This is part of my Listening in Lent series in which I reflect on my experience of practicing listening during this holy season.
It started with my hip. That may seem like a weird thing to listen to. Other than the first-morning pops and groans, what sound does your hip make?
Mine was screaming. After several weeks of insisting on running despite tightness in my right hip, it was really talking back to me. After running or walking a distance, I had pain when I went up and down stairs in the house. Pain radiated from my hip, down into my knees and ankles if I laid on my side at bedtime. I couldn’t get comfortable. When my hip gets like this, (Yes, it’s happened before.) it feels like the head of the femur bone won’t set in the hip socket and I’m moving around with socket and joint never quite in sync.
Always resolute, I like to keep the workout pace, worrying more about losing my ability to run a 10k than sustaining a more serious injury. So, in this first week of Lent, the first week that I practiced listening, I had to concede that I had to listen to my hip.
I didn’t run for six days. I visited the massage therapist and the chiropractor. I did some really good yoga. It was finally feeling better. The diminishing pain, the first 50-degree day in months and miles of plowed trails at a local park lured me outside for a run.
Instead of feeling the freedom of the sun, the warm air and the (finally) melting snow, I was in pain. My hip was the least of it.
Yes, my hip hurt during that six-mile run that ended up being mostly walk. Something about the melting of the vast mounds of snow triggered some other, deeper misery. All the change I have absorbed in the past year (changing jobs, leaving a home, friends and family) came to the surface. Tears stung at my eyes.
The path was relatively dry from diligent plowing, but the snow still surrounded me, obscuring directional signs and covering park benches with dirty gray, icy mounds. The warm, welcome sun melted the piles, streaking the blacktop tar with glassy, tear-like rivulets of water. The earth seemed to be crying, not for me alone, but for the whole world. For revolutionaries who lost friends, lovers and family in the Ukraine. For those who flee their homes in Syria. For those who live in constant want for food, shelter and water in so many places. For women and children exploited as sex workers. For those hoping and praying for a miracle rescue near Malaysia. The melting snow wept that day.
When you listen you’ll inevitably hear what you don’t want to hear. I didn’t want to hear, or feel, any of this. Then I thought back to the tattoo I permanently etched on my ankle just a few months ago — a lotus flower. In yogic thought, the lotus is a symbol of how all beautiful things must arise from the muck. Ugliness births beauty. Indifference gives way to love. Sorrow turns again into joy.
I can’t see the shoots emerging from the muck just yet. (And, this latest round of winter weather isn’t helping.) Still, I am reminded that those roots are lying, perhaps dormant, under the cold, frozen earth.