In Between Spaces

It is June 20th, 2016 and I find myself stepping down a sterile hallway in fluffy socks, the rubber non-slip grips sticking slightly to the floor. It's quiet, except for the metallic sound of the IV rack being rolled along next to me. I had just turned to my nervous parents, held up two fingers, said "peace out," and left them behind. The nurse commented how awesome she thought that was, that she'd never heard anyone say that before. I told her it was the hippie in me. That's the truth.

I didn't think summer was going to be this way. I knew something was up with my body, but I rationalized it was mid-life, hormonal changes, stress, burn-out from teaching so long. The delay in addressing my symptoms led to an eggplant-sized, fast-growing mass in my pelvis...not conducive to riding a bike. I've been with my much loved doctor for almost 20 years, through pregnancies, births, miscarriages, post-divorce (and all the birth control and STD testing conversation that comes with that), and all of my medical-induced anxiety that he has a gift for calming. I had never seen this look on his face before. It might be cancer. He didn't like what he was seeing. I was referred to an oncologist.

I'll spare the drama. I was a lucky one. It was benign. And not a day goes by where I forget my gratitude for that.

I didn't think I'd be walking myself into the operating room and climbing up on the table on my own. It was surreal. In my drama prone mind, it felt like an execution. My upright vantage point allowed me to scan the array of instruments, the UFO shaped light above the table, the mixture of wood and metal, fixtures that looked like toolboxes in an oil scented garage. It was almost too ordinary. It was nothing special for a place in which I'd be placing my life into the hands of others, knowing my body would never be the same. As I rested back on the table, I started to cry and I was immediately drugged. I think the staff feared I was going to bolt.

My body. This body has given me so much. I have spent my life trying to ground a watery, free-flowing spirit into this body. Teaching my classes and physical exercise helps me tremendously, as does my Reiki and healing work. However, I'm now being cut hip-to-hip and I'm not going to be able to teach or work for at least 6 weeks. This is my job.

It's taken me over a year to write this post and I want to focus on healing and recovery. I think about my experience last summer almost every time I cue a recovery section during or at the end of a cycle class. I hear myself, over the mic, inviting students to enjoy the "in-between spaces" during a workout, when things are not so intense, when they can take a breath, focus on the downtime and regroup for the next hard effort. It's so essential to not only do them, but to embrace them.

Last summer, I found my in-between space.

Being the competitive perfectionist that I am, I was going to be the best healer my surgeon had ever seen, dammit. I was. I walked into my 1 week post-op visit and shocked her with how fast I'd healed. I had zero complications. She (and others) said over and over again that the reason I was healing so well was because of my fitness level prior to surgery. I'm going to say it again: The reason I healed so well is because I was fit to begin with. As we age, our quality of life depends on it. We need to breathe deeply, sweat, stretch, strengthen, move. Find the thing that moves you and just. move.

I had the intention to chronicle my healing journey in writing, but other than a few social media posts, I mostly kept it to myself. I think I needed to go deep. I called in my support systems, my healers. I meditated. I did webinars on shamanic Reiki and healing. I ran energy on myself. I set up a healing space with crystals and essential oils (frankincense a fav). I ate light and clean. I walked every single day, from day 1 in the hospital hallway. Easy? Hell no. I went from being able to to atomic pushups in TRX straps (hello core strength) to having to roll myself to my side and push myself up with my arms just to be able to sit up in bed, crying hysterically, in pain, the first time I tried because I could not do it. At all.

I'll say it. I did not miss teaching Indoor Cycling. Not once. I'm not sorry about that. I needed the downtime, recovery and healing from more than just the immediate issues. I'd been going and going for too many years, pushing myself through the loss of a studio and job I loved into other ones, taking on too many classes to fill the gaps. I had completely lost my voice. I'm talking about my actual voice, but yes, my metaphorical voice, as well.

Maybe I hung out in my in-between space too long, maybe not. Some think I did. I'm not sure. But it's taken a full year (plus) to feel as if I'm finally moving through and out, and I only recently felt ready to turn my counseling and healing work outward. I've begun running Reiki groups and taking on private clients and feel as though I am a living testament to the power of self-care and alternative healing now more than ever. It's a nice place to be. And I get to visit my in-between space any time I want.

Yesterday, one of my evening cycling students did not know I was starting my Reiki group up again the next afternoon. After class, she said to me, "Your class felt like Reiki. I heard it in you. I had a session at work today. One of the nurses in the hospital is a practitioner and she offered it to other employees. Tonight felt similar to that." My surprise didn't last long as I know that's just how energy works. It just does.


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