Spinal Thoughts (totally spinal. totally.)

Holy amazeballs! I just realized something the other day that has me grinning like an idiot: I now have the ability to engage my core without first demanding absolute silence to concentrate.

This. Is. Huge.

psoasThe benefits of strengthening my core muscles stretch into every area of my life: work, hobbies, creative pursuits, playing with my small son. For the past 8 months, I have been off work healing my spinal injuries. Believe me, frequent “rests” that had me flat on my back thinking about the long list of things I couldn’t do was the perfect recipe for depression, which can be a devastating distraction from getting better.

I won’t lie – it’s been a long road. And the roller coaster of feeling better, overdoing it, and sliding backwards again is exhausting. But, gradually with daily exercise, medication, chiropractic treatments and pilates, I am improving. The measure of two steps forward and one step backward has changed. It used to be measured in hours, then days for what seemed like forever. Then it was weeks and finally, I had a whole month of “good” days. Now I experience way less pain, I have way better mobility and I am way more optimistic.

This kind of journey takes focus, support from family and friends, a solid health team and sheer determination. At 44 years old, I will not accept limitations without a fight. And I will not accept illness without finding out if there is something I can do about it.

Spinal injuries can be maddening – there are no shortcuts to healing. But, working on mobility and strengthening with Pilates has been a real lifesaver for me. For one thing, it got me out of the house and made me feel like I was part of a community. I started 6 months ago when I would hobble to class and think, “Now, pay attention to the instructions so you can do the exercise at home.” And I made an honest effort. Every time I got out my mat I would try my damnedest to recreate what I learned in class. (Of course, I almost never could because I was trying too hard.)

And then I had an epiphany while hanging laundry the other day. It had been two years since I dared to try that household task, and that saddened me because I actually like hanging laundry on the line – the smell, being outside, doing the environment a favour, blah, blah, blah. I’m weird that way. Anyway, this particular chore involves reaching, bending and twisting – movements I haven’t dared to even consider for a long time. Even trying it could be a really stupid thing to do right before I go back to work. But something marvellous happened.

The Pilates kicked in.

About halfway through the basket of wet clothes, I noticed myself engaging my core and using more efficient movements as I bent and reached. I had also set myself up so there was no twisting. My body is integrating all the work I’ve been doing, and my newly developed body awareness means that I am at far less risk of reinjuring myself. (phew)

Be Happy

When I decided to start blogging, I had one rule: NO NEGATIVITY.

That rule proved very tricky to abide by. At first. With time, vigilance and practice, it is now almost effortless. Something has shifted in my perception. I can’t pinpoint what caused this shift – maybe getting married to the love of my life in paradise, or reconnecting with my creativity, or something as simple as focusing on recent successes rather than day-to-day stresses – whatever the catalyst, it’s a happy change. I made up my mind to be happy, paid attention to my choices and trained myself to stop spiraling.

Last night, I had drinks with a long-time friend I hadn’t seen for awhile. She finds herself at a crossroads, on the cusp of a new era, but feeling paralyzed by old patterns. We’ve all been there.

We talked it through, comparing stories of old memories that keep us trapped. Then, I suggested that she spend some time searching the internet using simple terms like “happiness” or “joy” or “success”. With something as vast as the world wide web, you never know where it might lead you. Even as I write this, the old cynic in my head is gagging at how cheesy it sounds. (But my friend and I also discussed where our inner critic gets her ideas – usually from what we believe other people must think of us. In my experience, those perceptions are often flat-out wrong.)

When I got home, I tested out my own advice and plugged “happiness” into my browser. I found this fantastic article that outlines, step-by-step, how to be happy. Apparently, it’s as easy as that.

I love the internet.