31 July 2014. From Don: This wasn’t supposed to happen. We were supposed to come back to Vancouver to get really fit and strong again, and instead Alison broke her ankle and I did something to my left hip which has left me in constant pain, with no easy or obvious solution. A dream I had last night in which I asked Does anybody know where we’re going? epitomizes how I’ve been feeling about our future travels. Once again it feels that we’re just making something up out of thin air: going places for the sake of going there without any particular purpose. But that’s how it’s been ever since we began our nomadic life. We just decide where we want to go and make arrangements to get there. Once we get there we find out what there is to see and do, and we have a good time doing that. Mostly we have a fabulous time doing that. So nothing is different except for my current concern about my left hip. If I can’t get pain free I’m not going to be able to do all the things I like to do. There’s also the underlying emotional reason for the hip pain: whatever that is about. I had thought that it was to do with becoming fully open hearted, but I’m not getting anywhere in that regard as far as I can tell. Pain, according to Louise Hay, is about anger and guilt: guilt always seeks punishment. Hips are about balance, and hip problems indicate fear of going forward in major decisions, or nothing to move forward to. That about hits the spot: nothing to move forward to. Where are we going? Heart problems represent longstanding emotional problems. Lack of joy. Hardening of the heart. Belief in strain and stress. Well lack of joy about says it all. I haven’t been feeling very joyful since we left South America.
So temporarily, I hope, I seem to have lost the thread, with no clear understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing. I had thought it was something to do with living our joy and living a full rich inspired life, and as an added bonus, maybe we could inspire others by being examples of how to age gracefully, and how to live life to the fullest, and to demonstrate by our actions that we create our own reality in every moment. Well as I write this I realize that’s exactly what I’ve been doing: creating this current reality in which I have chronic hip pain out of fear of moving forward. My new chiropractor pointed me towards a stimulating book The Biology of Belief by cell biologist Bruce Lipton. In this book Dr. Lipton lays out the scientific reasons as to how we create our own reality. So I need to read more of that and to get back in touch with the joy I feel in travelling, and make some decisions about where we want to go and when we want to be there. After Australia and New Zealand should we go to Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, or Japan? Yes, yes, yes and yes. We can go to all of them. I have been making up difficulties in my head, so I need to give my head a good shake and get on with the planning and organization. It really doesn’t matter where we go, there are wonderful and amazing things to see and do, and people to meet, wherever we go.
So a new beginning today, and every day: I wake up, face whatever needs to be faced, and move on, thanks to writing ‘Morning Pages’ and their wonderful ability to bring clarity whenever I’m feeling lost or confused. Every day can be filled with joy and wonder, if I only let it be. There’s nothing more I need to do than that. Relax, let go of feeling stressed and tense, be present to what is happening now, in every moment, and don’t resist what happens. Everything that happens happens for a reason. The aches and pains in my body are simply messages from The Mystery that need attention. Failure to pay adequate attention to those messages simply results in an increase in volume, in this case persistent increased pain in my left hip and buttock, until such time as the message has been read and understood and, if necessary, acted upon.
What brings me joy? Travelling to new places, seeing new and wonderful sights, being on the road again: travelling by train or bus or plane to somewhere and something new. Whether it is getting soaked to the skin in an open boat under a gigantic waterfall, riding and taking a swim with an elephant, or snorkelling in tropical seas, doesn’t matter. What matters is taking a risk, doing something exciting and out of the ordinary, living life to the full. I forget just how much joy doing those things bring me when I’m back in Vancouver trying to get fit and well again, and that forgetfulness has a major impact on my ability to heal: I lose the thread and lose the joy. So no more of that: I need to keep that in the forefront of my mind as we plan our next adventure.
14 August 2014. From Alison: I am well again. I think. My ankle has healed and I’m exercising again which feels great. We’re housesitting in hilly North Vancouver and I’m marching up and down those hills like a wild woman. On the other hand, last night I started to feel mildly nauseous, and again today, so wonder if I have a parasite from our South American travels. We both had all the tests done. Don had picked up some extra baggage, which has now been banished with the help of those nasty wonder drugs that made him feel ill the whole ten days he was taking them. Hard to keep your mood up when you feel a little ill all the time. I know I did pick up a virus in the Amazon (no matter how much I didn’t want to believe it), which is now healed, but sometimes the parasite tests have to be done twice to catch the little critters. I slept for about six hours today. Unheard of for me, and much welcomed. That I have become so relaxed seems a miracle in itself!
Don is still in pain in the left hip area and feeling a bit lost again. He will be having an MRI soon as all forms of treatment over the past month have not brought any relief.
And yet, even with all this, we are both fine. Grateful to have this time to heal properly so we can continue our adventures. I have a deep sense that nothing is wrong, and that we are infinitely taken care of. Always, and again, I have a bottomless well of trust that things are just as they need to be. I think we are both feeling more at ease than we have for a long time, and for myself, certainly, there is a deep calm that feels new, and abiding.
Although the title of this post is This wasn’t supposed to happen, I think it actually is exactly what was supposed to happen – six months back in Vancouver to deal with, and heal from, all the bugs we picked up during our South American travels, and to deal with and heal various issues to do with aging bodies so we can get fully healthy and fit again before setting off on the next adventure.
