“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Fist

One of the rare but chronic symptoms I experience under stress is a spasm in my chest. The spasm occurs in the proximity of my heart, but it isn't my heart. I've had it checked out. It is caused by a spasm in the intercostal muscles near my heart. These muscles are literally in the intercostal spaces between the ribs and attach at the sternum. When my stress is high, the kind of high stress that comes from a breaking heart, these muscles hurt. They twinge and spasm. You see I have what is called a Trigger Point in the muscle. Maybe the TP is in the pectoral muscle, not the intercostal, but who really cares? I know that the spasms are from a TP because I can feel it, and when I put steady pressure on it, the TP hurts with the same kind of pain of the spasm. But after a few minutes appling steady pressure on the TP the pain ceases.

And so do the spasms.

I think that when under stress my body tightens like a fist, angry and protective and preparing to protect. This is not always the healthiest response. But, since my massage yesterday I have suddenly been able to meditate once again. Meditating has alluded me for about two years. And now, just like that, I can again. I feel remarkably different. It all reminds me of this poem by Mary Oliver:

The Fist

There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens
in this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn't they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind -

heaven's own
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear,
little by little,
the voices -

only, so far, in
pockets of the world -
the possibilities

of peace?
Keep looking,
Behold, how the fist opens
with invitation.

(Mary Olive: Thirst; Beacon Press Boston, 2006)

Nothing has changed in my life. All the stresses are still there. But I hope that the fist has opened on this diminished spirit of mine and peace can settle in despite it all. I think the fact that I have had no chest pains since yesterday is probably a good sign...

Heart Pain

Last night was one of those nights where I thought that everything as I knew it was coming to an end. I continue to be stunned at the amount of intense stuff that keeps hitting the fan in my life. And every bit of it is coming out of the blue and broadsiding me. I never even see it coming.

So after a sleepless night I went to the office to be the "Non-Anxious" presence. And, well, I can do that. I am trained to do that. I lead and guide and hold firm in a gentle and hopefully wise way. But every bit of everything I do feels about has hard as it can be. I trust it will pass.

After work today I went for a massage appointment. I am trying to have consistent massages, at least one every three weeks. I walked in and while talking to the therapist I started to weep. It really doesn't take much for me to cry, sob even. As soon as I open up the compartment, the one I stuff it in so I can be non-anxious and function, it all pours out. Anyway. I was clearly right where I needed to be.

This massage therapist is truly gifted. She took me to a place of such deep, profound relaxation that deep sighs were pouring out of me uncontrollably. At the end of the treatment she just held my head in one hand with the other on my sternum and breathed with me. Slowly. S.l.o.w.l.y....and I was transported to a deep place within me that just let go.

And then I remembered. For the first time in years. I remembered the feeling of deep deep relaxation, the kind that is directly connected to God.