Ever had a knot in your stomach? Or one in your shoulder? Ever had that feeling that you were the knot, all balled up and tight and immovable?
Ever felt like, “If only I could get rid of this knot – life would be perfect!”
Whether a physical, emotional, or spiritual knot, feeling the tension of fear, anger, pain, or frustration can be horrible. And if it goes on for days or years, the tightness can build on itself, creating a ball of something hard that becomes an obstacle to much of what we want to do.
I’ve had knots in my shoulders that prevented my neck from moving fully. Knots of fear that were nearly paralyzing. Knots of worry that prevented sleep.
But there are ways of slowing unknotting the knots and rearranging them into more manageable things that do not impede us so much as instruct us.
For my physical knots, I’ve always worked with my doctor to determine what’s best – and this is what I tell anyone, too. Physical therapy, directed exercise, and other forms of intervention can be helpful, but we have to work with our doctors to know what will work for us.
For fear, well, I learned in horseback riding classes long ago – learning from the fear (what is it, what does it come from, why am I fearful?) and then re-approaching it can be very helpful. When we know we’ve overcome a fear once, it gives us tremendous self-confidence that we can use and improve on next time.
For worry, as with all challenges in life, I especially turn to God in prayer. He has bigger shoulders that I do – and no pesky knots on them! – and can carry burdens that anyone else might find too heavy. He also never sleeps, but is always watching and protecting us – so we can sleep. That is a powerful and comforting image!
Of course, we all have our individual ways of dealing with our knots. But it helps, I think, to know that many others each day are dealing with similar challenges. And, it helps to know that knots can be unknotted – and God is with us all the way!
As a musician, I appreciate really good harmony. When several pitches combine to create a full, complex sound, melody is transformed into something even more beautiful, and I just have to sit back, listen, and enjoy.
Our lives with chronic illness can find such a relaxing, de-stressing harmony, too. It requires a little effort in the beginning, but as we practice our pitches, we can enjoy a better outcome.
I “harmonize” in several ways. First, I manage my many medical professionals’ communication so each doc is on the same page as the other. Lab results, tests, appointments – I communicate and schedule these so that I’m eliminating as much unnecessary redo and back-and-forth as possible.
I harmonize my day, too, scheduling in my personal, daily “calendar” when I have to take what med or when I need to do what exercise so that I get everything in and lessen the fretting over, “Did I take this med?” or “Will I have time to exercise?”
Harmony in life involves times of socializing, but also profound quiet. We need time to think through the events and people we encounter each day, and if we’re flitting from one to the other without allowing ourselves retrospection, we soon become bottled up with layers of things we haven’t even begun to understand profoundly. So, for our health, time for prayer and meditation is key.
My African violets help me harmonize myself with nature; each morning, there’s always something new – a leaf, a flower, a gentle tilting toward the sun. These observations, and the care I give the plants, help me remember that even if I cannot go out in the sun, I can still participate in God’s creation on a broader scale than just tending to my health concerns.
One of the most exciting things about being a musician is the new work that is constantly emerging, or the songs and other pieces that are not so new, but that I have not yet discovered. These bring even more depth to my days – and more harmony to my life.
When we’re angry, upset, frustrated, or diving deep into darkness, we lose the benefit of beautiful harmony in health and in life. But as we recognize the many ways we are in tune with the world, nature, music, ourselves, others, and God, we are blessed with songs that will never fade!
Sometimes, you just want to cry. But, the particular moment might not be the best. Perhaps your children need you, or your spouse is dealing with a difficult problem of his or her own. Maybe you’re at work, and the environment leaves you exposed and feeling terribly vulnerable. Or, maybe you’re driving, cooking, cleaning, or shopping – and you don’t think you can let go of your grief just then…but you oh, so very much, want to.
Our inner strength is one of our finest assets. It enables us to face the terrible health and other challenges that pepper our lives with courage and move along even as we carry our burdens. But, we need not equate “inner strength” with “I cannot cry.” In fact, tears are a gift from God, and one of the blessings that allows us to express the inexpressible, bear the unbearable.
If today you feel a need to cry, know that it is all right. Moreover, you are not alone. Many of us at this very moment also feel like crying. As you assure yourself, find a way that you can step back from where you are, even for a few moments. Go to a safe, quiet, alone place. Allow God to wrap His arms around you. Allow tears to flow – cleansing you. Then, dry your eyes and move back into your world, allowing yourself to feel renewal and not embarrassment.
It’s all right – God loves you so very much!
I asked my eye doc if she was going on vacation this summer. She said she couldn’t, but she’d live vicariously through her patients who could.
This got me to thinking about how, if we’re too sick to travel, or don’t have the time or money to go on a real vacation, we might fashion one of our own – right at home. More than a “stay-cation,” we could create an environment where we’re enjoying some of the benefits of beach, mountains, sun or sand, but not physically going through the rigors of travel, with all of its intended or unintended hassles.
Right now, for example, I’m playing a CD of Hawaiian music, enjoying the different sounds that evoke those beautiful islands far away. Sipping a fruity beverage can enhance this feeling, as can gentle movement to the music.
If island vacations aren’t your preference, what about mindful meditation that takes you to the slope of a lush mountainside, or the banks of a skippingly cheerful forest river? Or, the mental stimulation you can achieve by diving full-on into historic places, letting yourself mentally walk the road trodden by Christ, paint the chapel ceiling like Michaelangelo, or even take the adventuresome sea voyage of a Cousteau or Vikings from time long ago.
My doctor’s comment about living vicarious through her patients is another option – if you have friends who are going on vacation, invite them to give details, with images from pictures of vidoes, or their time away.
Above all, what we who are home-bound do not want to fall into is the envy trap; getting wrapped up in the, “Poor me, I can’t go anywhere or do anything this summer.”