I had surgery a few weeks ago to fix a torn rotator cuff and shave down my apparently-wonky-shaped acromium bone. As a result, I’m back in physical therapy, and the Tommy line of my title is a perfect descriptor of that experience.
Yu-Lan worked hard on my shoulder, arm, and neck this morning — pulling, stretching, rolling — and then I did some work on my own to coax a little more range of motion into my very resistent shoulder.
Being forced to slow down, to make these small moves, these tiniest of incremental shifts … it’s frustrating, sobering, humbling.
The intimacy of physical therapy fascinates me. Physical therapists touch you in ways only a lover should. And you let them because it’s good for you, because they are reminding your body how it’s supposed to be able to move on its own … and because sometimes it just feels really good. (Yes, sometimes it hurts like %/*&@!, but there are those other times.)
Part of the intimacy of physical therapy is in the fact that you cannot hide from your therapist. They can tell when you’ve stopped doing your home exercises. They can see how you’re feeling just by watching you walk into the gym — how you’re favoring your arm, are you limping more or less than the last time you came, is your back in spasm. They see you in a way most people don’t have the first clue how to look at you, literally past your outer trappings and straight under your skin.
And then there’s the laying on of hands aspect. Another person using their hands and body to manipulate your body, to help your body relearn comfort, ease, capability.
The last time I wrote about PT, I wrote about discovering how hard it is for me to fully relax in my therapists’ hands. And there’s still a fair amount of that, but today I was able to focus more on how it feels to be so thoroughly handled by another person. And, as much as that’s a little alarming, there’s also something soothing about it. There were several moments during today’s session when I felt myself let go, felt myself stop resisting and be limp in Yu-Lan’s hands. She noticed immediately, of course, because she is entirely focused on what’s happening with my body.
“Finally,” she said the first time it happened. I laughed, and she said, “Well, you know how you are. But you relaxed. Like for real.”
Yes, like for real. It’s a start, maybe the smallest of signs that this laying on of hands is healing more than my shoulder.
It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers! With hundreds of folks participating, there’s more than a little something for everyone … and plenty of room for you to join in!
In 2017, I took up Vanessa Mártir’s #52essays2017 challenge to write an essay a week. I didn’t complete 52 essays by year’s end, but I did write like crazy, more in 2017 than in 2015 and 2016 combined! I’ve decided to keep working on personal essays, keep at this #GriotGrind. If you’d care to join in, it’s never too late! You can find our group on FB: #52Essays Next Wave.