When One Part
June 24, 2014
I don’t know when or how it happened, but sometime last week I injured my foot. It could have been in yoga class, although I didn’t notice anything until about four hours later. Running up and down the stairs at the office became more difficult as the day wore on, and by the time I got home at 7:30 PM I could hardly put weight on my heel. I decided on the three friends of all athletes, elevate, ibuprofen, and ice, and went to bed.
It wasn’t much better when I woke up. More of the three. As the day wore on I saw some improvement, and by the next morning, I had convinced myself it was just one of those weird minor inconveniences. No swelling. No loss of mobility. At that moment, just minor localized pain. So I laced up my sneakers and got on the elliptical trainer, against my husband’s unsolicited advice. (I have to include that part in here because he is so thrilled that his advice was accurate and he is reminding me of it several times a day. He would want all of you to know that he was right.) After twenty minutes on the trainer, the pain was back and exponentially worse. I spent that day leading a retreat from a chair, my foot wrapped in ice and elevated on an ottoman, and wishing I had followed my husband’s advice.
And so I’ve been making adjustments. I am walking more on the ball of my foot than on the heel. I am putting more weight on the outside and less on the inside. I am holding my entire body differently. Sometimes I am hopping. You can all probably guess what is happening now. Other things are starting to hurt. My knee, for example. And my ankle. My other foot is presently aching, and my back feels just a bit tired. Everything is trying to compensate and realign. What a mess.
This is how systems work. When one part is not functioning properly, the entire system becomes unstable. Some parts will begin to over-function to make up for the part that isn’t working up to snuff. Other parts, especially the parts that are connected to each other, will get injured quickly. The system gets fatigued and stressed. This must be why I am walking around sighing and frustrated. (Especially when my husband reminds me, with a mischievous grin, that he was right. He was right.)
Relationships work like this too, because they are systems. So do families, communities, businesses, neighborhoods, churches, cities, states, and countries. When one part is not functioning well, the entire system can become threatened and unstable. Think about your most primary relationship. If you or the other person are not functioning well, aren’t you likely to feel it in the relationship? If the parents in a family are destabilized, the kids will often display problems in return. If too many families are threatened, the community gets hurt. When communities lose their stability, schools, businesses, and cities are affected. You can flip each of these comparisons around and the same is true. If the kids are hurting, the parents are hurting. If schools and local businesses are not performing, families take the toll. Our global environment is limping because so many systems have been injured. And so many systems continue to be injured because our global environment is hurting.
I was reminded of an important truth yesterday at a memorial service for 9/11. At this interfaith service, the Iman said in his prayers that we cannot change others, we can only change ourselves. This is where we have to start. If each of us can be more whole, more healed, more well, then all the systems we are in can head in that direction.
I am praying my heel and ankle will feel better before an upcoming trip I am taking, and if you’d care to send some healing prayers my way, I’d be grateful. I am pretty sure it’s just a strained or pulled tendon. I am realizing again how perfectly designed and coordinated our bodies are, and how when one part is hurting all the other parts hurt. Mostly, though, I am reminded continuously that all the systems in which we live are dependent on one another. We are all connected. This is the Truth.
And yes, I will try to remember to at least consider my husband’s advice, even when it is unsolicited.
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