“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." The Serenity Prayer - Reinhold Niebhr
One of the difficulties of the last few weeks has been confronting again the news that I am still not better. I had an x-ray followed by a consultation with my neurosurgeon which highlighted that the hardwear he had put into my neck to hold the two vertebrae together, once he had removed the worst offending slipped disc, had ‘subsided’ in his words and not held firm. Not only this, but the bone had not yet grown to fill the gap and fuse my spine together. Around the time of my operation, I had a quote at my bedside which gave me strength. “A surgeon can repair a wound but the life force within us does the healing.” Gladys Taylor McGarey. My body has to do the hard work of creating new bone and directing it to the right place, establishing new blood routes, to heal me. Once it has fused, and there is no movement there, my surgeon thinks that the pain that I experience should go.
So my year I talk about here in the past tense, actually continues into the present. I am able to do so much more, my life isn’t curbed to the same degree (for instance I am writing this in Pembrokeshire at my parent's house for the first time since October 2016!), but it is still restricted and it is a constraint that I constantly live with. I have wanted to pretend that this isn’t the case, there’s been a deep want in me to be able to draw a line under 2017 and approach 2018 all clean and crisp. I confront life again, the truth of life how it actually is and not how I want it to be. We have a tendency to think that we can control everything, certainly I do. This is a lesson that I clearly haven’t totally learnt yet, something to keep practising. I spent much of last year adjusting myself to reality, allowing and letting it be. Not being resigned to it at all but an active acceptance, to really listening to what my body was telling me. I felt much more at peace this way, rather than butting up against something I couldn’t change.
Being more in my body has other advantages, particularly for someone who has spent a lot of her life in her head. What a closed off and limited place this can be, listening to my stories rather than what’s truly happening. I know I’m not the only one who does this. Obviously sometimes there are physical issues that can be rationalised and through thought we can figure them out. Endless rumination and tumble turning thoughts around, thinking we can make sense of them, is far less helpful; leading to varying degrees of stress and in most cases doesn’t even lead to the solution. By coming out of my head, through focussing on my breath, being properly present to life using my sense of sight, smell, what I can hear, what I can feel and so on, I can create space with these limiting thoughts and actually given time the answer will appear itself – and I haven’t exhausted myself in the process. How often does an answer appear when we stop thinking about it... the answer to that quiz question...or the name of that person we bumped into that we just can’t remember! It applies to the bigger issues too.
Clearly, I still need a gentle reminder to be in the present, to balance being and doing. A reminder that my body (and yours too) is awesome. I can heal myself. It may not be as quickly as I would like but it will get there and knows what to do. I just need to respect it and give it the right conditions to do that. I feel a sense of sadness that I took my body for granted for so long, looked at what it couldn’t do rather than what it could, focussed on the bits I didn’t like for so much of my life. I am learning to be more patient as I go into the next phase of my healing; learning to love my body for what it is and what I can learn from it and marvel at what it can do. I begin again to recognise the things I can change and the things that I can’t. I grow in wisdom.
“This very body we have...with its aches and its pleasures...is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” - Pema Chodron
This week's beautiful photo courtesy of Julian Cremona (thanks Dad!).
Broad Haven beach, Pembrokeshire, during the extreme low tide caused by the recent super blue moon.
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