I don’t have a lot to say about my back. It’s strong, lightly decorated and it likes to stretch and twist. Just for fun we’ll throw shoulders into the mix. They’re more talkative than the back.
When I was in high school I was on the drill team. As such, I was required to go to band camp – yes it’s true. It was a blast! I can still recall the overwhelming minty scent of Ben Gay. As dancers and flag wavers our part in camp was extremely physical. We worked out, stretched and held positions a long time.
Part of our training was standing still. Easy now, not so much at 16 and 17, there was just so much to gossip about, who had time to stand still? I vividly recall taking the position of a statue with a flag in a long line of girls doing the same. I was holding a rather large, but not too heavy, flag, right in front of my nose, looking past it. My hands were neatly stacked, elbows out. I looked like a Marine, in cute white cowboy boots.
Heat began to build in my shoulders, then my back. I couldn’t move. It felt like hours, but I’m sure was just a few moments. My back was telling me all sorts of stories, hatching escape plans, getting more and more pissed off. Finally it broke me. Internally shaking with an unfamiliar rage, a single tear slid from eyes, down my cheek. I would not crack.
Another tear followed. I was in excruciating pain and had no idea why. I was just standing. I couldn’t take it anymore. I telepathically begged one of the drill sergeants to either let us out of this pose or notice my obvious distress and offer me his kind words. For the record, drill sergeants cannot be reached telepathically.
We were finally released. Once I let go of the flag or even moved it, the stress was gone. And along with it the pain, but I was worried I would have to endure this again and surely that would not be fair. I spoke to someone who was very sympathetic and told me that if I didn’t think I could handle being a Colonialette, there were other girls who could.
I soldiered on and made it through with just a tear or two more and a seething distaste for authority.
Back home, I suggested to my mother that I might be dying and she should take me to the doctor for extensive tests. She complied. There was nothing. Nothing visible on an x-ray or through a thorough examination. But my doctor was clever, he knew not all ailments, real or perceived, had their origins in the body. He asked a few questions about my life. Everything was fine, I said. No worries at school or with friends, I said. Parents are a mess and maybe splitting up, but that’s normal, I said. Now he had something to work with.
Whatever stress I was feeling because of my crumbling home life was showing up in my body. It could have popped up anywhere, it just happened to have the opportunity to build in my shoulders and back.
To this day, I have a spot in the center of my back, right behind my heart that holds emotional tension. It presents itself as a muscle spasm or a shortness of breath. Sometimes when I’m talking I can barely finish a sentence because I have run out of air. When I twist and stretch it releases. When I twist and stretch everyday it’s gone. For the time being.
I have long come to terms with the fate of my parents. As the oldest of two, much older, nearly 9 years, I had to carry the weight of the situation. My mother, who had always been a little meek, beaten down I suspect by years of being the butt of sarcastic, biting humor from my father, wanted to leave but felt powerless to do so. I encouraged her. I was 16. This is not an ideal place for a teenager to find herself. So I stored anything I was unable to deal with at the time in my body.
We all do this. Emotions get stored.
As much as I sometimes fight my yoga practice, preferring instead to think about, and talk about, and write about yoga; it is the one thing that moves the cells around just enough so that one or two at a time can fall to the floor. It takes me out of my head and into my body so that I can clear the emotional debris, which, are you listening, clears the mental cobwebs, allowing me more quality playtime in my head! It’s a win-win for the whole package.
I guess I had more to say about my back than I thought. Funny thing, writing, sometimes just scribbling out a word or two opens doors that have been left ajar for a long time.
The moral of the story? Watch your back. And your hips. And your shoulders. Watch your body parts, some of that “pain” is emotional. Bank on it. Oh, yeah, and do some yoga!
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – Maya Angelou