What’s Weak May Be Strong

I must always remind myself that my back is not designed to carry the weight of the world.  I usually go around with my back strong, shoulders back and high, holding myself together.  Now I’m realizing how tense that is, my back too straight to be healthy.  Letting go, exhaling, relaxing my shoulders: that feels weak, and yet it’s natural.

I have scoliosis.  Eight years ago I had reconstructive surgery to fix the bad curvature of my spine that would only get worse without the surgery.  Recovery was went well, but going through it was difficult.  I was in pain.  I couldn’t run down the stairs like I used to.  I couldn’t even throw myself in my favorite armchair and curl up with a book.  Not for a long time.  But gradually I learned to relax, to lower my shoulders that I’d never realized were unnaturally high, to get used to the new configuration of my body and what it needed.

But now that I’m healed, I often fall in the trap of compensating.  I’m fixed so now I should always be strong.  My back can take it now.  It’s better. Be strong, sit up straight, you can do it.  You’re not weak anymore.

All that does is weigh me down.  When I was traveling abroad I would try to carry all my overpacked suitcases up stairs and hills because I was strong.  Later I would cringe as twinges of pain shot through my back and legs.  Eventually I couldn’t even carry my bookbag with my laptop in it because even that weight, light compared to multiple bags of luggage, became unbearable.  I was run down and weak again, but I couldn’t accept that.  I was supposed to be strong.

What if I let myself relax?  How often do I let myself do so?

Not often.  I try to be good enough.  I want to do the right thing, say the right thing, not offend, weather the storms of the world and make it through.  So I fight to keep it together and be mature and juggle responsibilities.  But the piling on of so much takes its toll and I sag under.  The pain shoots up again and I wonder if there’s a different way.

“What if you let go?”  Someone asked me this and I didn’t know how to answer.  What do I fear if I let go?  I fear weakness, humiliation.  I fear my full me-ness won’t cut it.  I’m thinking now that letting go is like letting the weight off my shoulders.  That deep sigh and leaning forward after taking off the backpack and my constant worries?  That sigh of giving in and letting go is heavy.  It’s painful, like admitting defeat.  “I can’t hold on,” it says.  “I can’t hold it all in.”

But that exhale lets me inhale.  I’m letting myself breathe and I’m giving my back a well needed rest.  It feels funny, uncomfortable, that simple vulnerability.  After surgery everything felt wrong, but things were better.  I just had to grow accustomed to the new way of life.  So I guess it’s the same with emotional surgery.  This maturing and learning to be vulnerable is unpleasant, but it’s necessary.  Slowly I’ll get used to it.  Gradually I’ll recuperate to a new state of normal.

So shoulders down, palms up, belly vulnerable.  I’m breathing and it feels wrong, but I think it’ll be better in a little while.

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