Once a month I open my eyes in the middle of the night and the moon is streaming in, bright as daylight. The full moon always feels ungrounded and chaotic, illuminating even brighter all the things I already know I can’t control like my kids safety, the inevitable aging process, earthquakes, other people’s happiness….the list goes on and on. Since I was in college I have slept with the curtains at least cracked, no matter what I learn about the best environment for good sleep, I’ve always liked to wake up with natural light, so the full moon cycle is part of the process. I hate alarm clocks…I only set them if there is a plane to catch at a before dawn hour and never have trouble waking up. But this back pain was a game changer, it left me feeling foggy, unable to sleep, and groggy with the sunrise…for two months. And the world started to go a little gray. My vision was cloudy, everything sounded hard, I didn’t feel social, but then in the next moment felt lonely. I’d been to acupuncture, chiropractor, orthopedist, I was trying to figure things out, it felt like it was taking forever to get any relief. I thought I was having trouble with my mind and outlook because I couldn’t exercise, but a week after getting a steroid epidural injection to ease the pain, and still with no volleyball or hot yoga under my belt yet, I realize that the trouble wasn’t the workout schedule, it was the pain, which was turning chronic because it had no end in sight. And I’m here to tell you pain killers are not the answer. By Saturday last weekend, the sky was a new shade of blue and I found myself venturing out to Venice Ball in Venice Beach and The Wedge in Newport Beach on Sunday. The cloud that was hanging over me had lifted and my eyes could see clearly again. My perspective on chronic pain has changed with my own experience, and I’m certain this isn’t the last experience I will have with it, so while this epidural is taking the edge off and I’m learning new exercises to strengthen all the little muscles in my lower back, my glutes, and hips, I’m also thinking about how my body has taught me more about life again.
Take note of this feeling and be there for others when you see them going through it. I can be hard if we don’t pay attention and ask a few disarming questions because more often than not, people don’t raise their hand and say, “I’m suffering from pain.” I feel better equipped to listen for the little things or look for the signs and understand now how the smallest things can make a difference. A back rub, groceries, or a ride somewhere can go a long way. Not to mention, being of service to someone else is also one of the quickest ways to lift your own spirit and take your mind off any of your own pain. I don’t mean fixing…just showing the love and connecting through the experience.
There is no point in comparing pain. Handle what’s in front of you, don’t hide or distract yourself from it. It’s here to teach you something about yourself and the way you fit in this world. Just like any other comparison in life, how your pain measures up against anyone else’s doesn’t matter. What matters is how you take care of yourself and listen to your body through the experience. Attempts to ignore or mask it will only make it worse, have it come back stronger, or create new pain that ultimately needs to be dealt with. Stare it down and do the next right thing to deal with it then you will be equipped to help others too.
Don’t keep pushing toward burnout, those are real and dark days. Let yourself slow down in the ways that you can, no guilt. I’ve rediscovered my love for novels through this pain. I love to read, but had been on non fiction for awhile, but stories were one of the only things that helped take my mind off my back. Even now that I’m feeling better, novels will be a lasting habit.
Growth and meaning are always found in life when we take the next brave step forward, no matter how small or how slow. As my wise chiropractor Frank pointed out to me, pain will slow you down, even cause a momentary side step or two, before you can go forward again, but just like the moon every month, there is a cycle to everything in this life. The most important thing is not to get stuck in any particular one or we lose our connection to ourselves and the impact we can make in the world.
With love & optimism,