My spine is crooked.
It started curving some time in my childhood, first one way, then another, then twisting another way. A dangerous way. It pushed my heart and lungs against my ribcage and the only way we knew anything was wrong, was the twisting disfigurement.
I was thirteen years old when we went to the hospital to have x-rays done and I was scheduled for surgery--urgently--for a month later.
I have a scar running the length of my back and two rods on either side of my spine, holding it in its new position. Straighter than before. But not actually straight by any means.
I was given a few days of healing in the hospital, a few days of physical therapy, and I was sent home with a few exercises printed on a piece of paper. Some weight restrictions. Lots of activity restrictions. And appointments for the next few years.
They prepared me to be able to function again. Right in the middle of when I was learning about living at all. But they didn't prepare me to function well. I was just so thankful to not be as disfigured as I had been, I didn't think I needed more than I was being given. More preparation, more healing, more therapy.
It would be ten years before I'd ask for those things.
But what's hard about asking for those things, is the sharp left turn you must take. The sharp left turn which leads you into difficult territory. The hard work of starting over. The hard work of resistance.
And so much pain.
The body is a master at compensation.
The body is designed to operate. Almost no matter what. It's designed in a beautiful way to make up for where and what we lack. The dangerous part though is we grow used to operating this way. Sometimes we compensate in such a way we don't quite notice what's going wrong. Maybe we don't even feel like something is wrong.
Until it hurts.
Like a car with alignment that's off.
Until the tire's tread starts wearing unevenly, until we start veering in the wrong direction, we don't even realize something is amiss.
And it took me closer to fifteen years to find the answers I needed.
The heartbreaking part is I can't fix what's broken.
The empowering part is that I can do more than just function.
That's this journey.
Following the continuum from functioning to optimal functioning.
Whatever my optimum may be.
In the training world, mobility and soft tissue work is now my prescription.
There's an expert in the field who I turn to for teaching and in an instructional video the other day he put a lacrosse ball under his back and laid down.
Wriggling around he said, "find the ugly and go to work".
He was, of course, talking about tied up tissues and locked up mobility. Teaching us to find where it hurts and put pressure there, help increase blood flow there, loosen the knots there.
But I heard it differently.
Pema Chodron says, "when we are willing to stay even a moment with uncomfortable energy, we gradually learn not to fear it".
This is becoming my truth.
When I find something that hurts, when I discover a way in which I am not functioning properly, and I am willing to get down and find the ugliness... if I'm willing to sit with it, to breathe through the uncomfortable, to exhale through the hurt, that's where I'm going to find healing.
Kelly Starrett, the resident expert on this subject of mobility and soft tissue training, also reminds us that we can do work all day long but if we do not correct the errant movement pattern we are just treating symptoms.
If we don't change the way we move, we're going to keep having symptoms to treat.
If we don't change the way we move, the body is still going to compensate and we are still going to hurt. We are still going to have pain. We are still going to have tight muscles and sore tendons and inflamed joints and broken hearts.
Changing our movement patterns is painful in a way that recovering an injury isn't.
We have to take off all the weight.
We cannot change our movement pattern and expect to be able to bear the load we carried before.
We have to reestablish balance.
And we have to move slowly.
What's done must be done with intention because we must retrain. We must defy the pattern which is instilled as automatic. What we want to do, what we are inclined to do, is not what must be done.
We have to nearly start over.
Humble ourselves and become a beginner again, hoping that moving forward we will find a way to function in wholeness.
That even though it hurt before, we can find a way to move which causes less pain.
We can find a way to move, which is more truth that adaptation.