Pain, what we try to get away from with distractions, eating disorders, addictions, rationalizations, fantasy beliefs, comfort suppliers turns out to be a grand and relentless teacher. When your pain is strong and impervious to numbing you are confronted by teacher who gets hold of you, body and soul, and will not release you until you have learned what you need to know.
Wet from the pool I slipped on a tile floor at the gym. I came down hard on my shoulder. I didn't know it was broken. I knew I was in pain and the best place to be was flat on my back and immobile.
Early lessons about saying yes and no came in fast. Locker room attendant, with a mindless expression on her face, grabbed my arm right where the pain was most intense and tried to pull me to my feet. I told her to let me go and leave me alone. (The worst thing to do is to move a person who has been injured.) Next, caring and concerned fellow gym mates surrounded me to help by trying to lift my head and give me a pillow. (Very bad thing to do. Head or neck or spine injuries can be made much worse by lifting or moving the head in any way.) I said, no, just let me lie here for a while. Someone asked, "Can we cover you with towels to keep you warm?" (That's good. It may be innocuous or it may really help stave off shock. It wouldn't cause harm and might do good. Plus I thought it would be a good idea to keep them busy doing something that wouldn't hurt me.) I agreed to allow it, and said thank you.
A representative of the gym arrived, looking professionally beautiful if you know what I mean. She was a marketing presence and clearly, to me, wanted to protect the gym. "Do you want an ambulance?" No, I said. I just want to get out of here. I didn't trust these would be caretakers, well intentioned or not. I felt surrounded by the wrong people. With much pain and some assistance I managed to get some clothes on. The gym rep walked me to my car. She had to open the door for me. I could not. She had to buckle me in. I could not. And somehow I drove, slowly and carefully, home. Maybe not the wisest choice, but we don't get to know about the path not taken, do we?
I refused to acknowledge how serious the fall might be and saw three patients about an hour later. Then I called my chiropracter which led to swelling reduction treatment and then x-rays and an MRI. Yes, my shoulder broke in the fall.
Lessons from pain started immediately. Getting out of the club was risky, but getting the right treatment and caring from competent and trusted known people was better than waiting as an anonymous body in a hospital emergency room.
The pain was constant and terrible, but only in certain positions. I could find a way to be pain free, but I couldn't function. Couldn't lift anything, turn a doorknob, put on a bra or a jacket. I was certainly not supposed to drive. I wore shawls a lot. Lessons learned. Who helped and who did not? I won't name names here. It's not necessary. But let me say that a couple of people I thought were close and caring in my life, did nothing. Offered nothing. Left town. Didn't call when they got back. Did send me an e-mail while they were away asking me to take care of their home responsibilities for three days and night so they could extend their trip.
One friend called to say she cleared four or five hours so she could come to me and do whatever I needed: take me shopping, clean my house or whatever I said I wanted. So I had to re evaluate my impressions of the people in my life. Who had empathy and would extend themselves, and who was a continual drain with no empathy or thought to extend themselves?
I couldn't make excuses for anyone that would hold up because my pain was so debilitating that I couldn't put it aside. I slept in a zero gravity cushy chair in my living room for 26 nights because my chiropracter told me I should sleep where I could not roll on to that injured shoulder.
He actually came to my house, delivering a radiant heat machine to me and set it up for me because he thought it would help. He pulled it out of storage. Since when do doctors make housecalls anymore? I was so moved by his thoughtfulness and generous spirit. Plus, he was right. The heat helped a lot. So here was a lesson in kindness, generosity, the value of having trusted and skilled people in my life and the importance of letting my real situation be known.
Then I started to wonder what actually had happened. I could remember my slip, and I could remember my landing, but I could not remember what my body did while I was in the air. This was a tiny moment but oh so critical. I did not land on my head. I did not break my neck. I did not damage my spine. I did not land on my hip. I did not break a bone anywhere that could puncture anything. I did not break a wrist that would have made me more disabled.
I saw that in an unconscious way, without conscious thought, my body moved while I was in mid air to arrange a fall that would cause me the least harm. Even the angle was right because, while I was borderline, I did not require surgery. Lesson learned: My body is wise and brilliant. Within me is a life force that supports me regardless of my awareness.
A month prior to my fall, May 13, my dear friend and mentor, Hedda Bolgar died. I went to her funeral. Her memorial was in June. While I managed to drive a few blocks to my medical appointments I knew I could not manage to drive to the Skirball. Even with medical appointments I needed someone to pull my car out of the parking structure because I couldn't turn the wheel without pain.
Again, I was surprised about who had agreed to go with me to the memorial and then backed out. And I was surprised at who offered and did drive me there and picked me up later. Lesson learned: Re evaluate how I evaluate the people in my life. I needed to give more credit to some and less to others.
A veil, or maybe an iron curtain (Thank you, Winston Churchill, for the term) was lifting.
More to come on this because the lessons keep coming. Next will be about standing up for your own life force and honoring yourself in a way that is deeper than I have considered before. I hope you find value in this saga. And also I hope you appreciate the joy and competence I feel in being able to type with two hands on this keyboard as I write to you. :)
- Does any of this story relate to you in some way?
- Can you learn along with me and teach at the same time?
- How has pain helped you to learn and grow?