Emotional Short-Arming: Protecting A Psychological Injury

My massage therapist commented that I twist my right arm whenever she moves it. She questioned the origin of this tendency. During the height of my swim conditioning, I short-armed my right free style stroke. My coach instructed me to pull my arm through completely before exiting the water.  This adjustment improved my speed and efficiency. For a few workouts I decelerated and concentrated on pulling through. However, I found it tedious, and it slowed me down tremendously. Additionally, as I fatigued I returned to short-arming. I shared this story with my massage therapist, and she commented, “Maybe you’re protecting something.” She asked if I had a past injury. Prior to swimming, I spent several years rock climbing and pushing my body in ways you can in your late 20’s and early 30’s. I likely sustained an injury.

My response to this physical injury mimics a psychological injury. Often times we compensate to avoid pain and keep moving forward. However, this coping style eventually short changes us when we can no longer progress with ease and efficiency. We are frequently unaware of this protective mechanism until we enter relationships, and others identify it. Once this compensatory strategy enters our awareness slowing down and addressing it proves challenging. We feel pulled into our old habit particularly during times of stress and fatigue. However, if we slow down and address the injury, we start moving with greater fluidity and ease.

Admittedly, when I dive into the pool, I’m tempted to bullet through the water like a torpedo. Then, I hear my healthy self, “you’re short-arming . . . pull through the entire stroke . . . don’t get in a hurry.” I may resemble Esther Williams. However, my right arm propels me further if I can resist exiting at the point of discomfort.

Where in your life are you emotional short-arming? How can you leave your arm in the water a bit longer when it feels uncomfortable?

Imperfectly,

Amelia

 

 

Avoiding Painful Emotions: Garnet Will Make You Popular

My fave piece: smokey quartz and bright orange...

My fave piece: smokey quartz and bright orange garnet crystals, China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After years of driving past The Cave of Wonders, curiosity pulled me in. I stepped inside and magnificent gems encircled me. A sweet caramel and white pitbull named Bella shadowed me as I perused the stones. I showed Bella a black, shiny piece of tourmaline and explained its energy-absorbing properties. She sniffed and licked my hand, confirming my selection. I picked up a piece of smooth, rose quartz and felt its coolness and weight in my hand. The bin’s placard announced that it decreased stress and brought love into one’s life. Sign me up for that! I added it to my growing collection and continued browsing. Bella grew bored of examining my treasures and parked herself in the front entrance to greet unsuspecting humans.

When my stone collection overflowed the reaches of my palm, I decided to check out. I had gems to help me grieve, avoid negative energy and stress, and bring love and prosperity into my life. Yep, I was covered in the happy life department now. The shop owner handed me a complimentary marble-sized garnet – the stone of the week. He gave me a handout describing its properties and meanings. Garnet brings successful business, cures depression, makes a person popular, adds constancy to friendships, increases security level, cleanses and purifies and increases sex drive. I hit the jackpot! Now I could start a successful business, be happy, popular, confident, clear negative energy and be a sex goddess!

While the garnet claims appeared exaggerated, I think we all hope at times that one special thing or person can provide fulfillment, safety, and happiness. We all have experiences in which we wish a garnet could cure all our troubles. Simple fixes are attractive but no replacement to feeling our way through life. I keep the garnet in my purse to remind me of this fact. If life hands me a lesson, and I choose not to accept the challenge, it comes around again. The times I find myself wishing for a “garnet fix” are typically the times I want to avoid painful emotions.

Where in your life do you find yourself wishing for the garnet fix? What do you need to feel your way through?

 

Imperfectly,

Amelia

 

 

The Perfect Date . . . With Myself: A Lesson in Self-Care

Une enseigne de débit de boisson en France mon...

Une enseigne de débit de boisson en France montrant les deux orthographes acceptées du mot bistro(t) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Please forgive the TMI. Yesterday, I endured the lovely experience of my annual well-woman exam. Nothing like being stretched, stuck, and smooshed to say “Happy Friday!” I rewarded myself by visiting my favorite bistro with the plan to order a delicious French pastry. Once I arrived, my stomach rumbled, and I realized a croissant would not stave off my hunger. A glass of wine and a harvest salad with shaved Brussel sprouts, pears, and almonds seemed more in order. Instantly my 17-year-old self chimed in and stated, “You will look like a loser eating alone . . . especially on a Friday night . . .get your dinner to go.” My 40-year-old self interrupted and said, “Hey, dining alone is a sign of maturity and self-care. You never know what might happen. You could meet some interesting people or just enjoy some amazing food without feeling pressured to make conversation when all you want to do is sip chardonnay.”

