Friday, January 29, 2016

Finding My Footing

For my latest adventure in neuroplasitcity I went to see Lynn at the beginning of November. It had been a long busy month since my last session so I was feeling...tight and unsure. I am usually enthusiastic, if not genuinely confident. She asked me if I wanted to start with an improv or if I wanted to led through something and I 100% wanted to be led. Just an observation, maybe my body having a better sense of what it was in for was...taking me down a peg so I could be present. Maybe that's nonsense, who knows.

I started sitting in a chair, Lynn asked me to choose one of my favorite characters I've played. I picked Babe from Crimes of the Heart since I'd just wrapped up my stellar performance as the youngest Mcgrath. She told me to curl up until I disappeared. In the past when I've been asked to be smaller I waited anxiously for the stretching out that always came next, but my mood lent itself to invisibility. I stayed in my vanished state a few moments before she asked me to "reappear" as Babe. Maybe to someone who isn't a performer this sounds completely bizarre, but I assure you it changes your physicality and that my friends is the whole point.

Next, I rocked front to back and then side to side in the chair. The side to side rocking was much more challenging. It was during this motion that she encouraged me to think of my ribs as an accordion opening. That was a very pleasing image and like a lot of this work made me think of Alice in Wonderland.



Rocking has always been a soothing motion to me, but this rocking had a goal. I was searching for that elusive feeling of being grounded, the openness my habitual muscle tension robs me of and the gift of feeling something else. Lynn asked me to think of my body as a "team" working toward achieving a goal. That sounds very simple and it was exceptionally difficult. I noticed first with some dubiousness and then delight that when I lifted my rib cage I felt a tug on my troublesome shoulder blades.

When I said as much, Lynn rolled out Mr. Skeleton (just like the one my AP biology teacher had) and showed me how lifting my rib cage does tug on my shoulder blades. Neat stuff, but in all the the physical therapy and the "squeeze your shoulder blades and hold them" no one ever said float up your sternum like there's a balloon attached to it or open your ribs like an accordion! These images were far more effective for me than the "strengthen the part that hurts" method.


Lynn talked about how the fascia gets bunched up and creates the feeling that things are "stuck". Tricky, tricky... I already mentioned making my sternum light and we worked with the image of a string from the crown of my head (Pinocchio, anyone?). That image is certainly not new, but in conjunction with open ribs and a light sternum it makes a big difference. We discussed again how I have to change the dialogue from "fighting" my body to communicating with it. Ugh, me and my body forever in couple's counseling.

Next, we focused on my feet for a bit. It's not my feet's fault really somewhere along the line I just started putting all my weight on the right and hardly any on the left and it messes me up pretty bad, pretty often. So we went through putting weight on the toes, then heals, then arches. I have no idea how long this lasted, but I know I could have done it all day. When we stopped I felt weight evenly in both feet in a really wonderful way. I think I said "Woah!" when asked how it felt. It was really great.
After that we decided to give shaking another go. Last session was my first try and very little happened and I was kind of bummed. The procedure was the same this time: I laid on the floor, moved my legs in and out until they fatigued. This time though I shivered all over like I was cold. It was both trippy and encouraging. I think Lynn was right about the shaking increasing over time.

Lynn wanted to see me walk with my cane. I felt annoyed by this prospect, but I am annoyed by my cane in general so that's not a surprise. After watching me hold and walk with cane we decided to adjust it slightly. No issues there, then she suggested I place it more in front than beside me, that was fine too. When she told me to use the wall for support and try switching sides...issues. For the record I switched to this cane when my shoulder blade pain got bad because it fit me better then the previous crutches and because I was supposed to switch sides. Great plan in theory, but I don't switch sides. I've attempted it here and there, but it's no good. Anyway, she asked me to use the cane and the wall for support so I could switch sides. I put the cane in the other hand and promptly burst into tears. I know we had a conversation about why that was, but I was emotional so vulnerability/balance issues some such things. I know that I stood there with the cane in the "wrong hand" a long time before I was ready to take a few tentative steps. Then Lynn said another brilliant thing "Maybe the first step isn't to do it, but to think about doing it. To just rehearse it in your mind until your ready." All the sudden there was a first step and I wasn't a blubbering failure.

