Updated: Feb 24
In childhood, growing pains are typically used to describe the aches, cramps and spasmodic sensations that are most noted in the legs, joints and behind the knee. A visceral sensation of discomfort when the body is growing, lengthening, creating space and moving forward. I stopped experiencing this physical pain early on (when I stopped growing at the 11yo to be 5, 1 and pocket-sized) but became acutely aware of this familiar sensation throughout periods of rawness in my life. But never has it been more apparent and prominent then this point in time.
A couple weeks ago, I set out to enjoy one last hoorah fossil hunting with Max and some friends in the Badlands. As we have for many years taken this trip to discover, to get lost and just be, we were prepared (mostly) for an epic and wonderful day, blissfully unaware of how epic it was actually going to be... for me especially. Unfortunately, a mere 2 hours into our day, I tweaked my knee and aggravated an old meniscus injury that I didn't even know I had. I couldn't weight-bear, I couldn't walk. As annoying and awkward as it was, I had no choice but to relinquish any bit of control I had, allow my friends to help me through the canyon, rely on my own breath and resolve to carry me down, up, over and across the hills back to the car. It was a memorable and weird day. Our adventure was shortened and the injury really halted my pace in preparing for the next big chapter in The Koether family story. For months we have been preparing for partially uprooting from our life in the mountains, resuming the life of a travel nurse while Max goes off to pursue a new adventure in academia in the US. This was NOT the time to get injured. There was so much to do, so much work and people to see and places to go and things to celebrate and items to pack and, and, and... I guess the universe had other plans after all.
The Physical Pain
It's been a hot minute since I have been this injured (19 years). While it could have been much worse, it still sucks. Using crutches isn't conducive to efficient packing and while attempting to dance with a cane makes for good stories and jutting street-cred, it does not make walking up three flights of stairs to get to your bedroom any less taxing.
The first week was brutal. My legs ached from a combination of strain and spasms; the right from the constant throbbing of my knee, the left from compensation. It was difficult to leave my room, for fear of falling down the stairs or being unable to make it back. For the first days, I laid down staring at the copious amounts of laundry, the unpacked boxes, the clutter and empty suitcases that needed to be dealt with. My unrelenting structured mind was pretty peeved that I couldn't get anything done. I could see it spiraling; while it was criticizing me for not getting my shit together, it would quickly escalate into unkinder thoughts:
"Getting everything done still won't make him love you."
"You are useless."
"You are lonely."
"You have nothing."
"You are replaceable."
"You are not worthy of good things."
In these moments of sadness and weakness, I come back to the breath. Come back to the body, come back to my truest needs for comfort. These moments, are but moments. They don't last long and in my experience they are slowly replaced with moments of clarity and gratitude. These fleeting, unkind moments are visceral sensations of discomfort, of creating space, of lengthening... growing pains.
It was easy to loathe the situation but it was just as easy to see the lesson in the stillness. I've experienced this before: having unpredictable needs to cry, having Covid-19... this was my body telling me to slow tf down. And as I opened to it, insurmountable gratitude and loving support emerged. From friends bringing various medical devices for support and healing, from my mom's Chicken Sopas (soup) and the help from friends to pack my car and send me off on my contract. I was surrounded by love, more evidence that my structured mind is tired, scared and wrong.
Still limping and in good spirits a week and a half later, I hugged my friends, I kissed Max goodbye and hobbled into my car for my next travel assignment.
The Heart Pain
I landed in Trail BC a couple days ago. I arrived late, and because I am only destined to stay in my apartment for 10 days I have barely unpacked. Trail is a quirky city; established in the early 1880s with a rich history made of precious metals, biking and Italians. Trail is best known for the largest smelting and refining complexes in the world. The people are friendly and the driving is precarious as you nestle your way through the rolling hills. A cool place to explore.
It took me a few days to have the time to explore as I was immediately put to work at the hospital. While the work is standard and the team seems excellent... man, was I not ready for the world of hurt when it came to being on my feet for 12 hours a day. The amount of time I have had to spend nursing myself after nursing for an entire shift is pretty silly. This injury has really encouraged me to slow down. Normally I would be doing some more intense exploring by now; I'd be hiking to find the best views or finding the most eccentric shops and museums to get to know the area but my mobility has limited my access to some of these things for now. Walking outside is more purposeful; it's slow, the steps are meaningful but the distance is restricted.
