctor’s advice, or ignore the incredible resources on the internet; those are all important, and, often, life-saving wisdoms.
No, no, what I’m saying is:
Let’s listen a bit more to help us know what advice feels right to us.
Let’s listen with compassion to hear the pleas, the appreciation, and the music our beautiful bodies have to offer.
Let’s listen and trust that our bodies know a shit ton more than we think.
A Good Start
What I write about here is not the end-all-be-all; it’s just a start.
A small, but crucial start to stop the insanity.
To connect to our inner wisdom.
To integrate our hearts and minds with the body.
And to love, our god-given temple of flesh, and veins, blood, puss and intricately woven systems that function to serve us, so we can move…
So we can play…
So, we can sit down to write, Allelujah!
It’s a good start, don’t you think?