Before we departed she gave me the homework to spend ten minutes everyday rocking, opening my ribs like an accordion, etc like the beginning of the session and then doing a movement improv, I left there having the unique feeling of a sensual experience with every step. Toes, heals, arches...two feet. That evening in the shower I wasn't doing my one legged (flamingo) lean against the wall. I was standing on both feet. I hadn't thought about it at all just found myself that way. The following days it happened quite a bit that I'd discover I was standing on both feet. I loved the feeling! It was at my daughter's bus stop two days later that I thought "I wonder how long this will last."


Monday, January 25, 2016

Clumsy Perspective

I know I promised to update the blog when the show was over, but then it was Christmas and illness, life, etc... Before I post about my last Jedi training session I came across a poem which I think I had intended for the open mic night I just missed (illness and obligations). Enjoy or not...

Clumsy Perspective

I am stunned by how normal everyone else is behaving.
I am raw, damaged in a way I'm not accustomed.
Everything is different, my every cell reminds me.
How? How is everyone else speaking in normal volume with ALL THE SCREAMING?
I may prefer the screaming to the silence which is a barrage or varying sensation.
I am inundated with twinges, tickles, itches, pains and all manner of other uninvited guests.
This is MY tea party, however mad.
Why do they all look at me like I'm the same?
I love and loathe the changing.
I grin at the far off place where this is behind me, but this is the starting line.
Before wasn't working, but it was consistently shit.
This is a mad, spinning, loud, sparkling, warm, full, awful, exhilarating existence.
They don't see me in a different way than before.
They ignore a different part of me now.
How? How when there's so much more of me now?
I don't really understand the how, I try, but it's fucking confusing here.
First it isn't there.
Next it is taffy sticky, stiff, stretching with effort.
Soon it is a rock: solid, heavy, smooth.
Then it is a spotlight glaring up at me until I learn to guide it...
And shine it forth

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Session With the Jedi Master

Ready, Set, Jedi

Let's do this!

Somehow in the middle of the business of the kids school starting, my return to the stage, an extended family emergency and general life stuff, I managed to squeeze in another neuroplasticity session. This one was special because, Tamar who had started this work with my friend Gregg, was leading this one. If you missed my first post about this work you can find it here: Starting the Process.

I was really looking forward to another session and especially working with Tamar. Lynn was there as well since it was a learning opportunity for all of us. As usual Mike, my husband, came to observe. We opted for some music and got right to it.

I really had no idea what to expect, but here I was, new to all of this and I was meeting with the woman who made all kinds of magic happen in that movie. A lowly little Padawan in the presence of Master Yoda herself. She asked me to sit in a chair and move my hands and wrists to start. I was fine with that but keeping my feet on the floor was causing me major frustration. Hello, spasticity? F-off. How is a girl supposed to concentrate on her body when her body keeps interrupting like a toddler when you're on the phone?!?

We moved on to the the image of water. Floating on water, water around your brain inside your skull, water through your skull and floating your head forward. The image of my body being mostly water was lovely since my muscle tension usually gives me images of planks of wood, held together by rusting old hardware! In reality it is all fluid and therefore changeable. Movement in any direction is (at least theoretically) possible. Then she reminded me of the bony skull around the fluid and told me to bring it up in anticipation of a crown being ceremoniously placed there (does she have my number, or what?!).

Someone (or everyone) observed that I often turn my head to left and purse my lips in concentration. The things I don't notice could fill a book. Speaking of noticing, to keep up the idea of fluidity she asked me to alternate noticing the carpet, furniture and ceiling. Each "noticer" was a different character with distinct characteristics which informed their movement. All this was done while sitting and without breaks in movement. It sounds ridiculous, but it was riot. I was having so much fun and I think watching was entertaining everyone else.

Next I was up on my feet. My stupid, uncooperative feet. I stood holding onto a piece of furniture and we discussed being rooted. We attempted to get weight on both feet by shifting weight from one to the other by "ironing with the pelvis". It worked and suddenly I had weight on my underused left foot. She also reminded me to think rooted and upward. We experimented with different hand placement on the furniture for a bit until BAM I was a freaking oak tree again! Standing up! Grounded with weight on both feet!

