a large rock jutting out of a grassy field
a rock, for comparison

My neck has been a real jerk since my birthday six weeks ago. I’ve been trying to keep doing all my usual stuff in spite of it, because I know from my back issues that not using it just makes it worse, but it’s not getting better either. So I went to physio yesterday.

It was illuminating. My physiotherapist spent half an hour trying to loosen up my left trapezius muscle and could not budge it. So I have some exercises to do (of course) and a follow up appointment (naturally), and she told me that essentially the muscle is so tight that it has pulled my upper rib out of place and that’s what’s causing all this garbage pain.

I put my tension into my shoulders, and always have. I don’t remember a time when my traps haven’t been completely solid rocks at the top of my shoulders. If it lingers there for too long, it travels down my spine in a nifty zigzag, creating a network of rib misplacement, causing me to hunch away from the pain, thereby disengaging my glutes and sending my lower back into spasms. Neat! It’s been very interesting, as I practice lifting heavy-ass weights, to see how my body wants to use my neck and back muscles (small, made for stabilizing) instead of my glutes and core (big, made for power). I have always tried to pretend I’m not a giant person – 6’2 is really tall, and there’s nothing I can do about it but try to make myself smaller. A great way to do that is to not have negative feelings. Except I do have them. I hide them. In my shoulders and back.

I’ve been in counselling for most of the past 15 years, taking breaks here and there. I decided in the fall to take a break again – maybe I’ll blog about that whole thing one day – and get a gym membership instead. I had a suspicion that really getting into my body might be therapeutic, and lo, it is. Lifting heavy weights has all but eliminated my back pain, because I am very careful about my form and I’m getting really strong, which is brilliant. It’s also been interesting and elucidating to see what feelings have come up. I have to be assertive enough to walk over to the squat racks and claim one amongst the grunting bros (luckily, there aren’t that many at 9am). I have to take up space to do the movements effectively. I’m anxious when I arrive but tired and proud when I leave. I have to carve out space for myself, and I have to push back against everyone who wants to know why I’m lifting, whether I’m being careful, whether it’s safe. I’ve always tended to err on the side of safety, so it’s a big deal that I’m pushing myself to the edge of what my body is capable of.

And now I have to confront the tension in my shoulders, because it’s getting in the way. It’s safe to put my feelings there, but it’s not healthy. So here’s to finding a way to turn my shoulders from rocks to powerhouses.

It’s September first. The days are still warm but the nights are chilly; people are adding nutmeg to everything they can think of; the yarn stores are entering their busy season. School has started for some people, and for us it starts on Wednesday. I, like many, love the back to school feelings – unblemished school supplies and joyful reunions, the bittersweet knowledge that the end of hot days means that snow and cold are coming.

I have written only a handful of words over the summer. I booked a trip to Ireland. I went swimming with my kids. It was a summer of hard things and lovely things, days spent in the sun with people I cherish and days where everyone cried. I got a narwhal tattoo, went to work, and went to counselling. Summer camp, swimming lessons, a drive to BC. Many of my far-flung friends came to visit me, and I treasure those times.

Time is a spiral, in some ways. Moving forward, always changing, and always circling back to echoes of the way things were before. Never the same, only similar. This fall, all three kids are in the same school. I’ll have my mornings to write again. It will be the same, but different. I am heading towards the final revisions of my novel-in-progress, and hope to query it in 2019. I have plans for sewing and knitting. I’ve taken up sourdough bread, and it’s a glorious thing for fall.

I read like a fiend this summer – all the Sam Vimes books by Terry Pratchett, which I still cherish; Whichwood, the sequel to Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi; Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat, by Becky Albertalli; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, read out loud to my daughter; and The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. All of them were fantastic.

September first. Another kind of new year’s day. Here I go again.

Hello, it’s been a while!

I’ve decided that this year I am choosing a word of the year, and setting related goals. I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t New Year’s resolutions, a thing that I do every year even when I say I’m not going to. Every year I think *this* will be the year I get my shit together and become a perfect, transcendent being; every year I fail. And it’s not popular to set resolutions anymore, because they’re fake constructs. But so is the new year happening on January 1st! So whatever, I love fresh starts and, after a great deal of introspection, I’m not afraid to fall off a horse and try again, probably because I literally did that as a kid and it’s one of my best memories. (Side note: I rode two horses, a small, sweet, fat Arabian who caused problems for me because I was too tall for her, and a giant Appaloosa asshole who stopped dead while I was attempting a flying lead change. I had the presence of mind to jump out of the stirrups and LEAP OVER HIS HEAD AND LAND ON MY FEET, and if you don’t think that’s badass, you can leave this blog right now.)

So! My word of the year is BRAVE. I am already brave. I’m brave enough to write a book, edit it, ask for help from beta readers and editors, and query it to widespread rejection. I’m brave enough to tell people I did that. I’m brave enough to shelve that book and start another one, knowing how painful it’s going to be when it gets rejected too. I’m brave enough to have three kids. I’m brave enough to keep going back to therapy even though it’s really, really hard to keep staring down into the pit of blackness inside me. I’m brave enough to write this all down on my blog where anyone could read it. I’m brave enough to jump off a horse, for crying out loud.

But I want to practice being braver. In spite of all those brave things, I am still really afraid of what people think of me. I’m afraid of setting boundaries. I’m afraid of anger, both my own and other people’s. So while I don’t plan to actively piss people off this year, I’m going to try to practice being okay with disappointing people, stepping on their toes, and setting boundaries to keep myself healthy, even if it makes someone angry. And I’m going to practice dipping into my own anger and letting other people see it.

I’m also getting a narwhal tattoo.

I resist change. It’s totally normal; our brains are geared for homeostasis, or keeping things the same, because change is scary and unknown and a threat to survival. Homeostasis keeps us safe, but can also keep us trapped. And I’m feeling trapped.

I’ve been at home with my kids for almost eight years. I don’t regret my decision, but I am feeling that it is a chapter that needs to be wrapped up. But every time I start to think of my options, my brain starts freaking out, and my anxiety is sent into a tailspin and I back off.

Part of my hesitation is fear of the unknown, of course. My brain knows how the current system works. (Even if it’s not working very well anymore.) But I’m also afraid of limiting my options. I’m a 7 on the enneagram, and 7s are characterized by keeping their options open and not wanting to be limited. 7s love to be involved in a million things so that they are able to drop boring shit like a hot potato. 7s are fun seekers, or even thrill seekers.

That doesn’t seem to fit with the desire for homeostasis, except that as a SAHM I have a lot of freedom to do what I want (within the restrictions of having no additional income and three children to work around). For example, right now I am alone in my house while all the kids are at school and preschool, so I can blog, or work out, or eat junk food, or watch Netflix, or whatever. (OR WRITE.) (ARGH.)

That last parenthetical statement? About writing? That is the biggest hurdle for me. I want the freedom to write. Except mostly I go to physiotherapy and counselling appointments and check Facebook and mope, so I’m not actually writing.

One of the best and worst things about writing is that the parameters are so wide. People can publish their first book in their teens, or in their seventies. People can write anywhere. If there is a story I need to tell, I am pretty confident that I will find a way to tell it. But it’s stalled out right now, so maybe the best choice is to go get some new life experiences and broaden my perspective a bit, and then bring that to my writing.

This blog post is basically a public pep talk to myself. If it serves as a pep talk for someone else to try something new also, then that’s a bonus. And here’s hoping that all my philosophizing translates into an actual change.