I have been lying on my back for the last two and a half weeks with the most intense episode of sciatica.
I’ve had lower back pain before that has left me on my heating pad for several days. But this sharp, lightening bolt pain that shoots down my leg is like nothing I’ve experienced before.
But then, this place in my life is like nothing I’ve experienced before either.
Yes, it started with some irritated disks, but, with my back already tender, I didn’t slow down. Instead, I must have moved just enough to tweak something in my piriformis, the muscle that stretches across the lower back between the pelvis and the head of the femur. The muscle tightened and shifted my hip in the socket and somewhere in the midst of all of the shifting, my sciatic nerve got caught in the middle.
It was as if all of the things I was dealing with in my life – a shift in my work, the grief that was triggered with the loss of my first best friend, helping Marika find a new job, transitioning to being in Phoenix- all came to a head like a five car pileup on my right butt cheek.
My whole body tightened up against the pain. I couldn’t sit on the toilet without screaming. I had no appetite. I couldn’t even reach across the bed to pet Mabel. And I was barely breathing. As soon as I noticed how shallow my breath was, I was able to breathe a little space into my back and heart.
My yoga teacher says that women hold a lot of emotion in their hips. My hips have been tight since I began practicing in 2004. Since then, my left hip has opened more but my right hip has continued to be resistant to most stretches. Even in the simple pose with my right ankle resting on my left thigh, my hip has always screamed like it would break if I attempted the slightest stretch.
I looked up Louise Hay’s interpretation of sciatica and she believes that it is related to financial fear, which made me laugh, because there I was, lying on my back, cancelling clients, NOT making money, and being advised not to worry about it. But it made sense on a bigger scale as I am redefining my work in the world and feeling unsure that it will support me. I began repeating her suggested affirmation, “I move into my greater good and I am secure and safe.”
And I started talking to the pain, asking what I could learn from it.
The first message came loud and clear-to love the pain. To not resist it or deny it, but to befriend it, to move with it.
And so, when I shifted from sitting to standing, instead of stopping because the pain was going to take me beyond the top of the pain scale, I willed myself to move with it, through it. I figured it was going to hurt either way, so I might as well move faster.
I screamed, I cried, I sang, I prayed, I cursed, any expression to release the pain, all while telling myself that it would be over once I stood up.
And it usually was. But standing for more than a few minutes brought severe cramping down the back of my leg and I had to get back into bed to relieve the pressure.
Lying there, I could feel how bound up every single muscle was in my butt. I breathed in calm and love and release as I laid on my belly with a pillow under me for support, making microscopic flexing movements with my butt cheeks, imagining they were butterfly wings.
I began moving my pelvis, ever so slightly, to see if I could loosen things up. After a day of these gentle movements, I had a little more range of motion in my hips and I began slow, regular stretches to continue the healing.
And what I noticed was that my hip was now moving without that feeling of breaking. I could feel the stretches in the actual muscles for the first time. My butt still ached like hell, but my hip felt free.
I had been seeing my chiropractor since the episode began and he had mentioned that, in addition to the swelling in my disks and the issues in the piriformis, my femur was turned out. It is no wonder I experienced such excruciating pain while it re-situated itself in the socket.
Life is a spiral, and this has been an opportunity to go deeper into the grief I’ve been holding in my hips all of these years. I’m sure it was triggered by the sudden death of my first ever best friend, even though we were only friends online. I had lost the last connection to someone who knew me before my brother died. While I have done years of work making peace with his death, this time I realized I needed to reconnect with my own six year old self who got lost the day he died.
In the midst of all of this personal work, I am also doing a lot of shifting in my businesses. 2014 is the year that I step higher and deeper into Spark the Heart. This is the year I am writing my book and leading retreats and workshops for ready women. This is also the year that I am doing less Mac training.
I am so grateful for the friends who called and emailed and engaged with me on Facebook. And for my Dad who called and checked up on me daily, offering to bring bagels and lox and anything else I might need. And for my friend Geri who came and worked her massage magic on my buttocks. And for Marika, who kept me on heat and ice and fluffed my pillows and made chicken soup, and took over my football duties and put my socks on for me and sang with me and screamed with me and held my hand when I cried.
I am still far from 100%, but walking and standing are much less painful. It is still uncomfortable to sit for very long, with the pressure on my butt, but I’m hoping that tomorrow’s acupuncture will alleviate whatever is still bound up.
Still, it would be so easy to just stay in bed, on my back, no pressures, minimal discomfort. Just like continuing on my life path as it is would be easier, no pressure, just show up and do the work I’ve been doing for the last 28 years. But I know what my body needs most is to move, to stretch, to realign. And that I need to shift into bigger work.
Life is about challenging ourselves to move past what we know and what is comfortable, to find how we can really make a difference and feel that our work matters. Old stories can’t get us there. Old wounds can’t keep us there. We have to unbind ourselves from our old beliefs and hurts, and release them so that we can move forward with grace and ease to whatever is next.
I will continue to move through this journey with faith and an open heart, trusting that I will be financially supported because this is where my real work is.