in slow motion

Right. So, my back hurts. It’s not that complicated but it will take me a long time to write about, and that’s not my purpose here. It’s sufficient to say that I have spasmed muscles pressing on or causing inflammation in nerves, which means a lot of weird, fiery pain in my neck, back and right arm. Muscle relaxers help some, but painkillers mostly don’t. I’m getting better, but it’s a slow process.

One of the weird things about muscle spasms is that a muscle once spasmed is more likely to do so again, especially in the very near future. So I’m not only trying to make my muscles relax, but I’m also taking actions to keep them that way. A major way to keep them happy is to move slowly. A muscle that has the potential to spasm can often perform, without pain, an action done slowly, while it will spasm and cause incredible pain when I do the same action at normal speed.

All of this means that I’ve been making a conscious effort to live slowly. I’m trying to move slowly, lift slowly, even turn the steering wheel of my car more gradually, and I’m amazed at how hard this is.

I’m an efficient person. I like stuff to be done, because then it’s not hanging over my head. Slow and steady is not how I work. I even walk fast. These are all things I know about myself. Some of them I’ve held with pride, and others I’ve viewed with less joy. But I’ve never bothered to slow down.

It’s only now, when I find myself choosing between “slow” and “pain,” that I see how deeply I’ve drank of efficiency. I’ve been praised so many times for completing tasks both well and quickly. People have been amazed at how quickly I write papers, read books, connect thoughts, respond to questions, and clean the house. Efficiency has worked so well for me that I’ve made a little box for myself–the “Sarah is Efficient” box–and I never step out of it. Why would I? So many of the things I do need to be done quickly. I don’t think I would have survived work this spring if I wasn’t efficient. And people like me for it.

But it’s still a box. “Efficient” has come to be a characteristic that I feel like I HAVE to have, all the time, no excuses. It not a skill, that I can choose to use if I need it, or a characteristic I can inhabit when it’s necessary and then put back in my toolbox for the next time. It doesn’t even matter if it’s actually someone else who is slowing me down–I carry around a niggling feeling of failure if I’m not efficient.

These last few days have been like a tug-of-war. I want to do things quickly. I have this insatiable need to finish tasks (because once they’re done, I can’t fail at them), and to finish them as soon as possible. On the other hand, I’m sick of hurting. I’m tired of turning my head to look at a student who has walked into my office, because I’m too involved with the document on my computer to turn my whole body, and feel pain spiraling up my neck or down my arm. I need to go slow. I need to go fast. Slow. Fast. Slow. Fast. Slow.

In the end, “slow” has to win, because the muscles won’t relax without it, and I refuse to continue in pain because I can’t let these things go. It’s a long, hard haul though, a total reprogramming, in some respects, of what has become instinctual for my mind and heart. Slowing down must permeate every task, every little movement, every breath, if I’m to truly and fully heal.

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17 Comments

Filed under My Days

17 responses to “in slow motion

  1. i’m sorry for your pain. back pain really is a bad kind of pain to have. maybe because we use more of our back muscles to do things than we realize.

    i always notice just how much i depend on the parts of my body to do things without my thinking about them once i am inflicted with pain or obstruction in that area. eye problems, nose problems, throat problems, mouth problems, back problems . . . they all do it. you know?

    interesting how your interior world is being forced to grow alongside exterior world stuff. i find a profound truth is nestled inside of there somewhere . . . if only i would take the time [er, slow down enough] to tease it out! 🙂

    hope you’re feeling better soon, friend. i can appreciate the zest for efficiency in life, too, so on that front, i hope you’re feeling growth soon, too. much love . . .

  2. “…choosing between ‘slow’ and ‘pain’…” sometimes i think that’s always the choice we’re making. the need to slow down (not necessarily becoming inefficient) in ways that allow us to actually show up for our lives is so real. and i honestly wonder how much of the pain in my life is a direct result of all the rushing around, both internal and external. i truly hope you’re feeling less restricted soon sarah, AND i hope you’ll take away just the slower pace with you when you choose to do so. you deserve a little slow savoring, girl. *gentle hug*

  3. Christianne–it’s totally true about not knowing how much you depend on a part of your body until it hurts. I have those experiences regularly. I have this weird relationship with my body, where I’m really in touch with some things and totally out of touch with others.

