Have you ever felt this way?
Every morning upon waking, before I open my eyes or realize where I am, the unyielding ache is the immediate sensation I notice. The sharp, dull hurt sits boldly in my upper spine and neck from the rigidly supine seven hours. As the minutes ticked by, a sticky caustic fluid accumulated in every cell and joint between my hips and skull. This lame stiffness reliably greets another day. As I rouse, my instinct is to change positions, for if I lay there one more minute I might be further immobilized, and the next slightest movement will release an even deeper burn. Rolling over is like tearing off an adhesive bandage that’s been stuck to a hairy underarm for three weeks. Ever. So. Slowly.
Before I make my move, I take a deep breath and slowly begin the process of shifting my stiff body, one vertebra at a time, or so it seems. To distract myself, I waver between self-pity and gratitude, and agree on the “you deserve this” position. I really can’t complain when so many people have it way worse than me.
For over 50 years I’ve taken greedy advantage of my able and naturally flexible body. For the first 20 or so, well that’s just what you do. From then on, I passionately denied my age with abandon over the past 30. Throwing my body out of airplanes, off steep hillsides thousands of feet up, and most recently off motorcycles. Jumping off bridges attached to a bungee cord. Harshly bouncing and sometimes crashing my way down mogul runs on ski slopes. I’ve tossed my body over the handlebars of a mountain bike, and slammed hard into the water and out of my water skis. I playing the unprepared weekend warrior on the lacrosse field, one too many times. I once walked 26.2 miles on a wet and chilly November day without training for it. Then there was the time I rode my bicycle over 50 miles on a freezing February day – without training for it. Not to mention the multi-day trek in Nepal – up and down thousands of cockeyed stone stairs of varying heights – without preparing for it. Just last week, I forgot I wasn’t 10 years old when I pitched myself down an ice-packed, bumpy sledding hill on a rigid snow sled. So yeah, repeatedly slamming my body into the ground, shocking and abusing it like so many of us do.
Now that I’m done whining about wanting a house, my friends have to listen to me whine about my aches and pains. Actually, I’m not complaining about this ritual of waking up in pain. Really, I’m not. If I die tomorrow, I die happy that I got some serious amusement from this body. Sure, I’d love another 30 or 40 years of active adventure but I’m grateful for what I’ve been given. My point in sharing this is about the fear I’m up currently up against – the fear to actually get my butt back into the yoga and strength training that will, undoubtedly relieve the stiffness and pain.
I believe the situations we tend to find ourselves, occur through actions we’ve previously chosen – a combo pack of Newton’s Third Law and Karma.
Why have I chosen actions – in my case, the action of inaction of not doing yoga or strength training, that are causing me to endure pain? I used to say it was because I was being lazy. I can definitely be lazy at times, but two plus years of lazy?? I don’t think so. When I set my mind to something I’m a hard worker and rarely stop before the task is complete. If its not laziness, what is it? It’s fear. It’s much easier to believe I’m being lazy than it is to admit to being afraid. Even though I’m a proponent of the exquisite benefits of embracing one’s vulnerability, I have challenges with it. I am afraid of stepping back onto the yoga mat and facing my current limitations, the ensuing physical discomfort, and not being able to do the poses I could do when I was at my peak. Maybe its even harder when you know what you’ve been capable of in the past. When I chose to take on the task of riding my 500lb motorcycle over thousands of miles of backcountry routes two summers ago, I had no idea if I could do it or not. I was nervous, but I had nothing to lose because I was blissfully naive about what I was getting myself into. Since I used to feel quite adept in my yoga practice, I’m well aware of what I have to lose….or more accurately, facing what I have lost. Funny how staring down at the yoga mat now seems scarier to me than staring down at some rocky deep water-crossing. And believe me, that shit was scary.
The words “I can’t” rarely emanate from my stubborn little head. So, if there’s an opportunity to do something I find interesting, I do it. I continue to do and suffer, do and suffer. I’m fortunate to be so masochistic. Yet I’ve been too much of a wimp to revisit the yoga I immersed myself in for a few years to heal a broken heart. My heart is healed, but healing my body seems like an equally titanic undertaking. Will I wait until I’m desperate to put an end to the pain, as I did with the heartache?
I refuse to jump on the bandwagon and make horrendous statements such as “I’m no spring chicken anymore.” Shudder. I refuse to use age as the excuse for the intensity of my aches and pains – because it is NOT my age, I’m only 52. It’s the fact that I haven’t taken care of it lately. It’s the fact that I’ve gratuitously used and abused my body without proper aftercare. I’d been warned by those older and wiser, but instead chose the Take it-for-Granted Highway and the I’ll-do-Yoga-next-week Train to freakin’ nowhere. Since I vehemently deny that age has much of anything to do with my waking daily to stiff pain, there’s only one way to prove it. Put my money where my mouth is, and get the fuck back on the yoga mat – transform the fear into curiosity, and use this God-given body for realz.