Seven years ago Monday, I was in a traumatic car accident. Luckily, all but the car and the tree survived (I was a passenger), but I came away with a head injury and a chronic neck injury. Having the injuries and the trauma caused me to go deep within my psyche looking for answers to a lot of hard questions, like why do bad things happen? was I given this lifetime to do something more important? and if so, what? how does one use mind over matter to learn to strengthen and recover?
What has been really great is that with regular exercise, I can keep the neck pain to a minimum. Not that I wish for pain, but just that I know it is within my power to minimize it, has shown me a lot about what humans have to deal with in their lives, and how great it feels to be able to take charge of oneself. It has been amazing to see the progress I have made, and it has shown me that the stuff that humans are made of is powerful stuff! We have the capacity to not just know our limits, also to know how to gently test them. We have the ability to envision ourselves in a healthier state, and figure out how to let ourselves heal. I haven’t perfected it – goodness knows I have very stiff neck days, sometimes shoulder pain, and sometimes a clicky jaw. But I have had enough success to know that it is always possible to improve, that we don’t have to just wither as we mature, but in fact, we can use our maturing selves to develop patience and persistence.
The images with this posting are photographs I took of my CT scan, my MRI, and my neck x-rays. When these medical images were made, I was terrified! I hated looking at images of my body, thinking it was going to fail me, seeing only evidence of its imperfections. Now I look at them, and I think – WOW! That is just a tiny fragment of all of the amazing stuff that’s going on inside of me – just what they were able to record in that specific way. There is so much wonder going on inside me, and actually, the problems are quite small in the grand scheme of my body. I can see the little spurs on my vertebrae and the congestion around my jaw, and go, “There are those little problem areas – they need extra love! That’s why it’s so great that I keep up with my yoga practice!” The x-rays were from years ago, and I have no idea if I have done enough muscle work (or if this is even possible!) to have created any improvements to my spine – but I know I have learned how to not make it worse, and how to make myself feel as good as I can, even with my body’s areas of sensitivity. This is an amazing thing! When I think about my thoughts and feelings, I see that I have changed DRAMATICALLY in the past seven years – I have gone from feeling fearful and always thinking that more terrible things could happen to my body at any moment, to feeling empowered and joyous and always thrilled at the strength I have been able to build, and looking forward to more improvements in my physical body.
Seven years is a long time, and by the standard western concept, I have “aged” a lot during that time. But I actually think, that by doing what I was inclined to do to empower myself over this trauma (too much to even begin recount here!), that I have learned a much more natural and youthful perception of myself – that I can trust this body, and I can take care of it, and it will take care of me.
At some point in time, I bought a copper necklace with a little square charm – the charm is a tiny little square photograph of a tree, coated in resin. I call it “my copper tree necklace.” I learned that copper is very good for aches, and so it was very appropriate to have it hanging around my neck, maybe even beneficial. I like to think of that tiny image of the tree as the symbol of the tree that jarred me awake into my physical body. I like to wear it around my neck as a gentle reminder of my gratitude – for my life, for that tree, for all of life, for my physical body, for life in all its physical forms – as a reminder that a purpose can be found in the most unlikely and unwanted of events.