(Song Dedication: Vanilla Pines by Tow’rs)
Yesterday I had an IMS (Inter Muscular Stimulation) appointment for my chronic neck pain. If you’ve never had this type of physiotherapy, 1: lucky you and 2: it kinda of looks like acupuncture but instead of gently placed needles staying in your skin for a particular amount of time the needle is jabbed into a specific trigger point in the trouble area and then what feels like, vigorously moved about to stimulate an incredibly shocking muscle contraction, ultimately fatiguing the muscle allowing it to release. Fun right?!
So I noticed on my drive to the appointment that even at rest I was experiencing pain on the other side of my neck which is unusual for me, being that my right trapezius is the usual suspect. With both sides restricted I mentioned this to the physiotherapist so he could treat accordingly. I am prepared for the usual contractions that at times take my breath away, but always re-establish deep breath to get through a session and usually 18-24 hours later my symptoms have improved greatly. However, there was really no amount of preparation on my part that could have saved me from the reaction I had yesterday.
When a trigger point is stimulated I am accustomed to a 7 or 8 out of 10 spasm. Yesterday I felt like I was having a 12 out of 10 reaction…was my brain hyper-sensitive, was something more “out” than usual, was I having difficulty adjusting to having both sides of my body treated?! All I know is unless it’s a spelling test or a chocolate cake evaluation I do not shoot for 12’s out of 10’s. No please.
Feeling tender and raw, I climbed in the car to drive the hour and a half home. I was still thinking about the reaction I had, wondering where it came from and then it came to me as I sat quietly wincing and listening to music. The phone call.
The morning before, I spoke to my Uncle (my Biological Father’s older brother) to touch base about our arrival in the UK this upcoming weekend. We are so excited for this family adventure and have been thoughtfully planning now for months. For the backstory of how this trip came about click here. As soon as he answered the phone I sensed the hesitation as his smooth, confident british accent faltered. He asked to be on speaker phone to both me and my husband and requested privacy from “young Jack”.
He had some important information to share about John’s condition and so we listened intently. He reported that in the most recent psych assessment that his dementia has progressed to stage 7 of 8. This has advanced rapidly in the passing recent months. He has also been in and out of hospital the past 6 weeks or so with kidney issues due to dehydration. An obvious challenge when your memory is failing you. They are in the process of deciding what type of care is now best suited to his condition, he has been fortunate up until now, remaining in his home with support coming in. I listened.
With the health concerns shared he moved on to a proposed plan to have “Jack meet his Granddad.” He had thought about every detail thoroughly and we appreciated his consideration and attention to making this positive for Jack and preserving his brother’s dignity. I continued to listen.
When he had said what he needed to and so probably had been hanging onto in a weighty way, I spoke. I explained that we are fine to follow his lead and have left our time in Wales open to accommodate the best quality time based on John’s needs. I thanked him for being completely honest and acknowledged how difficult this all must be for him as well. He gave an audible sigh (of relief, sadness or a mixture of both) and closed with what we all were thinking, “This is likely Jack’s first and only opportunity to know his Granddad, so I want it to be a happy memory.” I realized we weren’t just talking about Jack either.
Even as I write and then re-read what I just composed the heaviness hits me in my chest with an ache. In that moment though, I found the grace and presence to allow this new information to be and felt completely grounded. That is to say until the muscular release triggered by IMS 24 hours later and the openness and curiosity I experienced on my drive home.
Once I realized why my body had reacted so harshly, I began to cry. At that very moment my phone sent me it’s daily check-in how are you feeling right now? I answered aloud to let myself hear it, digest it…”Sad. I feel really sad.”
My mind then proceeded to play out a variety of scenarios of how this all might go down in actuality next weekend, when I return to see my biological Father 18 years later in the final stages of his life. And that is where I stopped myself in the certainty that I had no way of knowing. I will have to summon my greatest courage and presence to be compassionately aware to whatever those days will bring me, my husband, my son and my Mother-in-law; all three of them meeting this side of my family for the first time ever.
I held so much doubt for so very long. I braced at the thought of re-introducing him into my life, because it was now our lives. I
watched sobbed as Randall Pearson in This is Us re-connected with his birth father, fell in love only to lose him a few short months later and I watched him be better for it. But I still read it as a cautionary tale (what Brene Brown calls Foreboding Joy). I still understood it as the worst case scenario that I might too be inviting into our lives.
But I cast doubt aside and did it anyway.
The thing about doubt is, what I am now beginning to grasp, is it is energy. I have experienced much of my own doubt but also that of others projected upon me, especially in the last year. Others questioning my validity, my capability, my process as if it were their own choices they had made, taking my words and actions so personally upon themselves they felt entitled to pass judgement. And I thank them for their doubt. And I thank myself for my own because this is what I have learned about this thing that can be perceived as so powerful it may even derail you (temporarily or permanently) from walking what you believe is your true path.
I have learned to take this fundamentally negative projection and alter it. I have discovered that my own and others doubts can be catalytically converted into the jet fuel to propel me further toward my purpose, just the same as when my true allies believe in me and give me their encouragement and trust. I am my own proof, just as you are yours, that you can and will make difficult choices, commit whole-heartedly and know the authenticity of your path because of all you have overcome to get there. So give me your doubts and I will transform them into something precious and true; I will stand tall like vanilla pines, everyday is another try to choose to do more than survive.