1 September 2014. From Alison: Thank goodness I am well again and can do the heavy lifting. And pretty much everything else really. Don’s persistent pain led to him having an MRI, and then a second more detailed one, which revealed a clear diagnosis of a herniated lumbar disc, but worse than that, the disc has ruptured and a fragment of the inner substance of the disc has travelled out of the disc and jammed up against a nerve root, hence the continuous pain. It’s called a ‘sequestered disc fragment’. As regular readers of the blog will know we are great believers in the theory that there are usually emotional and psychological reasons behind illness and dis-ease that need to be healed along with physical healing. We are also great believers in discovering exactly what is happening in the body and dealing with it on a physical level.
Life can turn on a dime can’t it? And this turn appears to be worse than we had imagined, but not insurmountable. Don might not get to see a neurosurgeon for another month (though we’re hoping for sooner) so in the meantime he rests, we pray and hope, and visualize healing. We have read sequestered disc fragments can dissolve and be reabsorbed into the body. That is what we visualize. We also visualize the fibrous outer wall of the disc closing and healing so there can’t be another fragment wandering out of there and finding a new home where it doesn’t belong. No squatters’ rights for sequestered disc fragments!
He may or may not need surgery to repair the damage. We are hoping not, especially since spinal surgery is such a delicate matter. He has discovered that resting, and doing nothing much at all really helps. Maybe, just maybe, that is all that is needed, and that with time this will heal itself. Yesterday morning he was feeling better than he had for weeks. It was moving day and he thought he could help with the cleaning so began vacuuming the apartment we were about to vacate. Fifteen minutes of vacuuming set him right back and he was in much more pain for the rest of the day. But, the good news is that with a few weeks of very little activity, although there are days he is still in a great deal of pain, he has begun to have some good days. It feels like a possibility that continuing in that direction could bring about healing.
A bit of a rant about the glacial pace of getting medical care in Canada: if we hadn’t paid a lot of money for private-pay MRI’s he would have had to wait six months to even get an accurate diagnosis, and even paying all that money he was given no advice as to what activities he should avoid. Fortunately through a friend he got to speak to a retired neurosurgeon who advised that sitting was not recommended as it compresses the disc which could create more sequestered fragments. So he stands and lies down. And we wait, all the while as much as possible focusing on a positive outcome. Among the many things we are grateful for, we are grateful we have the money to pay for medical care when needed. And we are grateful this happened in Vancouver where all feels safe and familiar and we speak the language, and not while we were on the road.
It has been, and continues to be a roller coaster: a lot of sadness and frustration and grieving and tears. There is more to be learned here for both of us. Probably more unfelt grief, anger, frustration, sadness, that shows up in the body as dis-ease, and as these feelings are acknowledged and felt, and through that as healing takes place on an emotional level, then there can be more healing of the body. The body is always a mirror. And yet, at the same time we both realize that we are generally feeling a level of trust and equanimity that we couldn’t have even dreamed of ten years ago.
For weeks now Don’s intuition has been to not book flights for our next trip until this has been resolved. Very good thing we listened. We are also settled into our latest lovely comfortable housesit for the next two months, so no more lugging things around for a while. Two whole months! It feels like heaven.
1 September 2014. From Don: If I’d had a sequestered disc fragment in my back ten years ago I’d probably have been freaked out about it. As it is, apart from occasional feelings of sadness, and frustration about the glacial pace of the medical system, I’ve felt a remarkable equanimity about what has happened. Once again, the lesson for me seems to be all about practicing presence and acceptance regardless of the circumstances. At the same time, the thought arose that the ruptured disc is due to unfelt anger and powerlessness about an incident in the Galapagos. Another piece of this puzzle seems to be about putting into practice a process of inner healing of the physical body: in my case visualizing the sequestered fragment being reabsorbed fully into the body leaving me symptom free, and the burst disc healing fully so that no more of the central core can leak out. Alison added that we’re also practicing living into the reality, or imagining, that for both of us there’s nothing wrong with our bodies: they are already fully healed. What if it’s true?
4 September 2014. From Alison: What if there’s nothing wrong? This is the question I continually return to. It’s a rhetorical question. It’s not looking for an answer so much as it is designed to challenge the mind with its precious beliefs and assumptions. My back aches. Oh there’s something wrong. Don’s hip and leg are painful. Oh there’s something wrong. My neck aches. Oh there’s something wrong. I have a fractured ankle. Oh there’s something wrong. Don has a ruptured disc. Oh there’s something wrong. He maybe can’t see a neurosurgeon for a month. Oh there’s something wrong. I’m feeling tired. Oh there’s something wrong. It’s raining. Oh there’s something wrong. And on and on. But what if there’s nothing wrong? What if there’s never anything wrong? What if there’s just this. Just this, this that is. As it is. Nothing right. Nothing wrong. Just what is. I ask the question over and over and slowly begin to imagine that it’s true. Nothing is wrong. If I imagine it’s true it becomes true. There is just this. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing right, nothing wrong. Just this.
Photo of the day: A blue jay on the back deck of our latest home.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.