A tingly numbness started in the heel of the left foot, through the hamstring and into the gluteus muscles. Mile by mile, I watched the pain move up and down my leg. I made note of each ache, compiling a full report for my next physical therapy appointment. I thought I wasn’t strong enough or something needed to work itself out. I kept running.
When I sat down, the pain pinched the hip and irritated the gluts and thigh with a stinging heat. During the workday, I was imprisoned by a ninety-degree angle, shifting in my desk chair and readjusting my hips without relief. I could not take a break or else I would fall behind. I kept working.
“Pain is a sign that something needs to change.”
The passage glowed, lifted itself from the page like a scene in a 3-D movie. Yes! There was a lesson here. There was a reason for this pain. If I could just find the right stretch or let go of my emotional burdens, the pain would lift and I’d be back on track again. I kept running.
The registration fees were paid and the training schedule was set. I denied the tightness capturing the lower back and the throbbing leg that disturbed my precious sleep. The voice of ego and determination were so convincing that they drowned out the messages from the body, screaming, “You have to let this go!”
An acute ache in my heart joined the physical pain that had been with me for five months. I stopped moving. Mornings were for sleeping. Wednesday nights felt empty and endless. God, I was so sad. It was that clinging, pervasive sense of sadness that follows you around, like after someone dies or you break up or you lose a part of yourself. If I didn’t Run or practice Yoga or teach Pilates, who was I? I certainly was not my day job. While I ached for that morning run, I also believed the Universe was telling me to slow down and The Beatles were asking me to Let It Be. So I did.
Pain became my identity and companion. I couldn’t sleep and I worked too much. And I didn’t write. Because I wasn’t a Writer anymore either. I was Pain. My doctor could not figure out the problem, neither could the chiropractor, physical therapist or massage therapist. I had an EMG and MRI and NVC and wondered WTF was wrong.
My doctor called with the test results. She said there was nothing of significant value that could explain my symptoms. She assumed I was crying because of the pain, but I was actually crying because she did not have an answer. She recommended that I go to an orthopedic spine doctor. He frankly said that this was chronic pain and the road ahead was going to be tough. I cried because I knew he was right.
Despite giving up all activity (except for walking) for over two months, my body was not getting better. I felt him—yes, the pain was definitely a him—creeping into my upper back, into my shoulder and arm.
At this point, I deployed an annoying yet effective get-you-what-you-want-when-you-want-it-now strategy, which I mastered as the youngest child of my family: whining.
God! Don’t you see that I’ve given up everything? I already learned your lesson. I let go, I cannot be defined by the external, blah blah blah. What do you want from me now? Pleeease, tell me.
Hey, Universe! Did you get your Karmic coincidences mixed up? I see a girl smoking and eating HoHos over there, she needs the “body is a temple” lesson wayyy more than me. I’m begging you to stop punishing me.
Though God said nothing and Miss Universe kept her unfair lips shut, the pain let me know that he was still here.
I could keep whining. The pain will persist. I can deny it or accept it, pursue treatment or withdraw into myself. The pain gets better and gets worse. In moments of frustration, I say “fuck this” and in moments of hope, I can muster an “embrace this”. The Beatles sing There Will Be An Answer, but I’m not sure there is one. Each day and moment presents a decision on how to cope. Let It Be. There is not an answer. There is a choice.