A magazine rack filled with beautiful magazines donned the north wall of the bistro, so I picked up San Diego Home and Martha Stewart Living. For some twisted reason I love looking at gorgeous homes I cannot afford and craft items I lack the talent to create. I thoroughly enjoyed savoring my wine while flipping through the magazines. When I looked up, I noticed three other solo diners. We held the delightful secret of solo dining bliss. My waitress approached me, smiled, and asked if I found a suitable home. I informed her of the “steeply discounted” mansion that now listed for a mere $7,995,000. We agreed, while the price was a bargain, that we would feel creeped out living alone in such a large house. Yes, our cozy apartments provided a much better sense of safety.

After relishing my delectable salad, I consumed the pumpkin tea cake which paired nicely with my wine. I relaxed in my chair, took a deep breath, and peered out the window into the clear, blue sky. Yes, a perfect date. (Ok, I wouldn’t argue if Scott Foley of Scandal asked to sit with me. However, my solo dining date was exceptional.)

Where are you taking yourself on a perfect date this week?

 

Forgive Yourself

I recently joined some yogi friends at a trendy all-vegan, organic restaurant. After enjoying delectable appetizers and a few glasses of wine, someone suggested we do a clearing activity. (Hey, what do you expect from a bunch of yogis after wine?) The yogi leading our exercise asked, “What have you not forgiven yourself for?” He added the caveat to only share that with which we felt comfortable (i.e., “don’t share shit that is too deep”). I thought, “can’t we start with an easier question . . .say what is your favorite color? . . .dog or cat person?”

The authenticity of my dinning mates created a sense of safety which encouraged me to share something beyond, “I need to forgive myself for using the last of the toilet paper at work and not telling anyone.” Themes which emerged from our conversation included forgiving oneself for . . . negatively comparing oneself to others, not meeting cultural standards of success, putting one’s self-care first . . . As the sharing continued, I felt more endured to this lovely group of individuals. Hence, my toilet paper response seemed, forgive the pun, crappy. Hence, I took a deep breath and summoned my courage. “I need to forgive myself for feeling guilty about setting boundaries with people who are suffering.” I went on to explain that I have a history of swimming out to drowning folks with life jackets and holding them above treacherous waters. The feeling of saving others feels good. However, in the past, I lost sight that treading water contributed to sheer exhaustion.

Now I’m learning to set healthy boundaries, so I don’t drown in my quest to exercise compassion towards others. I used to think this process was selfish and mean. However, I now know this process is incredibly caring. I cannot help anyone if I’m lying lifeless on the bottom of the ocean.

What do you need to forgive yourself for today my splendidly imperfect friend?

Imperfectly,

Amelia

 

You Won’t Die in the Yoga Room

I made the mistake. I had the fortunate opportunity to practice Bikram yoga on a 90% humidity day in sunny southern California. For ten years I effectively tolerated the 105 degree, 60% humidity environment of this yoga. However, this day I entered the studio, unrolled my mat, and instantly transformed into a human water fountain. Sweat gushed from every pore in my body despite the fact I laid silently in savasana (i.e., corpse pose)! The teacher entered the room and announced, “Rise and shine it’s yoga time! I know it’s a hot day, but you’re not going to die in the yoga room.” I stood up and thought, “I’m f*&#ed!” My body boiled. Probably, because I was standing DIRECTLY under the red glow of a radiant heater. Given room was packed with sweaty yoga bodies, I could not escape the heater’s radius. During the second breath of pranayama, my mind raced, “It’s too hot . . .I’m dizzy . . . I have to pee. . . I want to run out of this room . . . what if I run out? . . .I’ve never run out. . .what’s wrong with me? . . . everyone else looks ok . . .this absolutely sucks . . . I should have slept in . . . I will be dehydrated . . .my stomach is on fire . . .why did I eat garlicky hummus before class? . . . breathe . . . breathe . . .breathe.” I eventually calmed my mind. However, my body fought to stand. My stomach knotted and the room spun. I surrendered to my mat until the world stilled. Then, with a big deep breath, I stood up and tried again.

