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Hello Leg

My leg freaks me out.

My heart was pounding when the fibreglass cast was lifted off a few days ago because I wasn’t sure what I’d see below that clinical white shell. If not for the maroon gel polish matching the other foot, I wouldn’t have recognised the foot and leg at all. It was tender and fragile and bruised.

The left foot I know is in perpetual motion – walking, running, bobbing nervously when I sit. It is a partner in crime to the right. The limp, mottled limb I saw emerge from that cast is a burden, a stranger. I felt like I was looking at a kidney or other internal organ inadvertently exposed; seeing something I shouldn’t see, a fragile thing in need of protection.  My leg was then transferred into a large, removable aircast and strapped in place beneath layers of foam and plastic. I was relieved it was safely out of view.

It bothered me all day, that encounter with my leg. Never mind the pain that ensued from the new cast, I couldn’t stop thinking about the disconnect I had experienced from this poor hurting part of me that had spent two weeks in exile. I was such a bad leg owner!

But there is one thing I can work to repair right now, and that is my relationship with this estranged part. You see, after I quit drinking and started to unravel the all the emotional junk I have been cramming down inside I had a startling realization: I have a cat-perch in my chest. I was ignoring that parts of my body I didn’t like: my big feet, my coltish legs, my bony wrists and the hand with the amputated finger. The wobbly bits on my belly and thighs. The curves that draw male attention and the lumps that draw self-loathing. I would climb up up up inside myself until I was safely located in my chest, shoulders and head. It felt safe up there. No wonder I have chest pains and headaches! A whole body worth of energy was confined to an area that could barely hold it.

I stumbled into yoga a few years ago. I’d previously dismissed it as too slow and woowoo, but once I tried it I was stuck by the way it relieved the head and chest pain I had constantly felt for years. It got me off my cat perch. At the start of every yoga class, the instructor will often say, “Take a moment to set your intention for this class today.” I have no idea what others’ intentions involve (if you do this please share, I am so curious!) but mine is always the same: to accept and appreciate every part of my body, to be here now in my entirety.

 

I did the same thing with my life. Anything I didn’t like I would ignore and pretend wasn’t real, wasn’t me. That didn’t happen, I didn’t say that, I don’r remember. I raced to the future in my mind, always anxious to get to the next moment. Always planning, thinking, worrying. Too busy for the now. Definitely not looking back, it is scary back there.

Healing my life involved making peace with the past, trusting in the future, and living in the now. Healing my relationship with my body meant learning to inhabit all of me. This is why I do so much yoga, because I can unhook for thinking and just follow the instructor’s voice: breath in and do this….breath out and do that. I need every part of me to balance and twist and move through the poses. I fill up my body, and it is safe…I am whole.

So I know I can’t allow myself to see this poor broken leg as “other”. I can remove the cast to shower and get dressed, which frankly scares the shit out of me because IT IS BROKEN and one little bump will hurt like hell and possibly screw up the healing, but I force myself to free my foot for a few minutes to give it some loving care. I clean it, roll on essential oils said to speed healing and keep the skin soft, and gingerly run my fingers from toes to knee.

This morning I whispered, “Thank you for breaking so that my knee didn’t blow. You took it for the team. Get well soon, leg.” Then I realized I was talking to it like it wasn’t mine, so I stared at it a little longer until it felt more familiar, and tried not to notice that it needs a shave.

Before returning my leg into its robo-shell, I allowed my feet to just rest side by side on the floor. For the first time in weeks, both feet felt the same thing at the same time and I felt connected. It was a sweet, peaceful moment; just sitting and feeling my feet touch the floor.

If you have exiled parts of yourself, whether physical or emotional, it is worth while to sit quietly and experience wholeness. It can feel odd or uncomfortable (okay, you don’t have to talk to it, unless you’re quirky like me!), but just allow it for a little while every day until it starts to feel natural. It has been a powerful experience for me, and this week I was reminded that it will be an ongoing process, something I will have to keep working at to overcome a lifetime of sitting on my perch.

 

 

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About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on January 16, 2017, in Getting Sober, Insights and Lessons and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I usually set my intention to ‘turning it over to my higher power’ or ‘staying sober today’. But I’m still not advanced in sobriety- I like new ideas- so thanks. I hope you heal fast- I need to start using essential oils. And I need to give you a list of series to watch on your other post. My college son recommended ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Mr Robot’- I liked ‘Orange is the New Black’ ‘Game of Thrones’ and I will send more. My husband and I are watching ‘Medici’ right now- scenery is beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Healing my life involved making peace with the past, trusting in the future, and living in the now.”

    This line is going on my quote wall above my desk. Thank you for the insight and support you offer all of us!

    Oh, and for Netflix: Frankie and Grace (or Grace and Frankie, I can never remember).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Every morning I preform abhayanga oil massage. As I apply oil I marvel at my beautiful feet, my beautiful knees, etc.

    It has changed my body relationship.

    Hug. I hope you aren’t having too much pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bigtreelittleleaf

    Wonderful post and when I do yoga sometimes I will repeat my intentions over in my head like a mantra; these days they are: present, sober, successful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As always, Jean, your words warm my heart! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such great insight Jean. This is beautiful and such an important message. I was listening to the bubble hour episode yesterday and it was so great, for a lot of reasons but mainly it got me thinking about compassion. Your post speaks to not only compassion but the importance of integration of mind, body and self. These are some things it got me thinking about.

