This week, my writing exercise comes from the book Old Friend from Far Away (The Practice of Writing Memoir) by Natalie Goldberg. The instructions are here:
What aches? First tell the concrete aches: your back, knee, toe, ear, wrist, head.[…] Now move to the other, less obvious injuries…
Aches, there is plenty of material for that topic in this aging body. I am awake this night, in fact, with leg cramps. Since I’m awake, I may as well write. Since I can still feel the residual ache from the muscle spasms, how appropriate to run across this writing prompt.
I was sleeping well when a slight rearrangement of my feet under the covers caused a muscle in my calf to stiffen. I rolled slowly over to return the leg to its prior position, in hopes that it would relax. My three middle toes got into the act, separating and pointing upward, as the calf muscle went into total spasm. I reached down to rub the leg, but the movement brought my other leg into spam as well. I cried out just because it hurt so much, though there is no one to hear it except for the dogs, who seemed unaffected.
I rolled sideways out of bed and walked on my heels – bow-legged, knees bent at a severe angle, toes pointing upward in several directions – down the stairs. In the kitchen, I poured a slug of apple cider vinegar into two ounces of water and drank it down as if it were a shot of good tequila. An old folk remedy, it is supposed to stop leg cramps in under two minutes. I’ve had mixed success with it. I continued on into the bathroom where I bared my legs and sprayed them with magnesium oil. I hobbled around for a while, waiting for the cramping to stop. By the time it eased up, I was wide awake.
I have almost every pain listed in the directive. It wasn’t always like this, but aches and pains have crept in gradually, so I could hardly say when the pain started, or how long I’ve dealt with it. My back is pretty strong right now, but I have to be careful of what I expect of it. When it goes out, it is excruciating. My knees hurt every day, just enough to make their presence known. My wrists, hands and fingers have a bit of arthritis that is just slightly bothersome. I notice it mostly when I’m hand writing. All of it is a nuisance, but none more than that. I’m fortunate.
The less obvious aches are the hardest to stand. In my case, these primarily include regret, shame and embarrassment. I don’t let go of things like that, and I don’t go easy on myself. When I am hurt or humiliated, I take it on forever. When I speak or act in a hurtful manner, which I have done too often through my life, I suffer for it. I can still cringe at a foolish or mean thing I said or did many years after the incident. It is almost impossible to overcome the negative aspects attributed to me by myself or others. In this, I am not fortunate.