You may remember something about a pain in my foot.
It has been 6 months and it has *slowly* gone away. The podiatrist says it’s nothing but each day when I take a step I think to myself it can’t be nothing if it’s something. Clearly it is tendonitis – which is really code for will hurt for very very long time no matter how much you want it to go away.
And I have tried everything to help it go away. Stretching, resting, icing, heating, sitting, standing, walking, new shoes, old shoes, orthotics, fins, no fins, anything you think might be remotely related to my foot I have either changed, massaged, actively released, tried or stopped. In this quest to alleviate the foot pain I have been very open to ideas. And the other day when Ibbe suggested acupuncture I said let’s give it a try.
The good news is that Ibbe is a certified acupuncturist. The bad news it that Elizabeth is not a big fan of needles. And this week has been full of needles to say the least. Soon I will be teaching children’s swim lessons and in order to get hired not only did I have to pee in a cup with a man holding the keys to a locked cabinet standing outside the door but I also had to have about 300 needles stuck in my arm. First for blood, then for more blood, then to prove I did not have TB, then to prove I also did not have rabies, polio, mumps, or even the clap. Apparently to stand in a pool where 99 percent of the children will be urinating it is me they need to make sure is clean.
Anyways, back to the acupuncture on Saturday. Ibbe props my foot on a chair and does some poking around. Heel pain is painful to treat, she says. It’s also painful to live with, may I add. She brings out a series of needles and gets ready to stick them into my hand.
Yes, hand – apparently that is part of the heel treatment protocol. Ok, fine, the hand. DAMN! That hurt like a sharp son of a bitch. And oh dear goodness there are two needles stuck in my hand. Look away, look away….when I was getting blood drawn the other day in addition to telling me you have great veins the physician assistant said oh so you’re one of those that looks away. As opposed to what – watching with giddy fascination as you stick something sharp into me and take away my lifeline of blood to see if I have contagious clap? Needles are not for me and I prefer not to be stuck with them let alone look at them so that is why when I realized there were two stuck in my hand I decided I would look away.
Needles in hand, now on to the heel. Above the heel to the left of the pain. The hand wasn’t so bad how bad could the heel be? Ibbe taps the needle into the fleshy part of my lower ankle and BAM! OW! Whoa. WHOA. There is pain. PAIN! Is this normal pain? A warm rush, a throb, and there is a needle sticking out of my heel. HELP!
That’s totally normal she says – that means it’s working to move the energy around. She sticks about 8 more needles in assorted places in my leg, ankle, and finally calf. I sit with little pin pricks pulsing with moving blood and energy while she tells me now to just rest.
Rest. Ok. Rest, I can rest. Feet up, rest. WITH TEN NEEDLES IN MY LEG AND HAND – rest! OK?
Ibbe then explains to me about ancient Chinese medicine. How it was believed that heel pain is a symptom of kidney drain. And kidney drain is a result of too much – too much exercise, work, stress. Too much.
I am not guilty of any of that.
I listen to her and I think to myself there may be something to Chinese medicine after all. I need to cleanse my kidneys and replenish my qi (chi). Qi is energy and energy must flow. The needles help to regulate my energy flow – to bring energy back to my heel and promote healing from within.
I listen and oddly enough I believe. I believe there is energy moving through us that needs to flow. And sometimes parts of our bodies and lives get overworked disrupting our flow. I believe to some extent that Ironman interferes with your life force and your flow. I see this now after doing two of them. Sometimes wish I had stopped at one, evened out my energy flow and returned to a balanced life instead.
But I didn’t, so now I have this disruption of energy flow. And about ten needles stuck in foot and hand. Which by the way you never stop feeling. Not like socks. No, you still realize the needles are there. I keep telling myself to think healing thoughts and think of nothing but warm, good pain.
As I sit there, I start thinking about the use of needles for pain. Is it effective or does the pain from the needles just distract us long enough that we forget our original pain. Or, do the needles signify an enemy to our body which then responds by moving blood to that area – thus increasing energy and flow. Whatever it is Ibbe tells me it will work. It might feel more painful for a day but then it will start to go away.
And I want to believe. For the past eight years with my husband I have believed what he has embraced of the Chinese way. No mirrors in the bedroom, no television in the bedroom, no doors facing east, sleep facing north, no staircases pointing towards the door, bed positioned so you can see the door, don’t a buy a house where you can see through the house from the front door to the back door. I have celebrated the Chinese New Year and accepted my husband as an Ox (born in 1973). When I told my mother in law I did not want to be a rabbit (born in 1975) but a monkey instead she said it doesn’t work that way. The list could go on and even though I realized it would just be easier to walk around my house with a compass or live in a van down by the river with my monkey and rabbit – as long as I take out the mirrors and point the van a certain direction – I still want to believe in the ancient Chinese way.
And as I believe I hope it improves my energy flow. I hope to rebalance and reroute my qi. Along the way hopefully reduce the heel pain. But I realize it’s more systemic than that. I hope with the changes I have recently made in my life that I will redistribute my energy overall – even outside of myself. I believe at times this sport is a great consumer of energy, requiring our qi to flow to one thing over and over again – our heart pumping blood to our muscles to give us energy every day.
But what about energy to do the other things? The things that really count. What about not just the blood in our heart but the connections we make with our heart? Or time away from our own goals and self? Time with family, time with friends, time to do just sit and reflect on our place in the world. Will we have any energy left?
There is, if you stay in balance. If you relax and share yourself. The day after day I have to do this workout or hit these times, bike 6 hours, swim five times a week is a strenuous use of your life force, your qi. At some point your energy has to be used for something other than yourself. Connect to and share your energy with others – whether family, friends, or the community as a whole. Replenish your energy from your connections with them and get back in balance with yourself.
It has taken 6 months of a dull ache to realize that the ache is not necessarily in my foot but perhaps just in myself. An aching for balance and connection to something other than myself. I have reconnected in many ways in the past few months and feel more balanced every day. Unfortunately, I ignored the ache in my foot for so long that it is going to take awhile to go away. Until then I may go back to the needle – but in a good way. To remind myself that energy has potential and needs to move - within and from myself. I see now it is my task to share this energy with others, to flow outside myself. And in doing so find a more balanced use of my life foce, my qi.