We do not wish for the disappearance of our sufferings but for the grace to transform them. Simone Weil
Today’s “Big Words” are brought to you by my current acupuncturist, a lovely woman who also works as a nurse in palliative care. I’ve been seeing her for almost two months due to some health issues that I’m experiencing. In an attempt to avert medication, I see her weekly at the integrative center of a local hospital.
When I was in my 20’s, I went for acupuncture for a hip injury for a series of weeks. I don’t remember minding it at all. In fact, I remember taking photos with my phone of the needles- mostly in my legs. Again, I went for acupuncture when I was six days past my “due date” with Audrey. I was hoping to avoid being medically induced which I did. I went into labor the next day.
This time, I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older, suffer from anxiety, or just have a more sensitive nervous system, but I have a very difficult time lying there. I feel each needle going in, and she places them in different surprise spots every week- in the tips of toes, right in between my eyebrows, in between the tiny veins on the underside of my wrists. Before I found Suzanna, my first acupuncturist was quite cold. I got incredibly dizzy the first time. So, now I worry about getting dizzy or passing out. I also worry about any sensations that don’t feel normal. I worry that I’ll get low blood-pressure. I have a very hard time letting go and surrendering to the “acu-high.” For me, relaxation has become intertwined with trauma and crisis because just moments before I got the call that my husband was dead, I had been swimming with my daughter at our condo pool and thinking about how relaxed and content I was. What fires together, unfortunately wires together- making it very hard for me to relax now. Instead, I struggle with being in a hyper state of vigilance lest I am blindsided again. For all these reasons, getting through those 20 minutes each week is a challenge.
I get through the twenty minutes of lying there by grounding myself in numbers: I look at the clock. I don’t close my eyes. I tell myself that if I want to, I could take the needles out myself and be liberated. Suzanna gives me a mantra I’d already learned in the “Emotional Freedom Technique:” “I deeply love and accept myself despite…(insert whatever you’re dealing with here: ie. my anxiety etc). I ask for a bell to be placed in my hand so that if I feel dizzy I can ring it. She offers to come in and check on me after the first ten minutes. I can’t say that I enjoy it, but I’ve gotten much better at managing my anxiety during the treatment.
It was at one of those first anxiety-filled sessions that Suzanna said today’s “Big Words,” and I think they might be useful for anyone fighting their way through something difficult today, maybe something at which every nerve in your body is screaming out, “No!”
“There is no ‘right way’ to do this.” The first thing these words do is acknowledge that something is hard. Maybe it’s not “supposed to be” hard, but it is. Secondly, they take away any sense of shame or feeling of inadequacy. When we think that there’s a prescription to follow or a best method, we heap on another layer of guilt in addition to whatever it is we’re already dealing with. When there is no right way, many ways seem to open up.
Audrey and I have really enjoyed watching “American Ninja Warrior” the past couple of summers, and we even got to meet one of the ninjas at a local obstacle course venue. Sometimes the ninjas have a really great run and move through the obstacles with such ease. But sometimes…sometimes they barely make it through each obstacle. They trip and fall, pulling themselves back up at the last minute. Sometimes their strategy seems strange; they might go backwards on a particular obstacle or attempt it differently than everyone else. They spend too much time on one obstacle, but then they make it up later. Their final climb up to the buzzer is anything but graceful. But in the end, if they do hit the buzzer, they’re through to the next round just like anyone else who made it through with ease.
Yes, sometimes there are more graceful or peaceful ways to pull through the challenges we face, but for me, it’s been very liberating to hear those words, and I think of them now during other obstacles that come my way. There is no right way to do this.