By virtue of our human-beingness, we experience moments of intense emotional pain. We question whether we can tolerate another excruciating second and feel pulled to flee the room. We numb . . . with reality TV (goodness knows I’ve watched way too much Teen Mom), busyness, material objects, and substances. We do everything in our power to escape that radiant heater, because it’s tremendously uncomfortable. We gain momentary lapses of relief only for the heat to blast us squarely in the face. If we surrender and breathe, the perspiration pours from our bodies. The toxins leave, we cool, and oxygen replenishes us. We stand up and try again. When the intensity of the heat overwhelms you, lie down, breathe, and recover. Then, get up and try again. If you run, pain will follow you right out of the door.

 If emotional heat has left you face down on the floor, I recommend reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. This wonderful manuscript reminds us that signing up to live whole-heartedly involves falling, and she gives us a formula for rising up.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

My splendidly imperfect dog's version of shavasana.

My splendidly imperfect dog’s version of savasana.

The Dangers of Living Alone

 

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the tardiness of this post. Ironically, the day I planned to post this blog, I got sick. However, I am delighted to share this piece with you by my dear friend and guest blogger Taylor. My response to Taylor’s piece follows below. Enjoy! ~Amelia

 

I have lived with back problems for many years. If I am not careful, I can easily agitate old wounds and truly injure myself.  Yesterday, I was leading a class on crisis intervention and slipped on a slick floor (And yes, I am aware of the irony in this situation). I immediately knew that the minor slip was going to create some stiffness and pain later. However, I had no idea what the extent of it would be.  In preparation for what was sure to come, I went through my stretching routine, took some meds and iced the area of concern.

Only a few hours into a restless sleep, I was awoken by an all too familiar shooting pain in my lower back and legs.  I got up, took another hand full of ibuprofen and tried to go back to sleep.  With little hope of actually resting, I decided to get up and try to stretch a bit.  As the night creeped forward, I could feel the magic of the ibuprofen waning.  I went to the medicine cabinet and pulled out the big guns which quickly put me back to sleep for a few hours.  When I woke up again, I managed to get to the shower and partially wash the nightly grime off my now stiff and achy body. Toweling off was an exercise in futility as my body groaned at every attempt to bend beyond a few degrees.  Breathless and fatigued, I made one final effort to dry and clothe myself.  Unable to even get my underwear on, I simply collapsed under the weight of this damp, naked cleaning tragedy.

 Now, at this point, I don’t know if it was the stress, the ridiculous nature of the circumstance, or the muscle relaxers, but I couldn’t stop laughing. These were no ordinary run of the mill laughs.  They took on a maniacal quality that drenched me in a feeling that was otherworldly. I felt disembodied yet somehow grounded to the moment.  Each heaving laugh, was married to a pain so intense, I started to sob uncontrollably. What made this whole situation worse, was that I started imagining what the text would look like if actually had to call someone to help me. “So Amelia, how good of a friend are you? Well, I was wondering if you could come over and pull my underwear up over my bulbous backside? Also, there is some homemade ice-cream in the freezer if you want it. Thanks.”

 These are the moments that truly test your resolve.  Who did I call on to help me? Well, I called no one. Now this is not to say that my friends wouldn’t have come to my rescue if I needed it(And laughed their asses off as they would have surely retold the story a million times). In fact, the knowledge that support was available was enough to push me into action. I pulled myself up off the floor, kicked off the underwear that was trajectory wrapped around my ankle and went back to bed for 8 hours.  I awoke in a bit less pain, but with a renewed sense of resiliency. Even in the toughest of times, we can surprise ourselves with the strength that resides within. Indeed, I had climbed the mountain of Motrin and seen the promise Lumbar support land.

 Cheers

–  Taylor F. Alvarez

 Amelia’s response:

 Had you texted me, I would have come, found myself consumed by your infectious laughter, pulled up your pants and then eaten your ice cream. Why is it that we hesitate to reach out for help during times when it is abundantly clear that we need it and others would love to provide it?

