i was sitting for a quick ten minutes before work yesterday in my regular café with my regular roast taking in a page from my current read, “bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life”, by anne lamott.
it was page 29. and i had to re-read it. three or four times.
“when i was twenty-one, i had my tonsils removed. i was one of those people who got strep throat every few minutes, and my doctor finally decided that i needed to have my tonsils taken out. for the entire week afterward, swallowing hurt so much that i could barely open my mouth for a straw. i had a prescription for painkillers, though, and when they ran out but the pain hadn’t, i called the nurse and said that she would really need to send another prescription over, and maybe a little mixed grill of drugs because i was also feeling somewhat anxious.
but she wouldn’t.
i asked to speak to her supervisor. she told me her supervisor was at lunch and that i needed to buy some gum, of all things, and to chew it vigorously – the thought of which made me clutch my throat.
she explained that when we have a wound in our body, the nearby muscles cramp around it to protect it from any more violation and from infection, and that i would need to use these muscles if i wanted them to relax again.
so finally my best friend pammy went out and bought me some gum, and i began to chew it, with great hostility and skepticism. the first bites caused a ripping sensation in the back of my throat, but within minutes all the pain was gone, permanently.”
i put the bold emphasis in there because that’s the part i was re-reading. three or four times.
i was sitting there thinking, “honestly, what? since when did i never get taught this … this ridiculous biological feat of protection our bodies enable after trauma…”
that’s just unreal. that our body does that biologically, without our awareness. it knows to do it, to protect itself.
but what’s even more fascinating is that the part, the muscle, that hurts the most has to be used again in order for it to heal.
the connect-the-dots between bio and love was immediate. and maybe that’s what took me the most, that what is true of the body is true of the heart.
some people love and after one stab wound, the bricks are out, the cement is mixed and before night has fallen, the walls are up. phase one is there, the protection, but the heart never sees the light of day again. or for a really long time. it never heals and can’t feel what it was made to feel.
my track record is not good. ha. i can admit that. and yes, i do have days where i might as well be reciting lines from “bitter old maid 4”.
one time, for christmas, i picked out his favorites – things we had been talking about, music i had been listening to, things he’d love – a thoughtful stack of legendary presents beautifully wrapped with bows and all.
i got his christmas presents for me handed over in the plastic bags he had quickly bought them in after his five minute rush to the mall. i think one of the presents still had a price-tag on it, and i had to throw out a receipt that was still in there.
i was gutted. talk about a bullet hole.
so yes, there’s been civil wars and punch bruises and stitches. God’s had some enormous messes to clean up, and heal.
but he’s also miraculously filled my heart with child-like optimism just when i’ve needed it. and He never lets me keep a sturdy wall up for long.
it’s pretty rad the lessons we can learn from some biology.
and from each other. because if you were ever tempted to date a guy who will give you your christmas presents in plastic bags, now you know someone who did. and let me tell you, not worth it.
no need for the walls on this one, just remember my christmas tale.