Monday, October 08, 2012
I suppose I will too. I wrote what follows on the blog that no one can access. Sometimes I write prose...sometimes poetry. Sometimes I vent frustration and cuss a blue streak all the things I want to say on facebook in retaliation for other people's stupidity but can't because I have families who are FB friends. I share parts of my blog with my kids to show them that yes, in fact, their teacher DOES write, if only for herself sometimes, and not always lesson plans and assessments. But tonight, I share it with you.
"As you lie here, probbly for a half hour or so, think about what nourishes you," she said softly, as close to thirty hair-thin needles protruded from my back, neck, arm, and feet.
The door softly closes behind her, and tears begin to fall softly on the lavender scented pillow beneath my head.
I came to Angela because I had managed to pinch a nerve somehow, and the pain was constant. If I could just unhook my shoulderblade and massage that muscle, that nerve, underneath it, it would be fine. Half my left hand had gone numb, making it impossible to use it--who knew I used my left hand this much. Had I slept wrong? Was it an effect of the constant stress I was feeling? I knew I held my stress in my neck and shoulders--had it moved down my back because it ran out of space?
We'd discussed nutrition a little, seated in rocking chairs across from one another. We talked about how eating healthy makes a difference in the body's ability to handle stress, but we also brainstormed other things that act as nourishment for the mind and body: things like quiet, organization, activity, fruit, mac and cheese, alone-time. We talked about the fact that I hold stress in my neck and shoulders. She saw it when I walked in--my shoulders were in my ears and she could tell that I was actively trying to push them back down to where they belonged.
Chinese medicine says that those of us who give of ourselves, nurses, doctors, teachers, often do this. When the pain becomes too much, we have "broken our bowl" and are no longer able to nourish ourselves because we have given all that we have to others--our families, patients, students.
So what nourishes me? As I lay on her massage table, a fluffy pillow beneath my head, and these needles poking out of me, I thought about the things I crave when I'm upset, stressed, or really involved in a project. I crave chocolate, coffee, crunchy things, and sleep--which is really time for me to process. Sometimes I crave knowledge...so I watch documentaries or read books to learn more about something that's piqued my interest. Sometimes I crave sleep. When I sleep, I don't think. I slept for close to two weeks straight after my dad died. It allowed me to not have to talk to people, to say "thanks" when they offered their condolences or explain "how I was doing" because they couldn't possibly understand the incredible hole that was in my heart.
As I lay there, I thought about how I love apples...the way they crunch and the sweet taste when I bite into a piece I've already cut. I thought about strawberries, and how they're just tart enough, but still sweet. And I thought about how they taste when I dip them in chocolate syrup, the gooey syrup dripping back into the bowl--there has to be a bowl of syrup--squirting the syrup onto the strawberry has proven very messy in the past. I thought about why I love mac and cheese when I am feeling upset or sad. Its creamy cheesiness comforts my soul, the noodles offering sympathy, as if they are saying, "This too shall pass." Chocolate, in all its forms is comforting somehow. Chemically, it offers seratonin, which is a natural "comforting" chemical in the body, which makes me calmer...so yes, in a way it nourishes me too.
I'm finding since my friend Kelli has come to stay with me that I crave quiet, alone time more than anything else. She's very rarely *not* around because she hasn't found a permanent teaching position yet and is working only sporadically (I always think of the movie Clueless when I use that word...). And while I toddle off to work every morning at 5:30 or six in the morning, returning around 6 or 7 at night, I'm finding myself going in earlier and earlier, staying later and later. I'm not going in earlier because I have more work to do...I'm going in earlier to escape. It's why I get annoyed when colleagues come and ask questions or want to chat when they arrive--I'm still working on the assumption I'm alone. I try to hide it, but I'm sure I come off as a nasty, grumpy person. I laugh it off, saying I haven't had much coffee yet...when in fact I've had four cups. I stay late so that I can be alone, organize the piles of papers on my desk, catch up on the 800 emails I missed while I was teaching, think about how to address the never-ending stream of tattles the Tattling Turtle has received, trying to determine which require a whole-class discussion, and which require one-on-one chats, and which require nothing on my part because they have already been resolved. I stay late so that I don't go home to a person sitting on my spot on the couch, causing me to feel like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory and wanting desperately to create a roommate agreement that includes a statement about my spot on the couch.
What nourishes me? Having time to myself, when I don't have to talk or be "on" with anyone. Having time when I don't have to think about teaching, emails, obligations to families, run errands, or worry about where I am going to get more time. Having a chance to be active, alone. That was why I began running. It's a solitary sport. I'm self-conscious about what I look like when I run, and running alone eliminates that--no one else is out there. Even yoga, when practiced with 30 other people in the room, is solitary. My practice is mine. I'm not competing against anyone else, each pose honors my body where it is, where it wants to go, what it can do that day. A 90-minute practice is 90 minutes of me time. No one there cares what I am doing, what I look like. They are all trying to remain balanced, upright, and focused on their own practice.
What nourishes me? Fresh veggies from a garden--carrots with the dirt still on, baked green beans with garlic. Snap-peas, fresh corn, and lettuce with cheese and hard-boiled eggs covered in honey mustard dressing. Grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup and tomato soup. Pot roast with onions, red potatoes and carrots hot from the crock pot. A slow, chilly run on the trail alone with my thoughts, my music. A good, long nap on my couch, under a heavy blanket even when it's 70 degrees in the house. The smell of lavender and vanilla. Time spent quietly, organizing, thinking about just one thing at a time without being panicked that I'm forgetting something. The quiet of my house in the morning, with just the dripping of the coffeemaker breaking the silence. Finding something neat to use with my students. Time to research mindfully. Time to grow in my own profession, my own person. Time to fish and be outside on my own, listening to the river and fish surfacing for their dinner.
Half an hour, 30 or so needles, and time to lay on a table, draped in a soft quilt, probably made by a grandmother, and the pain in my shoulder is down to a very dull ache, almost unnoticeable. My shoulders are where the belong, far below my ears. I slept last night, beneath soft sheets, a heavy blanket, solidly without being awakened by pain or a limb falling asleep.
My bowl is still broken, but I know what I need to do. I need to nourish myself...take care of me. With food, yes, but with time, and patience, and lavender smells. Nourishing myself, body and mind, is the only thing that will fix my bowl.