    The blog for today was on working on wholeness, integration of self, mind and body. Acknowledging and incorporating those parts of ourselves that we have become accustomed to ignoring, suppressing, pushing away etc. I think here of the “pink elephant” –try not to think of a pink elephant and see what happens–despite our efforts in ignoring it keeps coming back. He’s a persistent little fellow. That’s what not admitting I had a problem was like, it was the Rosé Colored elephant, sometimes it was the color of Malbec or Pinot noir. I tried my hardest to ignore him: working, worrying, thinking about the future, thinking about the past, rarely on the present because I was too busy either working, sulking, worrying, or numbing it all with booze. But he did what ignored elephants often to do, he kept coming back and would remind me on a pretty consistent basis of its presence despite my efforts. When I admitted he was there, which was not too long ago he was less rowdy but still around, however now he’s front and center for the time being and we are working as a team to sort this thing out so he doesn’t feel the need to keep coming back to pester me. That will take a while, but that is ok. Often in my past yoga practice I would set my intention for inner peace, or compassion, or some variant of those two. For me they worked because I would work on matching my behaviors to that intention, but often it would only last for the day, which was usually a Sunday after I had had my “fun” for the weekend. Eventually my practice slipped away because I was too hungover to make it to class, the days I went hungover were not pretty so I stopped all together. That’s how the elephant started coming around more often and making a whole lotta noise. With my practice pretty much non existent so too my mindfulness practice and my intention setting. In the past 42 days my intention has been to not drink for the day, that is all I can focus on right now. However, even though I say I have focused on that solely, I have also set the intention of being more present and accepting, noticing, feeling, describing, and not judging myself–showing myself some self compassion. The elephant still comes around (now he’s taken the disguise of cravings) and he brought along some Friends (“the angry child-like” one and the “rationale” one), but in the past week or so they have been less and less rambunctious, I acknowledge them but continue on with my intention. This serves the purpose of a) integrating rather than suppressing, b) acknowledging rather than ignoring, and c) accepting rather than denying; so far it’s working. I’m looking at my local studio’s class schedule now, maybe it’s time to get back on my yoga elephant.

    Onward to day 42.

    Like

    • The bubble hour episode with Dr. John Kelly

      Like

    • Brilliant. Release the elephant with gratitude. He (she?) came to serve a purpose but you don’t need it anymore. You’ve got this.

      Like

      • Nice observation (he or she) and I think it’s both, though I defaulted to the masculine gender pronoun”he”. Interesting because i think that is reflective of my over identifcation with my father, who died as a result of his addiction to alcohol and other subtances. I have talked about him and my struggles with this over identification in previous comments. So glad to be able to see that from this newly sober perspective, and be ok with it.

        Like

      • Today turned out to be a difficult day…I have been on what feels like a anxiety and depressed mood rollercoaster ride. I did some of my mindfulness stuff and I finally worked myself up to listen to the Adult Children of Alcoholics…and it hit me like a ton of bricks, and although I really wanted to and needed to cry I swallowed this lump in the throat and the tears that went along with it. My go to response. This episode brought up the biggest and loudest elephant I think had been with me most of my life. I’m so glad I listened to it. I think I’m ready to dive into that and do those readings you recommended, I’m so grateful that I have therapy this thurs.

        Looking forward to day 43 and open to accepting all the stuff that comes along with it.

        Hope that leg is feeling ok today.

        Like

        • You are brave and strong. Your heart is open and ready to receive. But remember to be gentle with yourself. There’s no rush — a slow pace is just fine. The layers will peel back as you are ready, as long as you stay open to change. Sending big hugs. You’re doing great. Keep going.

          Like

          • Thanks so much for the hugs. What’s that saying (I’m horrible with sayings btw never get them right…) “easy does it wins the race” or something to that effect? This my my intention for day 43 😉 thanks for the hugs, hugs back to you and your leg as well!

            Liked by 1 person

        • As the daughter of an alcoholic, the book “Perfect Daughters” by Robert Ackerman really helped me understand some of my behavior patterns, grieve for my past, and start to let go of some of th baggage that doesn’t serve me anymore. I highly recommend it.

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  7. I learned in my mindfullness class (Mbsr) the practice of body scanning. You take the time to notice every part of your body and bring loving awareness to yourself. I try to do this each morning before I get out of bed, stopping on the parts that need special care. I agree that we can forget to thank our own self for being here now. Sending out best wishes for your healing leg .❤️

    Like

    • I forgot about that one! My therapist walked me through it and I loved it. That’s a quick, simple meditation to connect head to toe. Thanks for this! I’m going to use it today.

      Like

  8. Remarkable words!! Thanks Jean!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kimberly Becker

    !Love this!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Years ago I had a full-length leg cast on for 6 weeks. When it came off the whole leg had wasted so for ages I had a normal leg and a skinny half-width leg which freaked me out no end. It’s definitely full-width again though, and some! Lots of food for thought here, thanks for sharing it. Making peace with my body over the years has never come easy and still doesn’t 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was sort of like that with my entire body up until a year ago. I never realy liked myself as a teenager and young adult. I’m only starting to make peace with myself now. It is a process of undoing years of self hatred and dissasociation.xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I do the same thing Jean (both past and current as I’m still working on it too!) – splitting as they call it in psychological terms – and yes with time we re-integrate all the splintered and disowned parts of ourselves 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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