“I’ve got something you can do for your 30 Days…” my physical therapist told me.
Despite my 100% reverence for him, I admittedly wanted to eyeroll. Or smirk. Or both, I’m not sure which. We were both in one’a those “mid-week” kinda moods. But for him, I imagine, it was even more frustrating. After all, I hadn’t been in in two weeks, my spine and hips were all misaligned, and now I was dramatically venting to him that I felt like a “somatic Sisyphus” – constantly having to readjust my body every morning, regardless of the progress I’d made the day before. (What a theatre queen – the only thing missing was the back of my palm to my forehead.) As he slowly started to give up on me, he noted how tight the muscles around my diaphragm were (Yes, for someone who likes yoga, I sure do suck at calm breathing the second I’m off the mat). Right before proceeding to explain that’s where we (as humans) tend to hold a lotta negative emotions, fear, nervousness, whatever. He’s not wrong, either. It’s just so easy to get caught up in whatever the stimulus is and forget something as simple as self-calming. So, now, his suggestion?
Do it anyway.
Well, to be fair, he didn’t say it like that. What he did suggest was to try and become aware of when I’m tightening up those muscles, starting to breathe high and tight, and then sort out why. What’s happening in those moments? Who’m I talking to? What am I thinking about? Thus, after I left my appointment the other day, I opted to take him up on the challenge. And I’ll be goddamned if these “inner work” challenges aren’t harder than doing a bound eagle pose. First, obviously, is ’cause I can’t brag about it later on Instagram (less motivation). And second is because psychosomatic habits happen so naturally that it takes a suck ton of self awareness to notice when you’re falling off’a your peace path. That’s why, I suppose, it wasn’t until a day and a half into accepting the challenge, that I made a horrible realization. This isn’t some state I enter into just ’cause I’m about to do an interview or be at the same dinner table as everyone who shares my blood… and will probably shed one anothers’ two hours in, tops.
This is my default state.
I mean, I can calm down – on a mat, on a massage table, or while my PT guru works on me.
But A.) it takes a good while and a lotta eye closing, and B.) it doesn’t follow me through the day.
Why, though? Was I always like this?
Mayhaps a bit – but not this bad. That’s when it hit me – both literally and figuratively – yesterday. I was just sitting there, sipping the second half of a pot of coffee (I dunno why I bother with a mug anymore, really) when all the sudden I became very aware of every breath I took. And I don’t mean in the serene guided yoga lady-in-a-turban-smiling kinda way. No. I became acutely aware of each increment of my respiration because every one was paired with a pain. Right in the old pumper. When I inhaled, I felt this pressure in my heart. When I exhaled, I felt the pain of blood reluctantly leaving my cardiac egress. The thing that happened was that along with that chest-awareness, I also became aware of what all my other bits of body were doing only after this second cup of joe. How I was clenching my jaw (and how I’ve developed TMJ this year). How my shoulder and back muscles – the same ones throwing off my alignment and pissing off the doc – were tight as a (wait – when they say “tight as a drum” do they mean brakes? Or Tommy Lee?) Moving on. The point is, it became quite clear my daily OD of coffee was doing this to me.
So, between all this caffeinated corporeal hijackery and this new atrial alarm warning…
…I decided to do a yes-and to the doc’s suggestion.
Hello, my name is Ashley and I am 24 hours and half a day free of coffee.
It’s funny – all the things we tell ourselves about why we can’t quit a thing. “It’s who I am”… “It’s what I do”… “It helps me work”… Yeah, but if it’s been so long since you’ve tried being, doing, or working without it – then, like, howd’ya know you can’t be, do, or work without it once it’s outta your system? And if “it” – whatever it is – is becoming detrimental to your health, why not turn that rhetorical question into an experiment? I say this ’cause I’m not sure I’ll cut the stuff outta my life for good. But so far, I’m more glad than I am sorry about doing it just for today. And, to be honest, the hardest part of this heart motivated challenge was like anything else I ever put off:
The anticipation. The foreboding. The dread that’s all in my head.
(Don’t be too proud, though – I did have some green tea and two aspirin…)