(This is a long story. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.)
I live next to a stream, the bank of which has eroded a bit, making all my neighbor’s trees very vulnerable in a storm. Many have fallen across the stream, destroying parts of our fence and, once, a section of our roof. After a few of these tree-falling fiascos, my insurance company said they would drop us unless my neighbor took down all the worrisome trees. So they did.
The change was really jarring at first. If you were approaching my house from the south, suddenly you could see the whole side of my house – most of which used to be obscured by those many trees. I didn’t like it. I felt really exposed. And sad, too, because I figured it would take 20 years for new trees to grow tall enough to give us back our privacy.
But today, as I was walking toward my house, I noticed for the first time that it was again cloaked in a leafy screen. It’s only been a few years since those trees came down, but the healthy ones grew bigger and fuller in the light – they filled in the open spaces.
Things change in their time. And sometimes so slowly you don’t even notice it’s happening.
I have to say, this is not how I thought this story would end. I thought one day I would wake up and just be “healed,” like a miracle. (I really did.) But the actual experience has been more like the trees on the side of my house.
A few weeks ago I put on a pair of sneakers – footwear that had been making my feet feel the worst – and suddenly they made my feet feel the best. I took three long walks this week!
But still there are other shoes I can barely even stand in.
I was looking in my notebook today – the one I started when I began this story – to make sure I’d gotten all the little errant pieces of information in, the things I didn’t want to forget. Like the time AE and I were talking about how we make our favorite smoothies and, after she gave me a sip of hers, told me it was made with raw egg and raw milk. I went to sleep that night afraid I was going to die of botulism.
Or how, at the end of our sessions, before I get off the table, she slides one hand under my tailbone and cups the back of my head with the other, cradling me like a baby, and how it’s one of the most amazing sensations I’ve ever had.
I wanted to remember my husband’s analogy, early on, that seeing AE was a little like calling a handyman because you have a leaky faucet and him telling you he’s going to build you a whole new house. Even though to the uninitiated that analogy makes it sound like seeing AE is a bad thing.
There’s still so much to say about perception. How some days I come to my session in glass-is-half-full mode and other days I show up negative and cynical, and how my attitude on the table really contributes to what the session is like. A friend recently said to me, “I work really hard every single day to be positive and I need to protect myself from people who bring me down.” I feel the same way, but often the main person I need protection from is me.
And there’s plenty more to say about body image. How we romanticize the body we had 20 years ago. And 20 years from now, I’ll romanticize this body. The one I just complained about for 33 blog posts. I’ll pine for this body – if I’m even around to pine at all.
If nothing else, this process has taught me to try and shift how I see things. That just because something feels unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s bad.
I remember walking in the park with my friend Susanne early in this AE process and, after about 45 minutes, I started to complain about my foot hurting. “Do you want to stop?” Susanne asked.
“No, if I just slow down for a while it will start to feel better,” I said.
“Well, let’s just walk slow from now on,” she said.
“I hate walking slow,” I said. “It actually makes me agitated and unhappy.”
“Hmm,” she said. “That’s something to look at.”
Or another time when I was complaining to AE about my weight gain, but explaining how I needed chocolate after our sessions, and a lot of it.
“The chocolate soothes me,” I said.
“What about being held?” she suggested.
“I don't want to be held. I want cookies,” I said.
“What about placing a cookie on your heart and seeing whether just having it there is soothing enough?” she said.
That still seems like the most ludicrous idea in the world. But now, I’d probably try it. Just to see.
There was a point, recently, where I realized that nothing is quite as painful as that first step out of bed in the morning. It only gets better after that. Which is a really great lesson, both about my foot and as an instruction for life.
This has been an incredible and scary experience writing this way as well. Putting up pieces of a story whose ending I was never sure of. Usually when I write, the real meaning of a piece reveals itself after a revision or two and I can shape the narrative to support some bigger idea. But that work is typically done in private – not in front of an audience.
Here I am at the end, and I have no idea yet what this story is really about.
If you’ve stuck with me through this – thank you. I can’t say why, but I now know that my foot is just going to get better and better. I think I’ve said all I need to about this journey, and, although I’m calling this The End, for the first time in a long time, it feels like it’s the exact opposite.