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Posts Tagged ‘recovery’

spine

Some people have spiritual journeys. Like the woman at the pool today. She gave me a copy of her book, the one she’s self-published about her awakening. Praise and bible verses sing their glory from the pages. She told me Satan still tempts her sometimes.

I’m going to have to read this because we’re neighbors. We need each other more than I need the security of my convictions. I’ll learn about her journey. No matter how indirect its impact on my life, a person’s story is a big deal. Reading a slice of it is a small task.

Lately, my journey has strayed far from the spiritual. I’ve gone on a physical detour, as if I’ve stumbled upon some hidden hatch and tripped into my own body. I wander through this wondrous machine, in awe of what I’m witnessing. Connections! Understanding! Everyone needs to hear about this transformation — You! Yes, you! — because it could be this good for you too! Really! This one simple set of practices could give you back life you didn’t even know you’d lost!

Because who doesn’t love hearing yet another opinion about how to improve oneself?

(more…)

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Hand Wraps

His daughter sits on the basement floor and colors, if what she’s doing can be called that. The enchanted forest book was among yesterday’s Christmas loot. Green ink creeps in swirls as she embellishes the narrow space between the veins of a leaf. She barely registers the music screeching past as it thuds thuds in time to leather gloves pounding a heavy bag.

This is his three minutes. I squeeze into a corner of the blue mat on my back. My clasped hands are wrapped in ragged strips of fabric and swipe at the air as I curl into crunches, press towards 50 and then surge past. Close to my exposed flank – too close – he jolts and slips and ducks. The weight falls off as beads of sweat hit the mat. Shadows of sinew cut into his shoulders. Ropes braid his neck. He dances with power thrumming along every string.

The earlier chapters are carved into flesh hidden beneath skin. The tongue is lost but the meter of those verses is translation enough. Ghosts jammed their grappling hooks into his jaw and temple and laid their weight against the cables. Claw over claw, they tried to draw him with stubborn resolve down into that pit where they boil the tar and hemlock, where they chant their cold spells. Mother Gothel learned her arts there before planting her garden. You may know the place. The more you lean in, the stronger the scent of oblivion.

On the floor near my shoulder, his daughter chooses a darker green for the branches. “They’re supposed to be brown,” she says, “Like a tree. But I want them to be vines.” She paints the fine strands like jungle dusk.

He keeps his fists in his line of sight. I see how he grows muscle from sources both clear and buried. He laces up gloves and running shoes, of course. He pounds it out on canvas and asphalt. Yet under that, a core strength comes from a deeper exertion. He strains up, always up, forcing momentum to reverse against the compulsion to surrender, resisting that sweet temptation of relief.

To those whose bodies are matched to the pull of gravity, this effort is incomprehensible. But look closely and you’ll see the corrugated skin and voice, you’ll see the cuts like scars across the force field he emits from the moment he wakes even before the sun. You’ll see how his light’s flickering tempo jabs back against the black box of night.

He invites you into that basement where he does battle with an appetite for extinction. He powers up some deeper engine and keeps it running, makes it growl against the silent pulleys they use to draw him in. He keeps it humming, makes it fire, even when the key has gone missing, he pushes it from the hill and pops the clutch. He finds a way to spark it to life no matter how thick the rime obscuring a barely remembered green.

His daughter switches out jade for fern and loops spirals along the wings of a bird. She looks up, pausing to watch her dad’s fists fly against the bag. “Can I have a turn?” She asks.

“Sure, babygirl,” he pants. “Let’s get your hands wrapped after this round.” He smiles in her direction before turning a scowl back on the bag. It sways, creaking its displeasure at the assault.

I bend sideways to force my obliques into submission. I face him now, watch his bare feet shuffle over the mat as he circles his unyielding crimson opponent. He is strength here, he is courage. He is also their opposite. He is the admission of weakness, the acknowledgment of fear. He knows what is at stake. He’s felt the reeling sensation that comes when every treasure escapes his grip. He’s seen how close a man can come to failing to save the most precious.

