I will not imagine the doctors fusing my vertebrae together so as to immobilize me.
I will not imagine six to twelve months of recovery. And who will take care of me?
I will not imagine never again flowing through a vinyasa or dancing a samba with reckless abandon.
I cried myself to sleep last night, mourning the loss.
Though the loss has been there all along, just forgotten, conveniently, because life goes on.
And we focus on what’s in front of us, the next step the spine hidden behind doing all the thankless work.
Though it’s the backbone of our lives.
When I saw the x-rays, this time, I couldn’t turn away. The crooked truth’s awakened me.
I am bent, but not broken. I have the power to heal.
So I wake-up and get right down to the ground, unroll my yoga mat, take hero’s pose.
It’s not quite a habit, yet, if I lie in bed thinking twice, consider skipping today – after all, it’s Saturday – or contemplate making it a quick and dirty.
But here I am, for the seventh day, propped up on my haunches, squirming to find my center, as aligned as my misaligned spine can be.
Because I will not let them fuse me.
Chin down, ribs in, I lean slightly forward, slightly right, to compensate for all the compensating I’ve done my whole life.
Exhaling, I feel my bones settle in, sink down, and a slight smile stretches across my sleepy face.
Because I know this routine will save me.
There’s no other way through the fear of my deformity, the debilitating pain that shifts and moves, but is always present – the cactus pricks of numbness that spread down my thigh and a new sensation that’s appeared, a stabbing in the right shoulder blade.
Because once I begin to move my body, all I feel is strength and grace, not the bent brokenness that the x-rays show.
Yes, I hear creaks and cracks as my bones wake-up, the pop of tendons and ligaments as they stretch and vertebrae open up. But that’s release, pure release, not pathology, I tell myself. I know this body; I believe I know the difference.
Fear hovers on the edges,
I remind myself to slow down.
Child’s pose, a posture I’ve always poo-pooed as a lazy, I force myself to explore. Lowering down, forehead to the ground, I breath-in from my sacrum, up my crooked spine, and imagine air traveling through the column, around the lumbar curve and helix twist into the thorax, neck, skull.
Then, on the exhale, breath cascades back down like a waterfall cleansing and purifying each vertebra and disk, refreshing the nerve tendrils, flushing the tension and compression back down into the ground.
I imagine a passageway opening up as I repeat the circular cleansing breath through all the poses. It takes concentration.
There is no cure, only healing. This believing, moving, breathing is the only way.
Day after day.
I will not let them fuse me.