It started when I made a small twisting movement that Friday morning. As soon as I moved back to a neutral stance I could feel the muscles in my back tighten from top to bottom. “Oh crap,” I thought. “Well, this has happened before and it usually works itself out by the end of the day.”
So I took some Advil and went on with my day. My back was stiff and sitting for any length of time wasn’t pleasant. I stretched as best I could and put on BioFreeze.
When I got up Saturday morning, my back felt much better. I had been taking pictures of the February blizzard the day before and went up to the studio to take another picture out the window. I bent over to take the picture and when I tried to stand up, pain shot through my back and brought tears to my eyes. “Quick, sit down and catch your breath,” I told myself.
A warm shower, more gel and Advil provided very temporary relief. I was in tears as I slo-o-owly walked to the kitchen slightly hunched-over and looking like Tim Conway’s old man character from a Carol Burnett skit. This flippin’ hurt and it scared me.
I spent most of that weekend on our couch alternating ice packs and the heating pad. At least the snow was pretty to look at. Lord knows I wasn’t about to go very far.
I began to think about why this intense pain had struck me. I’ve had back pain before. I’m prone to sciatic nerve pain and muscle tension. But this was different. It ran deeper. It literally stopped me in my tracks.
And then it hit me. All the emotional upheaval of the past 10 months- the death of a friend, my Mother’s death, my Mother-in-law passing, another friend’s spouse dying, my brother’s terminal cancer-all of it had culminated in that one moment that Friday morning. The Universe missed kicking me in the ass and hit me square in a weak spot. All the emotion, the lack of self-care, the pushing forward, the grief came to rest in my back.
Son of a gun.
Laying on my back, I slowly came to this realization that I had to stop the pushing. I had to allow myself the time to grieve. I had to learn to receive. A large hole was forming inside-a void that needed to be filled. My spirit was being crushed under all this grief and crying out.
The Word He Uttered Was…
You know how some things come to you just when you need them? A few weeks before my back pain started, I noticed an e-newsletter appearing in one of my in-boxes. What made this unusual is that this particular newsletter was previously going directly into a designated folder. So much for email rules.
Abbey of the Arts, the sender of this e-newsletter, was offering a class on a 13th century mystic, a woman named Hildegard of Bingen. Never heard of her.
Yet my desire to fill a void in my spirit and to find a spiritually based community was strong. So, without even knowing why, I registered for the class. It was a blessing in disguise.
Each week, we received daily readings from one of Hildegard’s books, followed by questions to contemplate. I learned about Lectio Divina, how to use physical movement to express myself, and found my voice in chanting. One of the best parts, as a component of Lectio, was expressing myself through creativity, specifically mandala-making.
For the better part of 40 days, I created a drawing, painting, or photograph in response to the words I read. It was magical.
As this art came forth, I rediscovered my love of drawing, of painting with watercolors, and of connecting with my spiritual side to express myself.
What had once been a fallow period was now greening with new life.
Bloomed In Your Branches
What I learned during this time is that my spiritual side-reading inspiring words or passages, taking time to meditate or chant, being in nature, being silent-is something I cannot neglect. It is part of who I am. And it is part of what defines my art.
This is why I withdrew from many aspects of my business and why my blog fell silent. I had to find myself again before I could be present here.
Discovery of my Voice