A Pain in the Neck Pandemic
Sadness, fear + hope. This is the language I have given the feelings that were once buried in unretrievable places within me.
Like most of us here in Minneapolis, I’ve been tucked away from the world at home for several weeks now. My level of minimal news intake delayed my grasp on the situation. But when understanding came, it settled in like a fog over my life.
I woke with a pinching sensation at the base of my skull. Beginning my morning routine, I bent my head in prayer, to read, to journal - my morning soul-care and self-care ritual. The ache in my shoulder nagged. Familiar with these signs of irritation, I knew this was my body’s way of telling me: something is not okay. So, I added sacred rhythms. I gulped in breath during meditation. I focused on areas of tension in my body while stretching and practicing yoga. I honed in on mindfulness, paying closer attention to what I was taking in. Was I drinking enough water? Was I eating nutritious food? Was I getting enough sleep? Desperate for relief as the pain increased, I sought out ways to silence my body.
Often, I’ve said, “My body doesn’t carry stress well.” Yet, as I consider this now, I realize the mistake of this statement. When I become overwhelmed, stressed or experience psychological injury my body’s reaction is often palpable and severe. Under seasons of duress I have experienced sleep disruption, headaches, and pain in my neck, back and shoulders. I have faced skin irritation, stomach aches and general fatigue.
As a little girl, I was described as one who truly feels her feelings. Now, as a Black woman, tricked into fixating on survival rather than pursuing wellness, I’ve believed these deep feelings of mine to be inconvenient and dangerous. To be Black, female, tough, unbreakable and strong, is the only way to endure.
Yet, Black women are not simply troupes nor characters of inhumane strength. We are very human, whole beings. What we experience outside of ourselves, in the workplace, on the street, and in our homes will affect our inner selves. Our mental health is wrapped within our physical health.
And so, I am grateful for the loud alarm system my body has. It is an invitation not to rush toward the snooze button, but to slow down and to create space. Render Free centers the experiences of Black and brown women by making space for her. Together in practice, members of Render Free will learn to listen to their bodies, no longer ashamed of the care our needs require.
It took over a week for the pain to subside. Even now, I feel a faint tightness just below my shoulder-blade. I will continue to be attentive to this. With more patience I will practice meditation, mindfulness and movement. Especially in this season of uncertainty, when the fog is thick with no sign of letting up, I will be gentle with myself and attentive to feelings that I may have buried deep inside.
Maybe your word is grief, loss, instability, or loneliness. It’s okay - name it. And take heart, the fog will lift. No one can say when or what will be, but the fog will retreat. When it does, we will make a new space for you. A place for social gathering, shared space, and far from social isolation.
In the meantime, let’s set sweet reminders of this time before us and hold onto hope.
Dedicated to the food service employees, sanitation employees, childcare, warehouse, health care, essential and emergency workers – our courageous frontline sisters.