I’ve been back in Boulder for a little over a week now, after 10 days in Hawaii. This was it. The last of the 50 states for me to visit and it felt appropriate that I’d saved Hawaii for the end. I spent 10 days bumbling around the big island with a dear friend, camping on beaches, eating fresh fish and swimming like it was going out of style. To say I love to travel would be an understatement. “Itchy feet” a friend of mine once referred to it. I have a hard time staying in one place for too long, part of what makes the fact that I’ve lived in Boulder for 5 years such an astounding fact.
But, it’s been almost a year and a half since my last big trip, and I was ready.
One thing that happens for me, almost instantaneously when I’m traveling is that I start thinking. Not in the cyclical, spiraling, going nowhere thought patterns of my day-to-day living, but thinking with clarity, with forward momentum. I credit the actual physical moment that I’m experiencing with my ability to not get so stuck in my thought patterns. So, needless to say, the wheel of our rental jeep hit the pavement and I was off, both physically and emotionally.
One of the pieces that I love so much about movement is the physical reminder that nothing is ever fixed, nothing is permanent, everything is moving and changing and dying and being reborn all the time. Somethings take longer, sure, and can feel like they’ve always been a certain way. But in truth, everything is shifting, just at different rates. That is nowhere more apparent or in your face as it is while traveling because physically, everything around you is changing minute to minute. Your perception of time shifts because of how much information is being taken in by your system all the time.
There’s some permission in this realization, I think, I hope. Where it really hit home for me was in recognizing how often I’ve applied that “fix it and be done” approach to my health or my body or my mental state. I want things to change, to shift, to be fixed. And then I want to wipe the residue from my hands and be done with it. Ha! I say to myself, haha! Not possible. For nothing we tend to is ever really complete. We revisit things over and over again in our lives and so much self-judgment can creep in when we criticize ourselves for not “getting over” something. But, here’s the thing that Hawaii taught me: we’re human. Daily we are battling our own imperfections and those of the world around us, perhaps even working to find some acceptance of all of it. This practice of being human is in some ways a tug of war, or a balancing act, or any other cliché that depicts the constant push and pull, give and take of allowing what is to simply be there: accepting it without wallowing in it or magnifying it in a way that doesn’t serve our healing.
Because I think that true healing comes in accepting ourselves with all the attendant un-fixedness. In my body I have an imbalance in my hips, sometimes it feels fine and doesn’t bother me and sometimes it’s all I can do to walk for 5 minutes. But it used to be that when it would flare up, I couldn’t stand for more than a minute or two without experiencing debilitating pain down the back of my leg. It’s not like that anymore. It’s not completely gone, but it has changed so much in the years since it began. And I have learned to make room in my body and my life for to times when it does flare up. I’ve been receiving bodywork regularly for years now. I wear orthotics. I run pretty much only on trails now, no more pavement. I take care of my body. Yet, sometimes when I bend over to put Lucy’s leash on, something slips and that familiar twinge returns. For a while, it frustrated me to no end. Each time it got better, I thought I’d fixed it. And each time it happened again, I thought I’d failed at taking care of my body.
Over the course of this I’ve learned some new things about my structure, delved into new poses in yoga, and found additional ways of addressing what happens. It’s almost as if the time between each flare up is a chance for me to care for my body and expand the tools that I have to do that. And then my hip flares up again and I get to use my new tools (as well as the old ones) and things change. And each time the pain is there for a shorter and shorter duration. It’s as if, each time we revisit something that has been difficult for us in the past, it is an opportunity to see our own growth and to approach that difficulty from this new place in ourselves.
So, I am finding some gratitude in these cycles, in revisiting pain, as well as joy, and getting to see the reflection of my growth and evolution in those moments. And the acknowledgment that nothing is ever fixed has also quieted the voice in my head that says “c’mon Alicia! I thought we’d dealt with this and moved on!”
This could sound pretty hopeless and in some ways it doesn’t really help my case as a massage therapist, but the point of this is to say that it does help – it all helps. Sure, nothing is ever really complete, nothing is ever really done, but with some acknowledgement and acceptance we can find easier and less painful ways of dealing with and addressing those things that we wish we could fix and put behind us. And a pretty solid dose of compassion for oneself – always.