I back track. Literally. I track the length of my spine. I stand in attention pose and lift my arms high, taking a full deep breath, expanding my rib cage, tucking my pelvis, releasing the tension in my shoulders. This single powerful move brings space between each of the 24 vertebrae that sustain me. I offer gratitude for those spaces, each and every one of them. I let myself move in and around the bony spine and hover in those spaces. I hold this position, knowing the next move will shatter me. I fold forward into an implosion of pain. A pain so searing I cannot help but wake up. Be present. Feel what is to be felt. This pain. It rivets me with attention. It obliterates every duty, every joy. It will not leave me just yet, for it knows the danger of going back. So how to move forward? That must be the question.
The central character of Jane Smiley’s novella The Age of Grief, says, “Feelings are in the body as well as in the mind.” My body is experiencing deep pain, for sure, but this pain might just be a surface manifestation of the real feeling that I cannot accept. Why? What is the burden? What is the confusion? What duality is disrupting this body’s ease?
I can surmise. I have been a doer all of my life, driven by the need to bring order and meaning into activity. And now, having decided to move out of a 44 year career, the primary framework of my “doing” is disappearing. Have I properly recognized how this decision might affect my subconscious story line?
I say it is time. It is right. It is good. There is something new for me to move on to: more space, more reflection, more solitude, more equanimity, more rest. And while these qualities have been richly present in my life as the doer, they have not taken the lead. And I have boldly proclaimed that, in this next stage of life, they will take the lead. Have I not made this clear to all parties concerned: the mind, the body, and the spirit? They have been forewarned: change is coming. Did the back not get this message?
In conversation after conversation, I have heard myself say how eager I am for this new life. Still, at some level there is uneasiness: what will this new life look like? how will it feel? how I will shape it? what attitude can I bring to it? How will I continue to grow without the forum of the classroom to propel me forward into new ideas and new experiences?
This minute, I balance on a thin silver line that separates two versions of myself. A line, a spine, a shot of electricity, a shard of pain, a fine thread I can follow into the future.
this back, given to me on purpose
by some gentle god who happened to notice my need,
splits me down the middle with pain
the border between two lives,
one lived in action and connection,
the other in isolation and independence.
At the core of this bright burden resides an audacious ambition
to forge a new way, to build a new edifice,
to offer a new teaching.
something small and real.
something beneficial and beautiful.
Something to ease the pain.
So pain is the path, pain is the teacher. Now, I listen more carefully as this pain guides me, nudges me into gray thickets and leads me into bright meadows. I watch for signs and signals.
I am a back tracker.