I have this muscle in my back that has been wreaking havoc on my body for years. Originally I hurt it when I sprained my back in a car accident, and I never fully recovered from that injury. When I’m under stress, I tend to hold a lot of tension in my shoulders, and next thing I know, that little muscle becomes a big problem.
Not only does that muscle contract and hurt, but it pulls on the surrounding muscles, eventually pulling muscles further and further away out of whack. I’ve tried ignoring it. Masking the pain. Just living with it. But eventually it become unbearable, and I break down and through a variety of means (including stretching and massage) get it loosened up and under control again.
And every time I do, I can’t help but mentally kick myself and wonder: Why in the heck didn’t I deal with this sooner?
It’s one of the things I’m working on right now- dealing with the little things when they are little. And I’ve discovered that one of the major challenges is learning to pay attention to things when they are at the “uncomfortable” level, before they hit outright painful. My life, like so many others, has been punctuated by a lot of stress for the last few years. It’s become the new “normal”. But as my back periodically reminds me, status-quo isn’t always good.
When I look at my life, many of the things that became painful started out as more of an irritation. I get busy, and it seems like it will take too much time to deal with it right now, so I put it off until later. And honestly I think a little part of me hopes that it will just resolve itself if given some time. But what I need to keep reminding myself is that although I can try to ignore the irritation, it usually doesn’t go away. It stays and grows.
An uncomfortable realization is how many things I let go much longer than I should have. Major surgery is now needed where a band-aid would have worked several months ago. And being intentional about taking care of things now instead of putting it off until later is a hard habit to begin.
I’ve set up an “emergency fund” for myself. The fund isn’t just financial (although I’m working on that too), but it’s also spiritual and emotional. I’m being deliberate about putting the required deposits into this account.
A challenge of my busy life is to remember sometimes I need a break. So I’m deliberately building time into my calendar to take off a couple of hours this week and just enjoy some quiet and really pay attention to what is happening in my life. I’m also scheduling time to be with some people I truly care about, who love, energize, and encourage me. These relationships are so important to me- they need my time. And I'm realizing I need to nurture them before they start to unravel, not after.
Something that always surprises me is the relief when I finally take care of that stubborn little muscle. If I don’t deal with it right away, eventually the pain travels from my mid back all the way up into my neck, causing throbbing headaches. Because this process happens so gradually, it isn’t until the pain is gone that I realize just long it has been going on and just how miserable I’ve been. I’m tired of these consequences, and so I’m willing to commit to being proactive with dealing with the irritations in my life by taking care of it NOW, not later.