I have been wanting to do some writing about the realizations I’ve had while working on and through the pain in my arms.

It’s just that I keep getting tangled up around how to start.

It’s hard to draw a map of the healing process when you don’t have arms that work.*

*Also — when you’re me and you get kind of grossed out every time someone uses the phrase “healing process”? It’s even harder.

And it’s hardest of all to explain something like this to people who aren’t familiar and/or comfortable with the idea of doing deep, crazy internal work on their stuff.

This is very hard for me to talk about. But I’m going to try to do it anyway.


There are a bazillion threads in any “healing process” (I said it again, I know), so I won’t be talking about all of them. I just want to track the understandings that are helping me interact with my pain and rewrite the patterns that are related to it.

I’ve known from the moment it started that this pain had serious emotional components, and that my body — usually my greatest ally in these matters — just didn’t want to talk about it.

Since I’m used to getting a lot of information from my body, this whole “we’re not talking about it” thing was almost as painful as not being able to use my arms.

Following the thread.

What am I holding on to?

The first thread came out of a conversation with my massage therapist. He described the tension in my arms as being like a desperate grip on something.

As those of you who work with my Procrastination Dissolve-o-matic program know, when you’re working on a pattern, any thread can lead you to the heart of the tangle.

So I decided to start my work with questions about this thread:

  • What am I holding on to?
  • What am I not letting go of yet?

I took these questions into my next acupuncture session as the intention I would set in my heart.*

* Translation for non-tree hugging hippies: I determined to have these questions in the back of my mind while the needles were doing their work.

The very first needle went right into a heart point. I burst into tears and didn’t stop sobbing for forty-five minutes straight.

The information I received:

  1. There is a part of me that’s afraid that if I let go of my hurt, pain and anger, I’ll forget about it. This part of me thinks I need to keep my pain with me as a reminder.
  2. And a new understanding: “I’m allowed to have the memory of experience without having to have the pain of it.”

What am I protecting?

I took the new understanding into an intuitive healing session with Hiro Boga, whose work I can’t recommend highly enough.

She had all sorts of mind blowing insights, but the thing that really rang true for me was this:

My arms were covered with heavy, old, rusted armor — cutting into me and weighing me down.

Of course!

I’ve written so much about the way that something intended to protect us (like fear) can actually have the reverse effect. So much of the work I do is somehow related to deconstructing these false forms of protection and connecting to a deeper place of safety.

So now I had new questions, another thread:

  • What am I protecting?
  • Can I find protection in a new form that doesn’t involve pain?

I took these questions into my next massage session as my private intention — but even though I had planned to tell Chris what I had learned from working with Hiro, for some reason I didn’t.

But it didn’t matter.

He’d already decided we needed to try something new, so he used a technique that involves tapping stones against each other to create deep vibrations in the muscle tissue.

Closing my eyes and listening to the steady rapping of stone on stone, and feeling the emotional resonance of the pain I’m carrying (yes, clearly carrying), I had a fleeting sensation — almost a memory — that my armor felt cared for. That I had found the right blacksmith. And that this was the sound of something really old and stuck letting go.

Who am I protecting?

The next series of realizations were all about the connections between my pain and my defensiveness.

I started uncovering bits and pieces of a pattern where my urge to defend someone triggers a flood of emotion, which in turn leads to frustration and shame over not having a kinder, gentler way to be protective and caring.

This in turn — combined with a serious hot buttered epiphany following a ten minute Shiva Nata practice — gave me a ton of information about my mechanisms of internal criticism.

And how I’ve traditionally dealt with internal and external criticism. Or not.

I shared some of this with my acupuncturist so that we could work on it together, and here is the realization that came from that session:

  • My arms hurt because they yearn to help everyone and know they can’t.

Intellectually, I know it’s not possible to help everyone. I know that it is detrimental for me to even try. But my body isn’t there yet.

I felt deep grief and sadness and helplessness … and then I watched them leave me.

“What got you here won’t get you there.”

This was the next realization, and it actually made me laugh.

It’s the name of a book I reviewed a while back, and though I didn’t like it much, that title is brilliant!

Every illness I’ve ever had has come at a point of transition, and every recovery has launched something new and crazy and exciting. I know that I am on the verge of something big. I can feel it.

And at the same time, I know that all of this clearing out is useful. Obviously I’d be a lot happier if it didn’t hurt so much, but I can feel how important this is.

My sense is that I can only become or access this new thing once I’ve cleared out my old patterns of protection and resistance.

They can’t coexist with this new thing — and yay new thing!

Vulnerability is power.

The next insight came to me in meditation.

My new armor will not be armor — the thing that will protect me the most will be openness. Not hiding.

Ironically, this is also something I’ve written about in the blogging therapy series.

I’m experimenting with different ways to apply the concept in my body and in my work. To use light and space instead of metal and chains. To let my relationship with my weaknesses become my strength.

This is about time.

And then … more sessions.

More meditation. More acupuncture. More massage. More Hiro.

The more work I did on this, the clearer it became that the core of this whole thing is time.

Time and my relationship to it.

My hands hurt when I try to slow down my progress, to keep time from flowing the way it wants to.

My latest understanding is that I can be more generous with giving time to myself. That one of the accidental benefits of this pain has been the amount of time I have given to working through it.

That this work is valuable enough that I cannot just give it my morning meditation and my afternoon yoga. That my priorities around time need some attention.

Okay, a lot of attention. My relationship with time… needs time.

In one of my conversations with Hiro, she told me that the thing I am working on needs more time for gestation and that I can stop pushing so much.

My arms are happy to hear that.

When I learned how to drive, my father would sit next to me, his foot madly pumping an invisible brake. That’s what my arms have been doing. Stretching out, full of tension, trying to slow it all down… and at the same time trying to hold and push things into place.

But this is not the time for that. This is the time to wait and breathe and let things happen at their own speed.

This is where I am right now.

Six weeks of insights. It’s a lot.

I don’t think I need to understand it all or be able to fix it all right now. Every time I learn something useful about my pain, I get that much closer closer to releasing the things that block me.

And every time I release a new piece of stuck, I’m making it easier for my body to get well again.

It’s a matter of time. So time is what I’m working on.

A note about comments:

These posts about my meditations and my talking-to-stucknesses are a way for me to let you to hang out in my process-thing. They are not an invitation to tell me what you think I “should” be doing to work through my stuff. They are a way for me to model one possible version of how someone might interact with their stuck.

You’re more than welcome to leave comments about your reactions and about your own stuff and about whatever else comes to mind. Please remember though that this is a highly personal experience that I’m sharing, and that I’m not looking for advice or how-to-ishness. Thanks.

The Fluent Self