Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Pain in the Ass.

Photo on 2016-07-24 at 10.03 AM #2 (1)

Last week’s Girl Warrior post was about pain in all of its manifestations – physical, spiritual, emotional. Feeling it. Dealing with it. Surviving it. And ultimately, moving on. Over the past five years of writing and speaking to this remarkable Tribe, I’m more often than not, writing about life lessons that I also need to learn. Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a small book I read and reread in the seventies said, ‘We teach best what we most need to learn.” He’s right.

Since January of this year I’ve been hurting. Physically. But because human beings aren’t unconnected fragments, bits and pieces, shards and shavings that have nothing to do with each other, the physical pain has also become emotional and psychological suffering as well. There have been times, far too many truthfully, where life has lost its color. Times when everything was murky dimly lit and shrouded in grey hopeless despair. No joy at all. And it hasn’t been pretty.

The kind of pain I’m talking about is fucking ugly actually. And for me, it has literally been a pain in the ass. My sciatic nerve is being pinched or squeezed and the result is chronic relentless pain running from my butt down the right leg to my ankle. Thank God it stops there. But it’s debilitating. During my darkest hour, my worst days and fearful nights, it has taken every ounce of strength, grit, iron will and determination just to stand and walk. Even sitting for any length of time has been exhausting. There has been no relief. No relief for months.

I don’t know with certainty what brought this on, although I have theories, or why it still persists all these months later. I’ve been on a medical odyssey that included numerous visits to our sweet and kind leprechaun-like family doctor, who prescribed two different types of drugs to help manage the pain: one to stop the messages from the pain in my ass to my brain and the other to help curb the inflammation. The pain-brain pill I took once. Not only was it unable to block the chatter between my two body parts, it made me feel like puking. The other medication I took for a few weeks but I grew suspicious when I realized that they were the first thing I reached for when I woke up and the last thing I took before I went to sleep. This dependency was disconcerting to say the least so I did some online research. I quit those suckers cold turkey. They were useless anyway.

I went to my Chiropractor every Thursday night for two months. He did what Chiropractors do best – manipulate, twist, pull, bend and crack. This was a lot of fun. At first it seemed to help, then it didn’t. He recommended I also try deep tissue massage to supplement “the work” he was doing. This actually felt pretty wonderful during the 45-minute session where the Therapist kneaded my ass like it was a lump of bread dough. I thought ‘whoa, I want more of this.’ I left the clinic with this big dopey euphoric grin on my face but by the time I got home I swear to God I was crippled. I couldn’t move for 24 hours. I went back, however, for another session because it felt so damn good while he was doing all that pummeling and rubbing and stroking. Plus the clinic smelled divine. Like lavender and mint tea. But again, by the time I got home I was crying like a snot-nosed baby. It was pathetic and kind of funny if it wasn’t happening to me. That was the end of that treatment.

Two sessions with a Chinatown Acupuncturist did absolutely nothing. Well not exactly nothing. In the middle of the second session, the beautiful Asian doctor paused and said “I think your husband doesn’t love you enough.” Perhaps something was lost in translation, or perhaps it was the side-affects of having my ass used as a human pincushion, but that’s what I heard. I milked this for all it was worth. Afterwards, I told E what she said and this got me several weeks worth of loving kindness, if you know what I mean. It was good while it lasted. But everyone has limits, even E.

I did all kinds of online research on Sciatica, SI joint injury and Piriformis syndrome. All the “experts” agreed that these three were the culprits. The source of my worst nightmare, the cause of my grief and agony, the reason I was down on my knees praying for an end to this fucking misery. So I culled the best of all their wisdom and advice, and tried things. There was a common theme to the exercises promoted online for the type of injury I had. They involved a lot of pulling and stretching of the ass muscles in awkward uncomfortable positions. Kind of like yoga on steroids. While I was doing the exercises I got some relief but as soon as I got off the floor and made any attempt at getting on with my day, much less my life, I was in agonizing hell. More rubber-faced Claire Danes type crying ensued.

I was miserable. I was angry and frustrated by my body’s betrayal. I was depressed. And consequently depressing to be around. I felt alone and isolated. Like no one truly understood the depth of my suffering. During the day, I put on my happy “work face” and soldiered through. On a good night, if I was lucky, I found a position that was comfortable, which was usually sitting with my back completely straight and upright, my feet flat on the floor. I would sit like this for hours and not move, fearful that if I did I would trigger those delightful pain messages. This became the new normal for me.

Sometimes I screamed bloody murder. So loud and hard that the blood vessels in my neck vibrated. I scared the shit out of E and Mel. They did their best to console and comfort me. But it was pointless. Life was pointless. Hopeless. I was an embarrassing useless burden. There were no words that could make this better. No words.