 Like Taylor, I too live alone. Several months ago I contracted strep throat. I knew I was in for a turbulent ride when the chills hijacked my body despite wrapping it in a wool jacket and blasting the space heater. Miraculously, I negotiated the last three hours of work, crawled into my car and made my way home. In a zombie-like state, I trudged up the stairs to my apartment, opened the door and collapsed on the couch. Several hours later, I awoke to darkness and the realization I lacked the energy to move from the couch to the bathroom. Tears rolled down my cheeks as my sweet dog licked my hand to say, “I would help if I could.” I prided myself on fierce independence and now I truly needed help. For a few minutes, I threw myself a fabulous pity party. If only my ex-husband had done x,y & z I would not be alone right now. I quickly realized this party sucked and I best bounce before I woke up with a misery hangover. I picked up my phone and began scrolling through my contacts. Relief washed over me as realized I had several amazing people in my life who would come to my rescue. I would only be alone and dejected if I chose to be. I called a friend who graciously brought over coconut water and a thermometer. She also called to check on me the following day. Love is all around us. We just have to invite it in and trust that we are worthy of it.

 Imperfectly,

Amelia

Doesn't that sweet face just make you feel better?

Doesn’t that sweet face just make you feel better?

Neosporin™ for the Soul

After finishing a challenging, powerful yoga class, I left the comfort of a heated room and stepped into a crisp SoCal, starry night. I looked to the heavens and marveled at Orion and Jupiter. Then, a wave of emotion reared up and washed over with the power of a freight train. A familiar knot formed in my throat and warm tears streamed down my cheeks. I thought of my ex-husband who introduced me to yoga almost 10 years prior. I laughed when I remembered the goofy looks he gave me during the contemplative, resting pose of shavasana. Once our yoga instructor caught him, and I burst out in laughter (which obviously was not appropriate during shavasana either)! I recalled how he would have dinner waiting for me the evenings he decided not to join me for yoga. Then, I remembered the other things – the painful aspects of the relationship which broke my heart and cast me to into a raging sea of pain. I cried as I drove home, feeling angry that I let myself get so upset. I held a keen awareness that my thoughts formed from a primal, emotional space versus the filtered and evolved home of my prefrontal cortex. I called my dear friend Steve.

Me:  Hi it’s me . . . (sniffle, sniffle, snotty nose blow).

Steve: What’s wrong?

Me: Me.

Steve: We’ll were all f’d up messes.

Me: I know, but I’m feeling particularly f’d up tonight.

Steve:  Why?

Me: I thought of my ex and how we used to practice yoga together. I thought of the good times and the bad times. Then, I started crying. Then, I started feeling angry with myself for crying given we separated almost two years ago. My life is really wonderful. Why did I get hit by this wave?

Steve: Because you’re still healing. You sustained a pretty deep emotional wound.

Me: Well, can’t I heal faster? Isn’t there Neosporin™ for the soul or something?

Steve: No, not that I’m aware of.

Me: Ugh.

Steve: Have you considered being compassionate towards yourself and recognizing the “humanness” of your emotions tonight?

Me: Um . . . I guess that would be more adaptive than my current approach.

Steve: Yep. Goodnight Amelia.

I crawled into bed along with my splendidly imperfect dog. (He only gets to sleep in my bed when I’m sad or sick.) Then, I awoke to my heart pounding with a force that I feared would push through the wall of my chest. I had a vivid nightmare and felt certain my psyche was processing the pain I suppressed in an effort to find sleep at a decent hour. I called my sweet, sister and recounted the story I told Steve, along with the subsequent nightmare.

Me: I am struggling with forgiving my ex.

SS: I get why that would be challenging, but I think you would feel relieved if you could.

Me: I really do want good things for him and to be a forgiving person. I know he did the best he could in our relationship. He brought some wonderful gifts into my life, and I want to unhook myself from this anger. I’m really trying. Saying I forgive him and the actual letting go of the hurt are not currently aligning. Ugh!

SS: What about writing him a letter thanking him for the yoga and other gifts he brought to your life and wishing good things to him?

Me: I think that is a good idea. A concrete step of forgiving.

SS: I love you! You’re amazing and perfect just as you are.

Me: I love you too. Thank you for loving me just as I am.

I wrote a brief note with the aforementioned content, addressed, signed, and sent it. I felt better, lighter and a sense of knowing I applied a dab of Neosporin™ to the wound.

We all have emotional wounds which can get irritated or ripped open when we least expect it. Which ones need attending to? Where might you benefit from an emotionally-healing dab of Neosporin™? What might that look like – grieving, forgiving, laughing, crying? All the above? Whatever your wounds may be, know I’m sending you love and a healing dab of Neosporin™.

Imperfectly,

Amelia

Yes, he IS laying on my pillow.

Yes, he IS laying on my pillow.