I’m growing a wing. More accurately, the wing that’s always been there, atrophied and flightless, is finding freedom. Strange as it sounds, my shoulder is being liberated from guarding my body where a surgeon cut my belly open when I was twenty-six days old. Somatic release!
Amazing. Check this out. All day every day, and mind you while I sleep, I hold my right shoulder slightly forward in deep tension. This protective posture is one of the ways I learned to cope with the trauma of surgery without anesthesia. Often, I hold my breath when my shoulder is unconsciously brought forward. I’m in some weird state of suspension, frozen in place. When I finally do breathe, it’s slight, my breath barely expanding my diaphragm. As an infant, I must have tried desperately to mitigate the pain by minimizing body movement. Remember, generally, no pain control was given for infants cut open in America in the ’50s, so I did what I could.
This early pattern of tense holding affected my whole body. Since my right shoulder was bent inward, my left hip was often out of alignment. If I tripped or fell or lifted something too heavy, a cascade of painful events was set in motion–pain below my left knee and up the side of my thigh, a knob of tension swelling in my left rear hip, pain in my lower back, and then neck and right shoulder pain.
So the other day, after one more stumble and cascade of pain, I decided enough. My chiropractor’s wisdom was key here. When I told him about the connection of my somatic pattern to early surgery, his response helped me realize that though the body memory was deeply entrenched, it could change. He said that it made sense that the right side of my body would lean forward in an attempt to protect myself from injury. Then, he showed me exercises to extend my back legs and shoulders outward to counter the protective position. Somatic release!
And what of the left wing? I forgot about her. You need two wings to fly, she informs me. Ok, got to get her on board. It feels like too much to do. But then I hear my next thought: Can’t wait to lift off.