About 10 months ago, a lifetime of curving my shoulders in (because that’s what us tall girls often do, so as to not tower above those around us), coupled with having spent far too much time (read: 6 months) in a desk chair writing a book, translated into a weakness in my scapular muscles. A weakness that soon became pain. Pain that kept me from standing up entirely straight. Pain that would make driving long distances really uncomfortable. Pain that every once in a while leveled me to the couch with Ibuprofen and a rotation of heat and ice.
About 3 months ago, I decided I’d had enough. And so I went to see my general practitioner and I said, “I’m tired of hurting. Can you fix this? I’m willing to do what it takes.”
Maybe I looked full earnest that day (I was). Maybe she just somehow knew I was serious (I was). But whatever the reason, she said, “Yes, you look like someone who will do the work. You need physical therapy. And we can get you started next week.”
So this summer I’ve spent quality time with Jody and Jessica and their helper Nick. At first, I thought, “They’re insane. This is not going to help.”
But because I generally perform well when coached, I…performed. Well. In the PT office and out. I did the exercises. And the stretches. And I worked on pulling my shoulders back and my spine straight up.
I let them tape me up with hot pink kinesio tape, a miracle of science if there ever was one. The tape has done the work my muscles have been too weak to do. And the result is that the swelling has gone down. The tension has been released. And I stand taller.
Meanwhile they’ve got me doing exercises that are crazyhard to do when your scapular muscles are shot. There are foam rollers and exercise balls and tension bands involved. And when I protest, they do not care. It’s their job to push me. To help me see what’s possible. And their goal is to get me to where my muscles are doing on their own what that kinesio tape helps them do right now.
All this to say…strength. Strength being forged where there was none. Discipline making it so. Consistency making it work.
Building such strength takes work. And often we need help with said work. I sure do (though I’m terrible at asking for it). Friends. Family. Understanding and graceful coworkers. A good therapist. A really long run on a day you don’t feel like moving. Hydration. A good night’s sleep.
Sometimes we need hot pink kinesio tape to prop us up until we can stand on our own, you know? (It’s a metaphor y’all, work with me….) Because the truth is that there is no gaining the strength alone. Not entirely. Even if we cannot see the cloud of witnesses cheering us on, being right beside us every step of the way…they’re there. We do not live and move and have being in a vacuum.
The very best strength, the true and lasting and get-you-through-most-anything strength…it comes from those around you, those beside you, those within you, those who have gotten you this far, whether you realize it or not, so that you can go even farther.
Strength. But only on the other side of very difficult work. And at its best when pulled from the strength of those around us.
Because y’all, such is life.