What this slowness means for my state of mind is something I am still refining (or smelting haha). The physical healing takes time but only now, by myself in a town where I know no one, do I feel the pangs of a heart grieving a life chapter. I was well established in my line of work back home, I had a beautiful home and a tribe within proximity to feel seen and whole. I had begun to establish myself as a healer in the community and made sustainable connections with myself and others to make life feel really fulfilling. I let certain situations, relationships and patterns go to create space for more pleasure to enter this container. I left a really comfortable place. A stunning life, that still remains but just looks a little different now. Just when you think that you've got it figured out, it's time to move on to something uncomfortable to help you grow a little more. I'm wrestling with the guilt, the frustration and the mild emptiness that I feel in my gut for leaving a situation so good. Basking in my solitude on these days off, I am encouraged to take it all in. To grieve, to cry, to write, to reconcile, to breathe, to feel joy, to allow the dust to finally settle.
The Growth Spurt
So much has happened in the last year, so many changes. Big decisions were made to future-proof Max and my life together. SO many wounds were unearthed so that they can be seen and mended. Relationships came and went; new love cultivated, old love blossoming, new loves falling away and old identities also. Low clouds and squalls of driving rain, all these changes felt constant and effervescent. It was exciting, opening and easy to get lost in.
In the end, while shitty as the timing may have been, my physical slowness is allowing me to sit (literally and figuratively) in the stillness of my situation. It's been a long while since I have felt at peace and at home within myself. As I take the time to write and to tend to the sensations I am feeling, there is a lot coming up.
Loneliness vs Solitude
My girlfriend asked if I was feeling lonely and the answer is I don't. Loneliness can be described as a state of being alone, but it is actually a state of mind. Loneliness is marked by feelings of isolation; of wanting human contact but feeling an involuntary rejection, abandonment and separation from others. Conversely, solitude is voluntary and can be a positive experience for some to better focus and recharge. While I am physically alone and away from my people, at this point in time, I don't feel isolated. I still have regular contacts and continue to maintain my relationships. I know I can return when I crave connection. While life has been moving lightning fast, it seems as if it was time to be alone to regroup. I have been so clouded by my responsibilities and my tasks that I have momentarily forgotten what I am like at my most whole, aligned and at equilibrium. This is the universe telling me I need to be alone. Fair enough.
Capacity and Sovereignty
Not to say that I don't have any urge to feel lonely. Knowing that my friends are seeing each other back home, that the Agir family continues to have their daily BBQs and cookouts, and that I have not yet had the time to get to know anyone from work, it can be tough at times to not reach for my phone and scroll through Tinder or Bumble or whatever hangout apps are easily accessible. What I am being reminded every day is that I have the self awareness to know where this behavior is coming from and that I have the choice to fulfill it in ways that are truly nourishing. While it wouldn't be wrong for me to make these types of connections, it's not for the right reasons, right now. I'm grateful to know that about myself now. And speaking of choice... it is SO GREAT to just be able to leave the house on a whim, to not have to coordinate seeing anyone, to move freely at my pace and on my terms. Heavenly.
We're Making Room for Magic
Some of my stressors and responsibilities have fallen away. There's a focus on bettering me. New skills to learn and backburner items that need some love. Things to see, new people to witness and stories to tell. I get to use this time to grow and make room. To again, be by myself, with myself so that my life/our life can fall into place... wherever that place may be.
The thing is... without impermanence there would be no life. Our beautiful home, our car, our friends and family, the job and identity will all someday change. We get attached to things outside of ourselves with the visceral, unconscious knowledge that it will eventually be lost. A fear of impermanence is a losing battle; it breeds suffering and perpetuates anxiety and detrimental behaviors. While all the change around me is a little raw, a little achy, it feels very right. The grief I am experiencing is par for the course and won't last forever. Impermanence means that these feelings will pass and a new story will be ready on the other side.