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Baby steps

Well, I’m doing better.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I’ve been dealing with the passing of my dear friend, and making some measured progress. The shock and anger are past, but I’m still sometimes suddenly overwhelmed with emotion, and I can’t always tell when that’s going to happen. And I also catch myself thinking, “I must ask Jill about that.” Or, “This story will make her laugh.” And then I remember. And that still hurts.

BUT I returned to church a couple weeks ago, and that was a big step since church was so central to our relationship. Still can’t face coffee hour, so I stay downstairs and clean up the music files instead. Everyone seems to understand and gives me room. It’s a loving thing they’re doing.

And yesterday, I got a massage. I’ve only been back once since Jill died, and I’m not really sure why. Back in April, when I knew I was going to be preaching for five weeks, I told The Mister I needed something to offset the enormous energy expenditure preaching always entails, and that I thought a weekly massage was the way to go. He enthusiastically agreed. And it was wonderful! Even after the preaching was done, I came back almost every week to help sustain me through the time of caring for Jill until her death in early July. But only once since then.

My body’s been aching – shoulders, back, hips. I don’t usually give it more than a passing notice. I’m back to writing now, and involved with the church choir, and preparing for upcoming events hither, thither, and yon. So I can generally ignore aches and pains in favour of something more urgent or fun. But my therapist always begins my massage by pressing down the right side of my back and legs down to my toes, and then the same thing on the left to sense where there are areas of resistance needing special attention.

And I hurt! There’s tightness and tenderness and ache, and I want to cry, not because it’s painful, but because I feel so sorry for my body that I’ve made it carry burdens of stress and heartache, and generally ignored its need for comfort and peace.

Then my therapist goes to work untying all the knots I’ve been tightening for weeks. When she encounters one, she’ll stop and work on it slowly and firmly. It’s a very mindful moment for me. I’m completely focused on the area and I will mentally urge it to “Release. Let go. It’s OK.” Then she moves on to the next one. It actually quiets my mind to be so intent on one thing like that, and throughout the hour I become more and more relaxed until I find myself drifting off.

And an hour is never long enough!

I’m usually her last appointment of the day, so we have a little chance to talk afterward. I asked her if she encountered a lot of knots this time and she said, “Yes, but it’s different now.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well,” she said, “when you first started coming, everything was so tight, and I’d work on the knots but they wouldn’t always release. But now, they’re…” she groped for the right word…”they’re listening.”

“You mean, they’re responding?”

“Oh yes! Now they want to let go. You’ve made wonderful progress!”

And I nearly cried again.

That whole day the same message was repeating in any number of sources – “let go.” Even one of my dear Yaya sisters posted a gorgeous poem by Rev. Safire Rose entitled, “She let go.” I think I’m starting to get the idea. I can’t afford to carry burdens of fear, anxiety, unforgiveness, resentment, negativity of any kind. I need to let it all go for the sake of my health and as an act of radical self-care. It takes practice, but at this point in my life I want to express kindness and gratitude for the body that has seen me through so much. I want to keep my hands open to let go of what will only harm me and reach for the goodness that comes to me every day.

So practice I will.

And regular massages will help. :-)

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8 Comments

  1. Michelle
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for sharing bits and pieces of your grieving process. I’m having the same difficulty right now with crying at inopportune moments, like during classes. The trouble is I was already fairly well backed up with emotion before 3 family members died within 4 weeks of school beginning. I started seeing a therapist mid-summer, which was helping, but then the deaths. And school. And getting really sick, which I’m sure is my equivalent of what your body is trying to tell you with its aches and pains. Although I know I’ll get through it all, I want to do it in a way that means emotional and physical health on the other side (though there’s probably never really “the other side” with grief). It just seems like that will be difficult to do while I’m simultaneously doing college. I so appreciate your willingness to show your vulnerability. It helps me. You’ve been a gentle comfort ever since we met. I trust you will continue to heal, even without your dear Jill. Go gently with your lovely self, Penny-Anne.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      Oh Michelle, my dear sister, I had no idea what you were going through! Your strength truly must be of supernatural origin. Yes, we are going to make it through this, and even with our scars we will find healing and wholeness again. Someone said that we grieve our loved ones every bit as much as we loved them. So it will take time. Let’s resolve to give it all the time it needs, yes? And let’s also resolve to go gently with our lovely selves. :-)

  2. Valerie Hess
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    So glad you are caring for yourself. You aren’t ready to let go until you are ready to let go. The trick is, as you know so well, to listen. I remember a Rolfing session in which the woman hit a muscle in my thigh that caused me to begin sobbing so hard, she had to stop the treatment. I had no conscious memory that came to mind but obviously, that muscles was holding on to a long-forgotten, possibly pre-verbal trauma that it certainly had not forgotten even if my conscious mind had. Bless you, dear friend.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted October 4, 2015 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      I’m learning how our bodies store our memories, and I’m resolved to do whatever I can to release the negative energies – which, as you say, can sometimes be even decades old – and bring my body peace and healing. Your ongoing support is such a blessing. Thanks, Valerie.

  3. Karen Rockwell
    Posted October 4, 2015 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Dear Penny-Anne, I am hugging you and making a note to call Monday and book a massage! Thanks for the self-care reminder. ;0)

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted October 5, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Well, you know, I could feel a hug, but I didn’t know who it was from. Might have guessed it was you! Thanks, Karen. And have a lovely massage!

  4. kim barry
    Posted October 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Oh Penny -Ann, I do love your writing so much, I am so sorry about your dear friend, but you do know she is still with you. Friends ,real friends, never leave you even hen they cross over. So say hello to your dear friend next time she pops by to check on you. You are a remarkable women, love you xoxo

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted October 29, 2015 at 12:13 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Kim. You’re always so encouraging. And yes, I do know Jill is with me, and always will be, and that is my consolation. Love you right back, Miss Kim!

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