Stand up straight

The GP referred me for an MRI scan on Friday. It will take a week or so before it takes place. He was concerned about what was happening in my spine and booked me in without hesitation. I was half hoping to have to fight for the scan, to have to exaggerate my symptoms and therefore downgrade the seriousness of the problem in my mind. But no, it is serious enough as it is and warrants further investigation. Now I walk the path of NHS support which I am grateful for but would prefer not to have to engage with. What is even clearer now is that I need help. I can't fix this on my own.

Until the scan the situation remains tiresomely familiar. Hot, sharp nerve pain the whole way down my right leg every day, for most of the day, increasing in intensity in to the early hours of the morning when it wakes me up and torments me.

Many of the muscles in my leg, hips, back, and shoulders are permanently on. Holding tight in protective spasm. Trying to protect me but overdoing it somewhat. They are exhausted and inflamed and desperate for release. But they won't let go. The softening of savasana (once such a comfort to me in yoga relaxation and sleep) is now unavailable and some distance away. It's very frustrating to lie down and give my body permission to rest, only for it to respond with angry, fearful refusal.

When I stand up my body attempts to move me away from the pain and the (suspected) damaged disc. That began as a sideways lean but has now developed into a forward hunch. When I was at the seaside on Friday shuffling around with my body hunched over I thought about all the times in the past I have become impatient with older people showing the same posture slowing me down in the street. Now I know what it feels like to be in that sort of body. I would give them an empathetic high five if I could straighten up long enough. I noticed my inner critic getting his teeth in to me for being slow and in the way. Nobody made me feel like that, it was all in my head.

I feel like I'm stuck between the metaphorical rock and hard place because there's nowhere for me to go to rest and release. No posture that provides respite. It's exhausting and creates rising despair in me.

I notice how attuned I am to body posture around me at the moment. As well as noticing the bent, hunched and shuffling people and feeling a pang of sadness and compassion for them I am also noticing the opposite extreme.

These are the people, young children, healthy adults and others who inhabit their body with ease and fluidity. Their backs flow upright effortlessly and they casually place one foot in front of the other with their head held high and no evidence of pain biting into their body with each step. It strikes me as such a simple and precious thing to be able to move with ease. I can remember what that feels like and I am grieving for it. I am so grateful for how my body has served me, particularly my back as I have called it into action over and over to perform wild and fantastic manoeuvres in my youth, as a sportsman, as a yoga student and teacher and as a father in service to my children. I have really enjoyed the perceived invincibility of my physical prowess. Now my body is asking for a rebalancing. I can understand why. I am sad for what has now gone but thankful for the fun I had. I hope there will be more wild and free movement. I am sure I will taste that joy again but, my goodness, how I will savour it this time round. It's a pure gift to be cherished, celebrated and cared for.

What's more, my body is still going right now, in this moment. Yes there is pain, discomfort and distortion but it is alive and functioning, still moving me about in the world, walking me to the edge of the sea and turning my face up to the sun. It can still skim a stone out across the waves (once or twice) to the amazement of my sons. I'm grateful for what is now, as well as what has gone before.

I watch with gratitude and sadness as Thor, Oak and Hugh move freely and fluidly in their bodies at the seaside in Swanage on Friday

I watch with gratitude and sadness as Thor, Oak and Hugh move freely and fluidly in their bodies at the seaside in Swanage on Friday

Ben Parkes2 Comments