I am extremely lucky to have never really felt alone in life. I’m not sure luck is the right word. I am lucky because sometime early on, I learned to reach out to others and ask for help. I learned to be persistent and resilient. Community is the key to my success. In a previous post, The BEST Medicine, I gave readers a glimpse of my awesome community and support system. Building community takes courage. It takes vulnerability and asking your people to Show Up because you would show up for them.
This week, I am featuring a post I saw on Facebook by Hamilton Simons-Jones. This post took courage and vulnerability and he called on his community for support by being open about his experience with pain. Hamilton is doing all kinds of cool things in New Orleans to empower his community. You can read more about him here. This is what he wrote:
I have been experiencing lower back pain and sciatica for the past six weeks. It has been really frustrating. Basic tasks like putting on my shoes or getting in and out of a car feel Herculean at times.
On the one hand, it is deeply humbling. It reminds me what an incredible blessing simple things in life are: picking up my children and holding them, kicking around a soccer ball, touching my toes, having sex with my partner, even rolling over in bed. It also demonstrates what an incredibly loving family I have. Even my daughter helps me with my shoes in the morning on the bad days.
On the other hand, it is really scary. Am I facing a life in which I will never be able to do these things again? Why is it that any number of treatments – stretching, meditation, massage, chiropractic treatment, heat, ice, Chi Kung, varying forms of physical activity, not sitting, etc – so far have only brought temporary relief, if any. Why does the pain move around and show up sometimes and not others? What exactly is wrong with me and what am I DOING wrong?
My family told me about a book by Dr. John Sarno. It suggests that most back pain in responsible, motivated people is due to unconscious repressed emotion – anger, fear and anxiety – not slipped discs, spinal problems, misalignment or weak back problems. He says if we can recognise this, the pain will disappear. And my responses to various treatments so far suggest he is right.
My back pain, my colleagues at Converge, the staff at Rethink and my family have helped me to think through the ways in which my life is out of alignment with my values and commitments. It brings me back to something I have come to at various times in my life as driving so many of my daily activities and ways of being – a deep fear of my own inadequacy. That underlies so much anxiety in so many of us – drives me to a lot of doing without paying attention to who I am being and what the experience of that is for me and others. It means working too much and doing everything I can to show I got it handled without admitting vulnerability or uncertainty. And it hurts, physically, and cuts off joy and love, emotionally. I found that this sciatica is advancing something I have been doing for some time amidst running a growing business and family – shrinking my world and isolating myself. I have less and shallower communication with fewer people, and a shrinking range of physical motion and movement. I am thankful for the ways in which these last few weeks of pain have presented a physical manifestation of my reality that I cannot deny. I cannot continue to live with it either.
So over the next few weeks (for starters) I will be “truing up” my life – engaging in different types conversations (less on the transactional and more on what really matters), being in more communication with people, reorganizing my commitments, expressing what I haven’t been expressing (across the emotional spectrum) in order to have the back pain disappear and improve the quality of my daily life. I look forward to you joining me on this journey and appreciate your support and patience. And for those of you who are skeptical or disagree with this view of back pain, you are welcome to. Please don’t share that skepticism with me right now. You can tell me you told me so later but right now, I need some space to follow this course without doubt. With love and appreciation…
Because he is going about his struggle in an honest, authentic way, he was happy to let me share this with you, my readers. It is affirming to know others are reaching out to their communities in both times of joy AND struggle. Thank you, Hamilton for being an example of this.