    And the internal tied with the external…there’s something there. The body really is part of the whole person–no denying that!

    Terri–I’m floored by what you’ve said here. There’s SO MUCH THERE that I don’t even have much of a response for it, except thank you, thank you, thank you.

  4. I can relate to the need for efficiency and even feeling defined by it. Go slowly, take care of yourself and heal. That’s what I love about the body (well, one of the things), its amazing capacity to heal. Hope you feel better soon.

  5. I daily live in pain. It is not something that I invited into my life. But it came unannounced one morning when I was rushing up the stairs to get to work and leaned back for a penny and I fell backwards onto my rear end. It took me on a tour of pain throughout the body and tingles everyone. visits to all the specialists that I could think of. But the bottom line is nothing definitive was found to be causing it. I take it as a thorn in my flesh. Something that God has ornamented me with and I am thankful that God has tattooed that on me. It will be lasered off at the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb of God. But until then, I thank God for the thorns that He has given me.

    May you be blessed and be growing as you reflect on how I view the pains in my life as well.

  6. you’re welcome dear.

  7. Chloe-thank you. Your words so often bring rest and peace, even when I know from your blog that that’s not always what you’re feeling.

    Scott–yeowch! That sounds awful. I find it relatively easy to find meaning in pain by thinking about suffering with Jesus, or Paul’s sufferings that you mentioned, but hard to live with it day-in, day-out when it’s here with me. Props to you if you’ve figured it out.

    Terri-I’m sososososo tempted to say “Thank you” again and keep the cycle going, but I’ll stop it here 😉

  8. sarah,

    this slow & this pain.

    it is hard & it is frustrating. slow is something we know we should do, something we need. but daily living with the reality is enough to make you wan to tear your hair out.

    it is so hard to give ourselves grace in that place when we are so used to moving freely, so accustomed to being efficient. argh. i don’t even like writing about it.

    i have nothing nice & neat to say. i just understand something what that is to be in this place where you are. be good to yourself, friend.

    love you,
    * k

  9. Kirsten–thanks for seeing me here. It’s true…there’s not much to say in this place.

  10. Tammy

    Back pain is a real pain in the……well maybe i should say rump. It is funny cause i wake up now almost every morning from back pain. i hurt my back several years ago while moving. Chiropractors did not fix the problem. I just moan and groan now. Drugs Sarah, drugs are the answer. Divine healing comes in a bottle let me tell ya. Now that was irreverent wasn’t it? I had to decide which of me i liked better grouchy me or high me? High me won.

  11. Haha. Tammy, I love you so much. And sometimes? Drugs ARE the answer.

  12. Even on the cruise ship I had to learn this. The first couple of days, Chris and I highlighted every activity, ran from one to the next. By the end of the week, we were exhausted. We learned that it is good to be still and know God through the rippling waves.

  13. Oh, Sarah. Sigh. My spouse suffers this from time to time and I really can say I’ve seen how hard it is. I feel for you!

    Slow, yes. I hope you find gifts in that which go beyond the physical.

  14. Thanks, LL. I’m (still) trying to move slowly…went running last night and that was the wrong way to go…back pain IS miserable.

  15. Heather–totally…I want to know God through the rippling waves. I’ve heard that about cruises—that there’s so much to do, you wear yourselves out. But I saw your pics, and I’m so glad you had a good time!

  16. then that is just what you need to do….slow down…breath in….look…admire…feel…do….one step at a time….

    at the end of your day…jUMP (softly) into a deep bath full of bubbles and daisies…breath out…and feel…:-0)

    i know this is not about slowing down to appreciate life…i also know that when our bodies talk to us, we have to listen…sometimes a little bit deeper…thinking of you xx

  17. Linni, I love the picture here. Thank you, sweet girl, thank you.

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