It snowed on Vancouver Island a couple of weekends ago.
An east coaster would likely scoff at what accumulated, but throw any amount of the white stuff on the roads here on the west coast, and shit hit’s the fan pretty quickly.
None of us are used to driving in it, and there aren’t enough plows to maintain the roads: It’s just not financially feasible for a small town to buy a whole pile of snow plows which, for the most part, will just collect dust.
For those of us who live on hills, as I do in the lovely little town of Ladysmith, BC, it’s particularly challenging to keep our driveways from turning into Olympic ski jumps as the snow melts during the day, then freezes again overnight (Winter 2017 = my car went for gold.)
Which is why we are keen on shovelling it right away, as my hubby did x 2 Sundays ago.
One of the things I admire about my guy is his work ethic. He doesn’t half-ass anything. And even though I’m more strategic with what I choose to go all-out on, his best-effort approach is admirable.
It’s also likely why he came in from shovelling snow with a tweaked muscle in his back.
Now, I have had more experience with back pain than I’d like to have had over the years. Crushed vertebrae in two places in my late 20s from a mucho traumatic ATV accident, coupled with years of sedentary desk work equalled substantial episodes of pain.
Add on the injuries from dance and unacknowledged emotional trauma (yep – emotional trauma = back pain) and I’ve spent a lot of time and moolah on various forms of therapy.
Because of my history, I was mindful of where the hubby said it hurt (the muscle along the shoulder-blade) and the pain level, in order to help him get better.
I also noticed that he was keen on doing a stretch I used to do: hunched forward with his chest muscles compressed, he explained that it felt better in that position.
That was my go-to stretch for years because it did make my back temporarily feel better.
But as a result of the many sessions I’ve had with chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapist, and physiotherapists, I’ve learned that although short-term comforting, it’s the exact opposite of what will help a muscle spasm along the shoulder-blade get better.
Here’s the logic: Many of us walk, sit, and stand slouched over, with our shoulders pinched and chest muscles compressed.
Women with big chests, in particular, are prone to slouching, because of the weight they’re carrying. (Plus they’re not keen on standing tall with their chests prominently displayed for men to gawk at and/or comment on.)
Tall men slouch too, and my guy is upwards of 6 foot 3 inches. He also happens to drive a truck for work, so he’s hunched over a steering wheel much of the day.
Regardless of who you are or what you do, you can’t get away with this posture forever. Eventually, your back is going to start yelling at you because it’s being continuously strained and yanked on to compensate for the almighty slouch.
Which is why I suggested that the hubby let go of the feel-good stretch in exchange for a chest opening one: laying on his back over a yoga bolster.
Thankfully he found major relief from it, which made me very happy. Not in an I-told-you-so way, but in a yay-he’s-not-in-pain-anymore-and-he-didn’t-have-to-take-hard-on-the-liver-pain-meds-to-get-there kind of way.
For me, this scenario reinforced the reality of healing: In order to get better, we can’t solely focus on feeling better.
What we think we need and what we actually need are often two very different things. Much to the annoyance of the outer child in all of us who rejects change, doing things the same old way won’t lead to healing. (More on the outer child in my next email.)
The goal is to be healthy, mentally and physically. Logic would dictate that we move away from things that haven’t helped us get better in order to do so.
And hell yes, change is scary: There is no way to confirm what the outcome of said change will be.
“If we can’t plan for something, how can we ensure things will go smoothly, or perfect for that matter?” (That’s me circa 5 or so years ago, and intermittently present day, when I’m tired or sick.)
We tend to stay away from what-the-hell-is-going-to-happen-to-me land because it’s uncharted territory. It feels way safer in this-feels-shitty-ville, even though, as the name clearly suggests, it feels shitty.
The solution to the shitty scenario? Attempting little bits of change, rather than aborting the whole idea due to carefully crafted pessimistic outcomes that spawn in our heads (We sure are creative aren’t we? 😂)
If we do this, we can slowly yet surely get used to the idea – the truth – that feeling shitty all the time isn’t our birthright or our destiny.
If we start incorporating small, lay-on-a-yoga-bolster sized changes into our lives, we can begin to convince ourselves that change isn’t so scary.
If you are suffering in any capacity, hone in on the old adage, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Examine what you’ve been doing. Here’s a quick exercise to help you do that:
Grab a notepad and put two columns on it. On the left side, list 3 things you’ve been doing that haven’t contributed to your mental and physical health. On the other side, come up with an alternative action.
For example, instead of going for your phone first thing in the AM, you could start the day with a passage from a book or repeat a mantra that inspires you (If this interests you hit reply and I’ll pass along some options.)
Another option: swap out dairy for a milk alternative in your coffee or tea. (I know – I love dairy too. But it just. Ain’t. Good. For. Our Bodies.)
Don’t go too deep into this list. All you need is 3.
Disclaimer: This is not an invitation to ruminate on all the things you’re doing wrong in your life and beat yourself up.
On the contrary, this is just you, writing out three things that you could do differently, and then picking one of them to start doing, today.
Remember that no change is too small and that little changes equal big results.
Deep down you know this, so believe it.