He chooses fierce. Both coach and fighter, he splashes cold water in his own face and wakes the weary champion. He plays as if brave knight-errant, as if he was born for this, because he’s covered enough earth to know he is not. None of us is, and anyone who believes otherwise is Don Quixote, all fool and bluster.

This is why I love the softness there under the corners he’s trying to chisel back into his armor. Those tender places are just as welcome in my grip as the cut and thunder. Plenty of men are blind to their weak seams and show only scars that come with a good story. They have not been tested yet. They have not broken. It is always only a matter of time.

I want to see bulges and the crude patch job. These are the places where he stuffed whatever gauze and rotgut he could find. These jagged seams map his crossing, and they show him which way to turn if he finds himself back on that familiar route. The stitches hold the reminder of what happens when he loses his footing, when he almost falls so far he can’t climb back. I want to know he’s visited that place. Even if he stayed long enough in that pit to become a citizen, he chose to give up its Neverland promises and rise back up to life.

Evidence of that ascent is written into him. I see the callouses on his hands and know that he keeps them in shape both to hold his domain among the living and to keep climbing, even now, even when he could be justified in saying this is far enough.

The bell clangs, end of round. I stand. He lets out a breath and taps my hip before ripping off his gloves. I pull the straps tight on mine, bouncing on the balls of my feet as I wait for the seconds to tick down to my beginning. He touches his daughter on the head. She lifts her eyes from the twining vines and tangled leaves now waking to lushness across the page. “Let’s get your wraps on,” he says. “You’re up next.”

 

 

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From the dining table of a rich absent landlord,
from a rooftop tilting over
screaming streets,
from the hide of a man
whose soft fangs belie
battles he claims
as the source of his scars,
I plucked splinters
and locks of discarded hair.

I was ravenous
even for hollow breath
echoing against a bare wooden
belly. Strings cut flesh to callous
and every song clanged
like paper against my hunger.
I tried to pry frets
from the neck. I tried to harvest
spider legs.

A sign was necessary. A silver
ring or maybe a strip
of fur curling on the tip
of a thorn. I walked
not away. Something else.
Out.

Towards.

Under
a canopy of sumac, bent like a crooked
house, I passed
through to the first division
and pressed petals
back into their seed.
I swaddled my thighs
in creek water. I bled
into moss.

I lay down a bed like a bow
to the half open moon.
The voice I used to call
up the shape of a home in the sky
Goodnight you moonlight ladies
was the same lunatic jabber
of coyotes coursing through folds
in a mist forever closing
between us.

I wake now to the face of a frozen sun,
my bones young and brittle, hung
with crystal globes and gloved
in frost. I glitter like grass
and shatter in the light. Blowing
out from a depression
in the earth shaped like someone
exhumed,
I catch a full spectrum
of morning

in each one
of my birth’s hundred
billion prisms
every time
I refuse
to die.

 

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It took two injuries in three days.

For an hour, the floor became the only place I could safely be. My Mister, mother, and boss all encouraged the recline. Horizontal I stayed. They helped me to bed. Eventually, I hobbled to the easy chair. With laptop. With novels. With quiet punctuating the growl and jabber of construction workers welding outside my window. With the first birds of spring punctuating the quiet.

This is not a familiar mode. Stress begets sweat. When the engines are firing — even more so when they are flagging — the default setting is to slam the heavy bag or pound the streets. Dance, climb, lift, go go go.

Not now.

Now it’s this: Two howling muscles on the right side — lumbar and erector — keeping company with the perennial scapular pain.

Now this: Only stillness.

Sleep comes. Caffeine goes. Sleep comes harder. Eight hours. Then nine, then ten. I struggle upright through a fog like rheum, fumble for the Advil, then surrender again. Flannel sheets. Sweet relief. An afternoon nap gives way to a labyrinthine descent into oblivion.

