I am sure that there are not many of us – maybe none of us – who can say we have never been unwell or have injured ourselves during the course of our life and as a result have had to make our way through the necessary healing process. I sure can’t say that, in fact looking back over the seven decades of my life, I seem to have had a life full of physical ups and downs and their subsequent healing processes and could consider myself an expert, but that is one area of expertise I could certainly do without laying claim to. It took until my early 60’s to begin to understand more about why I became unwell or why I injured myself, and one thing is very clear, there is always a reason. I have come to understand that everything comes down to each choice I have made and in some cases the sum total of all these choices that led to the consequences.
We live from the moment we are born in a body that is stupendous and awe-inspiring in its physical construction, a body that gets on with the job of keeping us alive, doing what it naturally knows to do to keep us breathing, moving, and living life,
And whether we pay it much attention or not, in many cases our body actually knows how to heal itself. For example – if you break a bone and the two ends are placed together and supported, the bone will heal; the accuracy of this of course will depend on the quality of the physical union of the dis-connected parts, the treatment we receive, and the way we live during this healing phase. Our number one job is to support the process while our medical practitioners support us to understand what is going on and the part that we play in the healing. But whether we take responsibility for that part, or not, is of course totally up to us and so will be any consequences.
So, what if we go back a step or two and examine how we came to break the bone in the first place. I would say that most would say that it was an accident, it just happened, but is that really the case? Was the fall down the steps that led to the break really an accident or did we have a part to play in it? Maybe we were feeling very distracted as the result of an argument or in a hurry to get somewhere, and as a result of this distraction we have allowed in, we were not being fully present in our body at that moment.
It’s not about blaming ourselves in any way, instead simply taking responsibility for our actions that lead to what we would call an accident and for what comes next knowing that we have the opportunity to make a different choice in the next moment. As I age, I am coming to realise that in every moment each choice I make as to how I move is super important as my older body may not bounce back from an injury as quickly as it would have done when I was younger.
Five months ago, I was finally doing a job I had put off for ages, replacing some rings on a curtain. I realised that I needed to stand on a chair to reach the top of the curtain without overstretching myself – self-care 101 – but then realised that I couldn‘t reach the end of the curtain so got down off the chair and started to move it but the dehumidifier was in the way. In that moment I made a choice, and that was not to move the dehumidifier as something convinced me that was way too hard as it was full of water, and so instead I moved the chair past it. Looking back, I can feel that I was trying to save time – and what a misconception that was! I stepped back up on the chair and as I did my head hit the top of the door frame – an extremely painful ouch! Choice and consequence. One moment of choice – not moving the dehumidifier – lead to the consequence of a very painful bang on my head.
And for a moment, after a few tears and an expulsion of words fuelled by frustration and pain, I began to berate myself for doing so, but suddenly stopped as I realised that I was in enough physical pain and adding to it with some mental pain wasn’t necessary. As I had made the choice that I had, I could not call what eventuated an accident, as I would have in the past, but simply accepted my part in what happened and made a note to be way more careful in the future. A consequence like this is definitely something to avoid especially as this ageing body, although in surprisingly good shape, does not need any unnecessary damage inflicted on it.
In the past, I also would have probably shrugged off any discomfort and after swallowing a couple of anti-inflammatory pills I would have simply got on with what I was doing but instead, I chose to stop and be still for a moment or two.
I could feel that my body was in shock and as with all cases of shock the natural breathing rhythm had been affected, so the next choice was to bring my focus back to my breath, breathing gently in and out through my nose. It didn’t take long to feel the reconnection to my body deepen with each breath. As I began to settle into the stillness that my focussed breath was bringing me the points of tension in my body were highlighted one by one; the obvious pain in my head, the tension in my shoulders and neck, and the ripples of pain down my spine – after all, every vertebra is connected – and I even clocked a tightening of my jaw. I know from past similar incidences that I would only ever bring my focus to the part of me that was hurting totally overlooking the obvious, that all parts of my body are connected in some way, either immediately or by association.
Now you would think that I would have learned my lesson from this painful consequence, but obviously not, as 24 hours later I hit my head again and in the same place. And once again I had been offered a different choice, one that would have had a pain-less consequence. This time I was instantly in tears and angry at myself, feeling very upset that once again I had overridden the self-loving choice I had been offered, i.e. get the person with me to move the heavy item, but I didn’t and once again the pain-full consequence became my responsibility. But I chose to let the anger go and did what I knew my body needed at that time.
Although I may have stopped beating myself up the impact of these two events was already unfolding. Little did I know that the consequences this time were a little more serious and that I had actually sustained a concussion, something that was not revealed for another week. In the beginning, I simply considered it to be another hit on the head but day by day things began to change with the overwhelming tiredness and the compunction to close my eyes all the time signalling that there was something else at play. This was confirmed about a week later when working on the computer I became very dizzy and nauseous. Now, this was definitely one message I could not ignore, one that was subsequently confirmed by the doctor as being a concussion.
The confirmation came with a long list of dos and don’ts, like don’t drive – therefore I couldn’t work at my day job; don’t spend too long on the computer – so, therefore, most of my voluntary project work on several websites had to be put on hold. Rest, rest and rest some more was the prescription. It did not take too long to realise that the way I was living was definitely going to have to be adjusted, and adjusted it has been in many ways.
Five months later the healing is still unfolding and along with it has come a long list of lessons that I have learned – some extremely uncomfortable but many offering the potential to change my life: and change it they have. As the days, weeks and months have passed there have been moments of pain, discomfort, frustration, sadness, and impatience at the perceived slowness of the healing process but there have also been great moments of joy when I have realised the value of the lessons learned. And of course, there has been the continuing, and hugely expanding, appreciation for this amazing body of mine.
Yes, in the eyes of the world I might be classed as being old, and inhabit a body that is starting to slow down a little, but it is still one magnificent body that has continually been very loud and clear in its communication. And what it is saying is that, no matter what age we are, our bodies are ‘breakable’ and therefore they need all the love, care, respect, and reverence that we can offer them, in every moment of our lives.
So, with these wise messages being presented to me daily I have finally been able to let go of the frustration and the impatience and in their place:
- I have acknowledged the wisdom of my body to heal
- I have accepted that I can support that process by the way I choose to live, and
- I have come to deeply appreciate that pain and discomfort do not define who I am…
… for the essence of who I am will continue to shine every moment of my life no matter what is unfolding in my body…