The Body Knows

I am faced with yet another injury. It has slowed down the pace at which I was hoping to work on this blog the past few months. To put together this post today, is a struggle.

Starting in March, I began experiencing pain in my dominant right arm in the wrist, the forearm, the top of the arm, and the top of the hand. Basically everything from the elbow down. The injury is ergonomic and comes from using the computer in my job. At first, I literally just muscled through it, hoping that it will go away. After my week-long vacation to Hawaii in early May, I returned to work expecting that my arm would be better. But it wasn’t. Frustrated, I knew that I would have to go through Worker’s Compensation to receive treatment. I started acupuncture and physical therapy the second week of June.

This is not the first time I’ve injured my arm from using the computer. In fact, it is the third time that this had happened, but it is the first time I am seeking treatment for it. My condition has become chronic, in the words of my acupuncturist. The body has a way of appointing you in the right direction. And this is yet one more striking example of why I know I must leave my 9-to-5 job.

When I saw the acupuncturist for the first time, I had an enlightening experience. What I had been suspecting for years–that an arbitrary 8-hour work day at a computer is unhealthy–was confirmed. Upon learning about my injury and why it happened, the doctor straight up told me that computers are bad. We are not meant to be moving our fingers and wrists around in the same repetitive motion over and over for hours at a time, but some people suffer from it more than others due to anatomy. After poking me with needles, putting me under a heat lamp, and turning on some soothing Chinese music, he stepped out and left me there to think about what he said for the next 30 minutes. Tears came strolling from my eyes. I was told exactly what I needed to hear.

I am not typing most of this blog today. I am using voice to text because my arm is in so much pain. I am tearful at recording this because I feel so validated by the words of my acupuncturist.

My employer’s ergonomics office believes that it’s just a matter of finding the right chair, the right mouse, and the right keyboard. Let me tell you, I am on my third mouse, my second keyboard, and my third chair. I even taught myself how to use my left hand on the mouse several years ago after the first time I developed pain in my right arm. While using my left hand did help me get through previous injuries, this time it is not helping. In fact, my left hand is now in pain, and the acupuncturist had to start treating it too. The ergonomics office wants to believe that there is a solution for everyone. However, I am not everyone. My body has unusual needs and it is prone to discomfort and injury more than the average person. This began in my mid-20s and it has been consistent ever since.

“If you’re not vested in the intuitive, you may think you only have one choice, and that it seems an undesirable one. And perhaps you feel that you ought to suffer about it. And submit. And force yourself to do it. No, there’s a better way. Listen to the inner hearing, the inner saying, the inner being. Follow it. It knows what to do next.”

Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clorissa Pinkola Estes

I am listening to my body and intuition more than ever because of this situation. I am at a major cross roads. I know that I want to work for myself and to design my own schedule. I want to focus on what I do best in an environment that does not cause injury. At the end of the day, all you really have is yourself and what you believe in. Pretty much everything else can disappear at a moment’s notice. I believe in myself. I don’t know the first thing about starting a business. That is the truth. But I have a fire inside of me (and I’m not referring to the inflammation in my arms). I am determined to make this work.

Destruction and Creation

“…people cling to the familiar, refused to make the necessary sacrifices, resist their own growth. Unable to give up their habitual lives, they are unable to receive new life.”

The Pregnant Virgin: A Process of Psychological Transformation, Marion Woodman

I have on several occasions throughout my life gone through what Clorissa Pinkola Estes calls the “Life/Death/Life” cycle. This is a hard but necessary journey and often presents itself when one least expects it. Death comes in many forms. The loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, and the loss of health due to aging or injury are common examples of major life transitions where one must say goodbye to a significant part of themselves. The death is often about the loss of one’s identity.

Following death there’s always new life, a new opportunity. Sometimes we’re not ready and we resist. But without these major transitions, there would be very little growth and we would not come close to reaching our full potential spiritually, mentally, and professionally.

What am I laying to rest this time? My identity as a study abroad advisor. I did a lot of work to get here as a study abroad advisor at a university. I spent a year in Japan my junior year of college, and I knew I wanted to help other young folks like myself have that transformative experience. I grew up in a very sheltered home. I spent 13 years in a private Christian school prior to attending college. I was taught creationism and didn’t learn about evolution until I attended the University of Alabama, where I begin to learn about other world religions, cultures, perspectives.

Studying abroad in Japan opened my eyes in many ways, so I developed a passion to help other students learn more about themselves and the world through an intercultural experience, especially for sheltered young women like myself. I returned to Japan to teach English for two years and saved up enough money to pay for the first two semesters of graduate school. Then I took out a loan for the last two semesters of my master’s program. A loan that I’m definitely still paying off. The loan, education, and expertise I’ve developed over 6 years are not enough to continue doing this.

As I come to accept the limitations of my physical body, I know I’m going through the life death life cycle. As my body screams at me “no more,” I know that must go through the cycle. As I grow more and more resentful over the politics, the low pay scale, and the hypocrisy in management at my current job, I know that I must go through the cycle. It has not failed me yet. It continues to force me to step into who I truly am. Each time, I get a little bit closer. I am working on becoming a whole person.