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  • Calista Ocean

A pain in the neck

Embrace the glorious mess that you are.

~ Elizabeth Gilbert

My neck hurts. Most days it's an aching tightness that extends down into my shoulders, but some days, it's painful to even turn my head.

On a physical level, there's a simple explanation. I'm spending far too much time sitting at my laptop, watching TV, and playing games on my phone. I'm inconsistent about my yoga practice, and the summer heat makes it challenging to go outside for a walk unless it's late at night.

I've used a neck hammock a couple of times, which helped. I also purchased lavender epsom salt to soak in, but I haven't made time to clean out the tub and pour myself a hot bath. I know that practicing self-care will help with the pain, but I also understand that there's a deeper ache under the surface which is contributing to the tension in my body.

I feel sad and anxious.

It's hard not to with all that's going on in the U.S. and in the world right now. We've all been forced to let go of expectations of what we thought life would look like this year, and to accept big changes in plans and in how we live from day to day. There's a collective experience of sorrow and fear that impacts everyone.

On a more personal level, I'm trying to find balance between doing and being. My work contract ended in June, and I'm still trying to sort out "what's next." My focus is scattered and I feel tired. This makes it difficult to put a foundation in place to support my writing and teaching practices. I long to do meaningful work that supports others, but it's been a challenge to get organized. Some days I feel overwhelmed. Other days I feel apathy.

But thankfully, most days I feel acceptance and self-compassion.

I know that my body and mind are still processing the loss of my parents. I feel the ebb and flow of grief each time a wave reaches out to touch the shores of my soul.

There is also the pandemic to deal with. Even with some businesses opening back up, it feels important to me to be cautious and remain isolated rather than potentially risk the health of other people. So, I sit inside and spend time online where I'm barraged with bad news and divisive rhetoric. This just keeps the simmer on underneath the feelings of sadness and anxiety.

So, my neck hurts. It's interesting to me, because I believe my body is using physical pain to distract me from the emotional/mental turmoil. Or maybe it's using physical pain to draw my attention to what I'm feeling inside. Either way, it's easier to complain about a stiff neck and use it as an excuse for getting less done, than to acknowledge that I just don't feel like being an over-achiever right now. And truthfully, I feel guilty about complaining at all.

Why do I feel guilty for feeling sad and anxious?

I feel guilty because I've been conditioned to compare my situation to others - to "look at the bright side" and "count my blessings."

There's no doubt that I'm blessed - incredibly so! Despite not having a job, I live in a nice home with my beloved and all of my needs are met. I'm grateful to have had him to share this last few months with, and I realize many are navigating the pandemic alone. I'm happy to have someone beside me each day to touch, hold, and tell me that I'm safe and loved. my daughters and his sons are safe and healthy. And I'm unemployed, but debt-free for the first time in decades, which gives me the freedom to focus on my writing and my teaching practices. So, how can I feel anything but joy and gratitude?

I do. I feel grateful and content most of the time, AND I'm also feeling sad and anxious. There is space in my body and in my life to feel all of these things.

I believe it's healthy to have a realistic perspective when it comes to my own suffering and to acknowledge my blessings. I also believe that it's unhealthy to ignore feelings like sorrow and fear. Pretending doesn't make them go away; and when I disregard these feelings in myself, it makes it harder to regard them in others.

I'm human. So are you. Life is messy. Feelings are messy. That's okay. Let's be in this mess together. Let's trust that these difficult times will pass. And in the meantime, let's allow each other to feel whatever it is we're feeling right now - pain in our necks or pain in our hearts.


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