This musing is not about my knee, even though it starts there. My knee is trying to tell me something. Actually, it’s probably trying to tell me many somethings. The question before me is am I willing to listen to the messages behind the physical pain to the deeper things hidden further in. I teach my clients, in our work with the horses, to first do a body scan and see what messages our bodies are trying to tell us. Well, I am listening and I am trying to pay attention to the answers.
While I stop, try to quiet my mind, and listen to the messages underneath the pain there are many musings bubbling to the surface. Some of these are probably directly connected to the core message(s) my knee pain is directing me to. And some are just because this is what my mind does, it tries to see the connections between my current experience, my past experiences and my entire life journey. Maybe in the writing of all that is rambling through me I will shed some light on what is going on for me right now.
The pattern of my current knee pain has been most fascinating. It started seemingly out of nowhere last Friday morning. I don’t have any recollection of any extra strain or injury that occurred. I’ve experienced pain in my knees off and on for years, sometimes intensely, other times almost non-existent. Watching what I eat, resting it, avoiding certain kinds of exercise, stretching, listening to my feelings, etc. all help. Overall, I’ve been pretty good the last few months. So, it was very surprising on Friday when I could barely move. On Friday, no matter what I did – rest, move, stand still – my knee felt locked in place and very painful.
When I am sitting or lying down I am okay and can move my leg around with no pain. When I am walking I feel stiff but overall don’t feel painful. When I am riding (which I tried for an hour yesterday) I feel great and experience no pain or frozen joints until I try to get off. But when I stand still for more than a few minutes, my knee hurts a lot and feels like it will barely hold me. As soon as I sit back down for even a few minutes I feel good again and can even continue walking around. But holding still is the worst.
While this is about my knee, it’s also really not about my knee. Physically I am setting somethings in place to deal with the physical aspect of what is going on. More importantly, I am aware that my knee is telling me in a VERY loud voice “Hey you. Yes you, Lara! LISTEN! There are things you need to accept and you’re not doing it. The pain will continue and increase until you do. PAY ATTENTION! There are things for you to learn right now.”
So today, I am writing about so much more than what I need to do physically. Because ultimately, I know this is about way, way more than any possible arthritic flare up or other physical issue.
This reminds me so much of what my grief journey was like in the beginning. And it also speaks to what my ongoing self-growth journey looks like. Holding still causes the most pain. Standing still in my grief and in the ways I am trying to grow now can cause me more pain than anything else. Just standing in place, waiting for the next grief wave to crash over us, or waiting for the pain of feeling stuck to hit, is wicked hard. I remember thinking in the first year or two after Russell died that if I just didn’t move maybe I wouldn’t feel the pain of his death so much. Maybe if I just held my breath, it would all go away somehow. Maybe if I stand really still the grief or the overwhelm won’t crash over me this time. Pffft, obviously that wasn’t true and it’s an impossibility. We can often fear moving forward because we think it will cause more pain. But it’s the standing in place out of fear or overwhelm that ultimately hurts us the most.
I’m feeling this same sense of wanting to stand in place and not move in my life right now. Not because of grief, but because of sooo many other things that are shifting, changing, and being created. Some are mine. Some are others. All of them leave me in that space of wanting to just hold my breath and not move. What if I move the wrong direction? Is the path I am on the right one? What am I doing? What am I not doing? Have I done enough? Am I enough? Over and over and over the questions, doubts and fears run through my end. I stand frozen in place with the pain of feeling stuck ready to knock me over at any moment.
Resting, truly allowing myself to just breathe and be in the moment, offers sweet relief from the overwhelm and the pain of fear and doubt. That rest is needed. That rest is welcome. That rest must happen. Icing my knee; staying off of it; letting my muscles chill the hell out; all of those things helped me through last weekend. Each day got a little easier to move as I allowed my body the time to rest. Rest is needed when we grieve. Rest is needed when we grow. During intense seasons of grieving and intense seasons of growth, our bodies, hearts and minds are working hard to navigate all of the emotions that arise. We need to allow ourselves enough time to both grieve and to grow. We need to cut ourselves some slack and recognize that in order for true healing or transforming change to occur, we NEED TO REST. That doesn’t just mean, sometimes, taking a day to chill. Sometimes it takes longer to give ourselves all that we need to be able to move again. AND THAT IS OKAY!
Feeling our feelings can shine light towards the path forward that we need to take when we are ready. After allowing ourselves the rest we need to ease the initial hits of new pain, movement can begin to occur. That doesn’t mean jumping right back into everything we were doing before. We can cause ourselves a lot more injury and pain if we jump back in too fast. Taking things slowly and testing the waters of what feels okay allows us to listen to what our bodies, minds, and hearts are ready for. It might mean new ways of doing things need to be set in place.
It becomes even more important in this return to movement to listen to our bodies and our feelings, ignoring neither one. It is here that questions will arise – What if it hurts even more once I move? What if I can’t do it? What if I can never move with ease again? What if? What if? What if? The fear can be very real, even as we are hoping and planning for the best. But move we must in order to continue forward on our journeys. The solution is to listen and pay attention as we take that first step forward.
We take a step or try things out again. We check in with our bodies to see how it is handling things. We do a few things. We listen to what movements feel better than others. We rest a bit. We take a few more movements forward. We check in. We listen. We rest. We do things that feel really good and do even more of that. We celebrate. We listen. We rest. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. We find our way back to a place that feels comfortable again, hopefully with a little more wisdom.
As I’ve moved through this process of pain, listening, resting, trying new movement, listening again, etc. over the last several so many things have opened up for me. Somethings I was aware of and other things that feel like they’ve come out of a hidden box buried under a whole lot of other stuff. As more awareness has come the pain has eased. I’m not really surprised by this. I’ve known for a long time that when my knees hurt, it usually means there are parts of my life journey that I’ve been avoiding moving forward with. My knees get stuck and locked in pain when I am feeling stuck in other ways. As I listen to those blocks the pain eases. Oh it still takes awhile for my knees to get back to better functioning order, but simply listening to the message behind that pain eases it.
Am I getting answers to why my knee decided to stop working last weekend? Not necessarily. Am I getting clarity around new insights that have popped up in my extra, necessary rest time? Yes. Am I getting a chance to practice listening better to my body and what she needs? Most definitely. Is all of my pain gone? Not yet. Am I feeling more hopeful that I have a newer plan to strengthen my body, my heart and my resolve to keep creating my best life? YES!
Our bodies give us messages all of the time. The questions are – Are we willing to listen to the quiet, gentle messages it’s trying to tell us? Or, are we going to keep ignoring the messages until the pain is so bad we have no other choice but to listen?