My Toe is my Teacher
Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 4:19PM
Elena Taurke in Aging, Asking for Help, Crip People, Disability, Healing, Internet, PsychoZen Meets Life

Part 1:  The Cure

Have you ever had an electric toe?  It's quite an experience, unlike any other pain.  You step on it funny and suddenly a shocking, excruciating pain shoots through the toe into the whole body and the brain contracts in the instant.  It goes away and you think, ok, that was that, and then it happens again.  After several repetitions you become like one of those freaked-out lab mice terrified of the next shock, seeming to have no control.   Except that then you notice that getting tense makes it happen more!

Like other life koans, this was impossible to grasp.  How could I possibly relax into something that made my body involuntarily seize up?  Weirdly, it happened at the same time as an aggravation of a hip injury and the onset of hot flashes, making me feel that my body was not my own.  Gone was the freedom of movement and all the joy that comes with it.   Instead, I walked tenderly, fearful of every step, desperately trying to figure out which movement made it happen.  Getting ready in my usual rushed and panicked way, the toe would certainly protest.   AAAAACH!   So I stopped.  Breathed.  Tried again.  Ok, manageable, now grab the bag and run.  AAAAAACH!     Stop.   Cancel dance class.  NO!  Just ease into it.  Ok.  Slowly walking.  If I spread my toes, if I walk toe ball heel, it's ok.  Uh oh, there's the train!  Run for it.  AAAACH!

So gradually I learned.  Shoes helped.  Planning helped.  Simplifying helped.  Talking about it helped.  Talking about something else--the hot flashes!--helped.  Relaxing in all circumstances helped a great deal.  Sometimes it seems to me that the essence of enlightenment is relaxation, which is not achieved through control of circumstances but by being able to experience everything.  That is, no matter what the sensation--pain, anxiety, anger, joy, orgasm, hunger and so on--I can feel it completely without tensing up around it.   

The mind tenses too, right?  It contracts into explanations:  This is it. I am truly a cripple now.  I am alone.  This is going to mean surgery after surgery, and then things are always worse.  I won't be able to function.  All my plans are ruined.  My dance efforts were fraudulent anyway.  Maybe it's cancer.

But the truth was I didn't know.  That is always the truth.  Don't-know mind is what we aspire to.  Of course the Internet presents a challenge.  You can look up a hypothesis and then imagine it into existence.  Or you can take each moment as it comes, feeling immense gratitude for the ability to experience life as it is. 

So I did a bit of this and a bit of that.   After 3 weeks, I finally got to see a podiatrist.  Within seconds he diagnosed me and gave me a cortisone shot to the inflamed nerve--the neuroma.  It's gone.  That's it for now.  What is the lesson?  It's good to practice with pain.  It's even better when the pain goes away.  And my most difficult life lesson:  I can't do it by myself.  

Walking now, I see how I've been holding my breath at a certain point in my stride.  Now I breathe fully, relaxing into the foot, remembering how to trust...

Part 2:  Not so fast, sucker!

In the afternoon following those hopeful words, the symptoms returned.  Now there is no escape.  I must go into the pain, continue to breathe and trust, even though I know that at any moment my body could receive an indescribably painful shock.  I'm still using lessons learned.   I still want the pain to go away.  Advil and ice are good.  I'm going to see about acupuncture.  I will call this doc on Monday.  I still can't do it by myself.  And I still have to relax.  Have to.  The koan again.  The only answer is embrace.

August 2011

Part 3:  Time Heals, and also Ravages

Here I am in June 2012.  It's been a journey, exploring alternatives like homeopathy, acupuncture, raw food, Chi movement (trampoline, anyone?), disgusted with conventional medicine, which I still need.  The toe is manageable, if I pad and wrap it before I dance.  The hip got better then worse then better, and is gradually getting worse.   Yesterday I happened upon two performances by Paul Simon, 20 years apart.  So full of himself and so charming when young, he is subdued as an older man.  First I was sad, and then I reconsidered.  What looks sad when you are young is actually richer than you can imagine.   

June 2012

Part 4:  Healing

Five years later, my body is functioning at a level I never imagined was possible.  What finally brought everything together was (is) Feldenkrais and the explorations that ensue.  Specifically, I've learned the connection between lifting my buttocks and lifting the little arch under my toes.  Seriously.  I've abandoned the orthodics and I'm learning to run.  

September 2017

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