Three days of sleep nine years overdue. Sleep I haven’t know since Bug put down roots in my naive womb.

It took two injuries.

It shouldn’t take even one.

This stillness belongs.

I inch open the door. Who knows the cost?

Welcome. Please come in.

Please stay.

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How far away can I go and still be connected?
What can I — and do I — want to do for myself?
And exactly how much of me am I willing to give up for love or simply for shelter?

At several points in our lives, we may insist: I’ll do it myself. I’ll live by myself. I’ll solve it myself. I’ll make my own decisions. And having made that decision, we then may find ourselves scared to death of standing alone.

– Judit Viorst, Necessary Losses

Sometimes, we don’t even know this old push-pull is operating until our minds yank us into position and force us to see.
 
Or, in my case, the body does the yanking. At the start of the new year, it all comes rushing, this longed-for independence. No men are waiting in the wings. The ex has moved on to a new girlfriend. The condo is galloping towards me. What happens? I fall.
 
And fall again.
 
And end up in urgent care.
 
In a cast. On meds. Then in a splint. Unable to work for days on end.
 
Then wrench my back. And suffer mightily.
 
And retreat to the safe but suffocating confines of my family’s care.
 
Some part of me refuses to step forward into the open mouth of adulthood. A long-ago self insists that this is too much. It wobbles. I slip. My center of gravity tilts. I stumble. I need. I reach backwards and downwards for the kind of help that children demand.
 
Fear is a clever thing. I does an end-run around rationality. It kicks the legs out from under the boldest stance.
 
And so, I convalesce. I gather strength. Someday soon — Next week? Next month? — I will be able to come to a sitting position on the side of my bed without grasping for a handhold, without gasping for breath. And then I will make my way down the stairs. Out the door. Into the wide open day.
 
I just have to keep acting against the illusion of falling, the trickery of my fright. Alone is never alone, not really. All around, these kindnesses. These people. These approaches moving in the opposite direction of rapprochement. This mind more powerful than fear.
 
These ways forward I have not yet found. These secrets, waiting to reveal themselves.
 

Viorst, Judith. Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow. Fireside, New York: 1986
 

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He says, “Tell me something you believe in.”
 
I stretch my neck and glare at the treetops. “I used to believe in the healing power of walks.”
 
He does not let me get away with this.
 
“Come on.”
 
After an interlude of mild hysteria, the insect chorus finds its pulse. The breath inside the night soothes the places in my belly where worry has left bruises.
 
“I believe,” I say, “in the wide open sky.” I cannot look at him.
 
I believe in hiding in plain sight.
 
Also, I believe in the mind’s resilience. I believe in speaking truths despite doubt and speaking questions when compliance would be more expedient. I believe in care. In tending to the body’s needs first. I believe that people are doing their best, even when the evidence suggests otherwise.
 
I believe in reincarnation.
 
Sometimes I believe the heart can take the lead.
 
I believe in language and its ability to re-write what is real. In releasing memory. In surrendering hope. I believe that inhabiting the here and now is the only path to serenity.
 
I believe in seeking out the beautiful. In moving towards conflict. In stepping away from the familiar, if only to know the wide-open terror of true limitlessness.
 
I believe in fasting.
 
In speaking to the future self when the present one comes up short.
 
I believe naps, hugs, and vegetables are better medicine than medicine. I believe that touch usually beats another conversation.
 
I believe that everything I believe is fleeting. That everything I hold dear matters far too much to me and not nearly enough to anyone else.
 
I believe in letting go.
 
I believe in belonging to the world but being owned by no one. I believe in claiming the world but possessing nothing.
 
I press my belly to his and listen to the trees. “I believe in cicadas,” I say.
 
“They couldn’t care less whether you believe in them or not,” he says.
 
For the moment, I believe in love.
 
The moment opens like wings.
 

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