I’ve been mending for three plus weeks from a severe lower spine/sciatic nerve injury and it has been a painful gift, yes a gift.
I have had a tenuous back for a long time now due to years of heavy landscape construction and have suffered many times from outages that had me howling and afraid to move. All of that was nothing compared to this. The crippling pain I’ve recently experienced reduced me to barely crawling at home and my incredible mom doing everything for me. I do like being nurtured and I’m not used to being taken care of. I was always the hunter gatherer taking care of everyone else, especially Jill and especially in the last seven months from medical dumbassness to her death two years ago.
I had grown up going to the hospital many, many times with my orthopedic emergency surgeon dad and was conditioned to detach from people’s pains so the work that needed to be done could get done. I have realized that I did this in some part with Jill when she was ill. I was loving and protective but not connected to her pain, which is something I now would welcome.
I knew that she was suffering as she “healed” and yet I still continued to do what “had/needed” to be done to take care of us and her and our home and business and clients and employees and life and yada yada yada. I can see now that I was avoiding connecting to her pain because I had spent my entire life not wanting to feel mine. I did not want to remember my childhood, my abuse, my betrayal. I did not want to own that I was scared of everything and terrified of not being liked or accepted or being good enough.
All this would’ve had to surface if I tapped into her pain, so I didn’t.
I cry as I write this last line because it could have been beautiful to be present in all moments of her pain and her fear and her not knowing. I took great care of her and supported her in every way I knew. I do not regret who or how I was and understand that it what supposed to be like that or it would not have been like that. To be angry at what was supposed to happen or wishing it was different is like yelling at the rain. For what? If it wasn’t supposed to happen, it would not have, period.
I was not given the gift of connecting with my deeply ingrained pain and patterns until Jillie left. Her leaving her body was my gift. This is now obvious to me and took a lot of looking inward and getting to understand the roots of my own pain to get from there to here and… I would do it again. I love Jill with all my heart and spirit and would not want her and our life back (if that was even possible) if it meant me being the same person that I was because that person was not really alive to life and I’d likely stroke out from all the doing and running from myself. I’d venture to guess that her parents and brother and friends would not like to hear this from me. Perhaps this is selfish but considering that I spent my life in fearful “selfless” service of others I am glad to have this healthy, balanced heart centered thought. This is the first time in my life that I like all of who I am and am not fearful of what life may or may not be. “No feeling is good or bad or right or wrong, it just is what it is and if it doesn’t serve you anymore then maybe you’ll make a shift, or not.” My friend Charlie said this to me right after I stopped them from trying to revive Jill for the last time. I somehow already knew this but was not ready to make any shift yet. I stayed in take care of business mode (cremation, services), took pills, and avoided everything except the constant and sometimes rogue waves of horror that crashed my spirit’s shores without invitation.
After some months of checking way out by any means possible I began to slowly, breath by breath, learn to stay with the waves until they were done, allowing whatever feelings their fullest expression. Along with journaling (which I was always terrified to do as somebody else might find it!) and introspection I began to feel small shifts. Some subtle self awareness was beginning to kick in. I always knew that we only need a body to be here and realized that my karma this time around included an agreement with Jillie (pre-corpus) that we would come together this lifetime, know unconditional love, and then she would leave so I could unburden my spirit’s heavy cloak of pain and shame and know peace and joy instead of bouts of harmony and temporary states of pleasure. What a trade off, to lose the woman I love to finally love the person that I am. Thank you to Jill and Ian for agreeing to this. To be able to spend the rest of my physical days (which can end at any moment) with awareness and peace and joy is worth the pain I had to look at and the sorrow I had to fully embrace.
I learned that I cannot stop feeling the “bad/sad/painful” feelings without also preventing feeling the “good/happy/peaceful” feelings. Shut down one part means shut down all parts and anything else is kidding myself. This does not mean that I do not get thrown off or that patterns don’t still arise, but when they do I am not attached to them or judging them and can allow them to have their noisy gusts and then move on. So now when the wind in my mind blows it doesn’t make my emotional/spiritual hairs stay in full tilt for the rest of my day or week or life. I learned that the key to staying with uneasiness is breathing and letting go. Slow inhales and slow exhales, allowing the opportunity for space for my body and soul to process what it needs to so I don’t have to keep repeating the same thing over and over. A Buddhist monk was once asked what he had learned in his decades of practice to which he responded “to be okay with impermanence and uncertainty is to know peace.” I know that what isn’t and what was and what may or may not be keeps me from being present so to stay mindful without a full mind is a great thing to practice. It is practice, a lifelong yoga of being practice.
Another lesson from my injury is ego which loves a windy mind. A painful lesson in knowing better yet not listening to my inner heart centered guidance. My back was already aching from three weeks before this injury when I “went for it” in yoga class, I call it class this time because if I had really been practicing then I would not have gotten hurt the first time. I “went for it” because I was thinking (not actually tuning in feeling) “strong” that day. I wasn’t present with my body and breath and wanted to max out my moves and be the “man” in a class of women. I wanted to show that whatever they could do, I could do as well or better and I know they don’t care anyway. I did the contrary of what yoga is about. Yoga is really about about proving or judging but being and acknowledging where I am at the present moment. Mind/body/heart connectivity. A private practice within a group setting.
Had I not taken my own bait again this time it’s likely I wouldn’t have learned this once and for all and continue in the pattern. And I didn’t learn it from that day in class or a few weeks later when I dragged a small shrub a few feet to a co-worker because I didn’t want to be perceived as weak or superior. I only learned/saw it this week when I started to amble, not yet walk, with less pain and no drugs. I learned it only when I decided to look at why I got hurt. Were there lessons in it? Of course, everything is a lesson and everyone is my teacher.
The lessons are the same ones I have been practicing since Jillie left. Breathe, slow down and be present with whatever I am doing, there is nothing to prove, I am a good person, and true strength is in knowing and liking myself. A true spiritual warrior has a vulnerable heart and humble spirit. I’m glad for all that life offers and thankful that I am able to, after decades of sleeping my way against life, participate in it consciously, gratefully, peacefully, and with equanimity. namaste