Then at the beginning of June, upon the recommendation of a colleague, I went to see an Osteopath. I had no clue what an Osteopath was but I was willing to give it try. I met with the doctor on a sunny Saturday morning. She was an intense, direct, straight shooter who listened with her ears, eyes and heart. She didn’t just see me as patient, she recognized me as a human being who was suffering. And then she went to work.

For the first time in months I can see a glimmer of light that maybe, just maybe, I might get better. Session by session, I am seeing small steady improvements as Dr. D works her magic. I don’t know what she’s doing. I don’t care. I only know I’m on the journey back. I have faith in her ability to heal. I have hope again. I stopped screaming.

They say everything happens for a reason. I’ve yet to figure out the “why” of it all, and I guess it doesn’t really matter. But if I was to add a silver lining to this, it would be that my heart has been opened wide, wider than I could have ever imagined, to those who suffer. My compassion muscle has expanded and grown exponentially. My empathy is on high alert and fully engaged. For example, in the past I have often been impatient, annoyed and horribly judgmental of people who took their ‘sweet time’ crossing the street, and kept me waiting. I’d mutter irritated “for God’s sake hurry up and get across the road already.” But now I think, “what is your story, Dear One? Are you suffering?”

My heart aches. I feel your pain. I understand.

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Yoga Saved my Life

376817_10150371557691644_851002701_nI do yoga. Like most things, I do it my way. Kind of like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Sid Vicious. The record shows.

Little back story.

I started doing yoga with my best friend B. We were, and still are, kindred spirits. Sisters of the soul. Daughters from another mother. We were introspective, pensive young girls with poetic hearts. On our walks home from high school we spent the time chatting about the usual teenage things that cause angst or butterfly emotions. Boys and clothes and boys and music and boys and books and boys. But we also drilled deep. Explored the darkness and diaphanous shadowy places that sometimes scared the shit out of us.

Somewhere along that uneven lumpy sidewalk, from Hammarskjold High School to our respective homes, we had our first conversations about yoga. Little did we know then, that it would become B’s career, her passion, her calling and life’s work. And for me, it would become a daily part of my life. Like breathing and brushing my teeth.

Sometimes I think it saved our lives. Or at the very least, made it saner. A less troubled place to dwell. Not always serene and tranquil.  But not a total train wreck either.

The mental, physical and spiritual benefits of yoga are incomparable. 

I’m a creative and intuitive person. A writer with an overactive imagination. A sensitive and empathic being. I walk the rutted road.  The pitted path littered with potholes. Equilibrium is not my natural state. Before finding yoga, I was neither calm, cool, and definitely not, collected.

But yoga, and then years later running, changed all that.

Spiritual benefits aside, without yoga, I’m not sure what physical shape I’d be in. I doubt that I could touch my toes. Nor bend like a pretzel. I know with 100% certainty that without my daily yoga practice I never would have recovered from a traumatic injury to my knees.  A double whammy seven years ago that quite literally brought me to my knees. So bad that I never thought I’d run again. But four years on the yoga mat strengthening the muscles around my knees. Listening to my body. Relying on its inner physician. Trusting that it knew how to heal itself. Plus a couple of cocky faulty attempts at hitting the streets, because that’s just who I am. Then another two years of dedicated practice.  More listening, listening, listening. To the inner wisdom of my body and spirit. A year ago I just knew the knees were completely healed.

I laced up the sneakers.  And went for a run.

IMG_1547I’m a largely self-taught. And hardly a yogini, but I do know my way around my own body. Until seven years ago, I never had a yoga teacher, nor a mat, for that matter.  Shortly after my son was born I bought a book called, Richard Hittleman’s Yoga 28 Day Exercise Plan. The poses in this little soft-cover book became the foundation of my daily yoga practice. Later I learned some new ones from The ABC of Yoga by Kareen Zebroff, and her marvelous television show.

After 28 days working through Hittleman’s book, I was hooked. Line and sinker. I was a master. A guru. A wise sage. Enlightened. Transcendent and spiritual. Of course, I was none of those things. I look back on my younger self, and I smile. Like Buddha.

It didn’t take much to bring Ma into my yoga circle. She too worked the book. Then Ma and I discovered Kareen’s Yoga television show. That was another life-changer.

No mats, no gear, no fancy pants.

This was over two decades before lululemon was founded in 1998. Just a mother and daughter in front of a small color TV with rabbit ears in the snug and secure living room at 204.

Here I am decades later. Still practicing many of the same poses from Hittleman and Zebroff.  But with a twist.

I have a mat.  It’s lime green.

Namaste.