I have been working with orthopedic massage for three years. My sister died in 2012 and my father 14 months later, in 2013. My father’s will was from 1979. My maternal family grieved via five years of lawsuits. I lost my sister, my father, and my maternal family. For good, as the song says.
I showed up for a massage in 2014. The ortho massage person said, “You are locked in an armor suit. Toes holding on to the floor, knees locked, head and shoulders forward, a fight or flight defensive posture.” I lift my toes up and say, “My toes aren’t clenched.” But they were.
For the next week I was to walk around, or attempt to walk around, with my toes off the floor. I practice: toes up, knees bent, lift foot, gently touch heel ahead, then shift weight forward, weight even on great and little metatarsal, toes are not to grab the floor, lift the trailing foot and repeat. I am furious that I have to relearn how to walk. HOW TO LET GO OF THE ARMOR SUIT?
I go once a month, now. I went weekly for a long time, then biweekly. Pieces of armor would drop off in the massage, but I would armor back up at work. Posture, posture, posture, breathe, don’t tighten those muscles up, check in with toes and with abdominal muscles…
Yesterday I go. We talk. It’s been a really weird month and I don’t know why. Letting go of all sorts of things and people and stuff. My pile of stuff to get rid of, clothes, books, mugs, art, is getting larger. And I was very grumpy the day before the massage. I thought, well, it’s been a dark February, I hate taking pills, maybe I need some sun, I mean, vitamin D.
But at the massage: a huge piece of armor, locked muscles in my lower back and hips, is gone. It feels weird. I didn’t know it was gone. Certain movements feel entirely unfamiliar, because I am used to moving the muscles as a locked group. My brain attempts to tell individual muscles to move and then there is a pause… as the brain and muscle negotiate unfamiliar territory. Medial gluteus medius… moving that feels so odd and unfamiliar.
Ortho massage says, “Usually when I ask you to move muscles, you are ON or OFF. FULL STRENGTH or no response. This is all new: modulation. Gentle.”
It feels so strange..
He knows how I feel. He says, “I felt so unbalanced as my armor dropped off. As if it dropped off bits at a time, a piece on the right side and suddenly I don’t know how to move because it’s all different. ”
Yes, that is what I am feeling. Unmoored. Light. There is less gravity. Gentle. Surprised. Less grumpy afterwards: I am so surprised, I had rather given up that I would EVER drop ANY of the armor suit. Pleased and a bit shyly proud. And deeply deeply grateful…. to my ortho massage person and to many others: friends, books, kind strangers, my patients, my colleagues (that is, the ones who have been kind. There are quite a few who were not. Let them go.) and the parts of my family that I keep… the ones whose actions DO mean they love me.
And my significant other says that I’ve seemed more peaceful this month. I check. I do feel more peaceful, which is so odd when I started the week feeling peculiar and unmoored and as if something was wrong. Something wasn’t wrong, I just had not even realized that I dropped a huge piece of invisible armor. The night before the massage I went to a dinner. Because of the deaths and lawsuits, I had very little social life for many years. A decade, really. After the dinner I thought, that was odd. I am not who I was ten years ago. I am not sure who I am in a social setting. I am surprised to be invited to a dinner. And I let the old me go: it’s ok. I will find out who I am after a decade as a hermit, a hermit due to circumstances, not by choice nor under my control. I let it all go: and I think that is the moment that piece of armor finally let go.
For Wordless Wednesday.
For the Daily Prompt: theory.
For the Photo Challenge: layered. And today’s poem.
I can’t do it, Beloved
I don’t know how, Beloved
release old grief, I am told
I am to have the intention daily
to release old grief
it sits in my throat
aching lump, knot, old
I don’t know how old
is it from before birth
I haven’t looked up whether antibodies
cross the placenta
that is one of the antibodies
that can kill a fetus
I have the grief
a tiger by the tail
at first I was afraid
that releasing it would lose
some core part of myself
that the me I have built
is the nacre, a pearl
wrapped around a core of grief
I try to listen
I try so hard to listen
to have faith
why pay for help
without attempting to follow
unless they are so clearly wrong
the past the woman the girl the child the fetus
let the grief go
maybe I am not gentle enough
full speed ahead
maybe I need to cradle the grief more
rock it, comfort it, thank it
grief, you protected me so much
from the patterns in the family
maybe I need to thank the grief
before I let it go
I am thinking about the term “white trash” and choices.
Is “white trash” a discriminatory term? A derogatory term? Is it a type of person or is it a “lifestyle choice”? Or is it a sum of choices?
A friend tells me that it is not discriminatory. Not an insult. A lifestyle. Then the friend says, “Some people would assume that I am white trash because I live in a trailer (manufactured home) and don’t own my own land. I rent.”
Would this person be white trash to you? Does it make a difference if they are male or female? Over 60? Under 30? Single? Have children? Would you feel differently about a single male parent than a single female parent? Would you feel differently if they are widowed instead of divorced?
And at what age do we become responsible?
If I am a child growing up in a household with alcoholism, verbal abuse, parents with mental health issues or grave illness or abandonment, where is the line where I become responsible for myself?
I surveyed my smokers for years, what age did you start? The men mostly said age 9. There was more cultural pressure on women, but the youngest started at 11 or 12. And then the horrific stories, where the parent is offering whiskey to a child under 10. My sister and I wandered around peoples’ houses in the dark when we were under ten. She was three years younger. I was a kid who did not trust adults and was careful. Scared. So we did not get into drugs or alcohol and I hated my father’s unfiltered camels. My parents would not touch illegal drugs, thankfully. I took care of my sister, but we were entirely unsupervised in barns and houses and outside….
I think that our teens are making choices at far younger ages than parents want to admit. I see parents check out when the child is fourteen or even younger. Teens who are nearly living at friends. Teens who already seem lost. And sometimes the parent is wrapped up in a divorce or a parent is sick or dying or a parent is in jail or abandons the family.
What age did you make choices? Did you make good ones? And is white trash hate speech? If you made bad choices, were you able to change later on?
What is the line between free speech and hate speech? And what is the line between love and enabling?
I am still searching….
For the Daily Prompt: rhyme. No, it doesn’t rhyme. But I am thinking of the phrase: no rhyme or reason….
My clinic has gotten three calls in the last week to take more rural Veteran’s Choice patients. One was too far away on Whidby Island. Apparently few providers will work with Veteran’s Choice: but I understand that too, because it took me a full year to get the contractor for the insurance, Triwest, to start paying me. And it took me hours, hours that I could spend doing medicine, instead of fighting with a corrupt for profit corporation.
And I am glad that I won that round.
I took the photograph at our Rhody Parade, in 2006.