Fat Lady on a Bike: My Journey to Peace and Fitness

Join me and my wonderful Electra Townie bike on my continuing journey to inner peace and both inner and outer fitness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cycling as Metaphor

When I titled my last post (Breaking the Cycle), I was struck by the irony of those words juxtaposed with the picture of me on my bicycle.  There is cycling (the vicious circle kind), and then there is cycling (the wind in your hair, feels like flying kind).  I suppose there is also the cycle of life kind, or the cycle of holidays.  So cycling, as either activity or metaphor, can be either terrible, amazing, or just plain good. 

As a member of a tribe who read the same book every year, I find the notion of cycling as spiraling both congenial and satisfying.  By spiraling, I mean going around and around, but never ending a circuit in exactly the same place as you began it.  Each time through the book, you understand things a little differently, or notice different stories or phrases based on where you are at that new moment.  Each lap around the track you push a little harder or breathe a little more deeply, or go a little more slowly to pay attention to the landscape.

What I've come to understand lately is that even when it feels as though my cycling is vicious circling, it actually is more likely to be spiraling.  Yes, I keep coming back to the anguish and helplessness of losing my mother, but each time I experience it from a slightly different point of view, and it hurts me a little less.  Yes, I keep slipping back into eating for comfort, but each time with a bit more mindfulness, understanding and compassion and a lot less self-loathing. 

And how does that relate to the wonderful kind of cycling that I do on my bike?  I think the controlling metaphor here is that of the weapon known ethnographically as a bola or more hiply as a meteor hammer -- a weighted ball on the end of a cord that is spun around and around until sufficient momentum is gained and then released to soar away.  If I cycle/spiral enough, I gain momentum and can cycle off into my future, the wind in my hair, feeling as though I'm flying.

A hui hou.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Breaking the Cycle

This has been a remarkable winter and extremely challenging early spring, and I apologize for my long absence from this space.  I hope to write with more regularity as I navigate through this next stage of my journey.

Last Thursday, I had an amazing experience:  a complete convergence between the physical and the psychological/spiritual realms. 

In the physical world, while I have been much healthier this past year than for many years previous, and much more energetic and active, I have continued to experience periodic pain in my knees (osteoarthritis) and left ankle (sinus tarsi syndrome due to impaired leg mechanics).  Over the winter in Hawaii, my ankle was fairly well behaved, but during the past couple of weeks after we came back to Massachusetts, it started hurting more and more.

Similarly, while I had a wonderful winter in terms of mind, heart and spirit, eating well, sleeping well and feeling extremely balanced, the minute we got back east I was bombarded with stressors.  For one thing, we continued to be displaced from the heart of our home, primarily due to the unreasonable recalcitrance of a neighbor who wouldn't give us permission to access our pipes through her apartment until just last week.  For another, in order to hold our rather large Passover seders in the apartment which is usually reserved for that purpose (and storage) but which has been where we sleep for the past 8 months, we had to move a whole lot of stuff out to give us some space.  We also had to remove everything we might need from the unit where the work was going to be done, and we also had to make space in the unit where our offices and second kitchen are so we could eat meals down there once Passover had ended!  Not to mention shopping and cooking for a challenging holiday and 40 dinner guests!

We got through the holiday joyously, but I found my mood going downhill.  I recognized that I had a serious attitude problem; I was seeing obstacles, not challenges, and did not see how to pull myself back to my usual, more optimistic point of view.  And above all, I felt out of balance and desperately in need of restoring that internal gyroscope.

On the Thursday in question, I had a morning phone session with Teri Hirss, my friend, teacher and guide along this journey, and she gently led me to the realization that I was back in the darkest place in my past, that horrible moment of being in a world without my mother, not knowing how to go on, feeling totally powerless and not heard or understood by any of the adults in my world.  While household upheaval is certainly not on a par with the death of a parent in terms of actual emotional trauma, what I realized was that I was similarly overwhelmed and thrown by the intensity of the situation and my inability to deal with it into "lizard brain" mode -- fight or flight only, no higher consciousness involved.  And the resonance with that earlier time had me trapped in my earlier feelings of helplessness and frustration.

In the afternoon, I went to physical therapy, and Lena's magical hands set to work on my ankle.  She probed deep and hard, and then told me that massage was all about breaking the cycle of pain.  If there was knotting and spasm in a muscle, it would break that spasm.  In my case, where she said she felt no spasm, it could break the cycle of escalating pain by desensitizing the nerves.  While this was painful at the time, it could offer great relief.

When I left PT that afternoon, I walked out into the sunlight with a light heart and a pain-free ankle.  The cycle was broken. And I've been pain-free and feeling balanced again ever since.

A hui hou.