I actually had anxiety that I would never be able to lift my left foot. I know my disabled readers are familiar with this horrible anxiety when a drastic physical change happens. After years of scar tissue build up on my hamstrings preventing me from straightening my left knee and then surgery to remove the scar tissue that I was TERRIFIED to bend my knee. I remember thinking "What if I could NEVER straighten it again?". It was a huge irrational fear. She asked me to walk holding onto the furniture, but I kept shaking my head no. I flexed my toes a little, but I didn't dare lift my left foot. Eventually, my overachieving nature overpowered the fear and I took a few steps. I paused between them to make sure I could still feel weight on my left foot.

Crooked Mirror Crooked Mirror

Next we addressed my mis-alignment. She compared me to an Indian dancer because I was standing (still grounded) in an "S" shape. She said "We need to bring your ribs back over your pelvis." I remember thinking "Yes, bring them back." because that's where they came from. Go home, ribs. Go home. Go home. Go Home! This was a lot trickier than I anticipated, but one should not underestimate the pull of a long standing habit.

As our time was drawing to a close Tamar wanted me to try the "shaking." I was thrilled because I'd seen Gregg do this in the movie and I was so excited to give it a go. The idea is to repeat a simple movement until your nervous system fatigues. In the movie this resulted in Gregg visibly shaking. I laid down on a towel on the floor and did a quick "check in" with my body. The big news was that I totally found the back of my right hip! Score! Then I was told to open and close my legs for a few minutes, but I didn't shake. I felt "hot spots." A burning in my left calf, low and mid back. I was so bummed.

Tamar talked about allowing all the labels to be lifted (bad hip, good knee, etc) which resonated even if it isn't as easy as it sounds. She reminded me to think of it as a journey which is a challenge for my goal oriented mind. She told me I just had to "study" until my body remembers. The thing that really stuck with me was that "All the damage from the CP healed years ago and now it's all just patterns." It's a lot less overwhelming to overcome a stubborn, set in its ways nervous system than a broken body.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dreams 1, Limitations 0

A scene from "Crimes of the Heart" Sept 2015

Barnette and Babe

Closed Captions are accurate and transcript is available if you click "more" under the video on YouTube.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Hey there, blog fans!!

I'll be doing some vlogs to catch you up on all the exciting stuff in my life, but for tonight here's my friends and I dressed as villains doing "Thriller"! Happy Halloween!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Read Me on Another Blog

You may recall me mentioning a new "physical experiment" I've started, well I was asked to write a post on their blog about what starting the process was like for me. Obviously, it's a very individual and personal process so it's different for everyone who is brave enough to start re-wiring their nervous system.

You can find my words on the subject here: Begining the Process.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Open Mic Night

In the spirit of being me again, I have been venturing out a little at a time. A sewing class on a weekend day during naptime, an audition after dinner, a film festival date with Mike and so on. I am trying to wake the hibernating (or at least drowsy) artist in me and grow again. I'm putting a little focus on the part of me that isn't someone's mom. Part of that is the 'physical experiment" I've undertaken which has given me a lot to process even so early. I wrote a poem about it and read it in front a room full of strangers and shared it with all of you. Change is good.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oh, Gravity...

That day last summer when gravity won.

Gravity Wins

Closed Captions are accurate and transcript is available if you click "more" under the video on YouTube.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Darn Ankle

When I was in college I took stage combat. It was amazing. My teacher pulled me aside early on to tell me he was worried about me taking the class, but he was wrong to worry. I loved doing fights because most often my opponents/scene partners got boo-ed. I was always grateful to be the aggressor in class because I knew I'd never get cast that way. I credit my success in the class to not being afraid or inexperienced at falling.

At some point near the end of the semester I went down wrong and sprained my ankle. No biggie or it wouldn't have been if I hadn't ignored it and walked on it over miles of college campus the next day. The following night they shook their hands at me in the ER and sent me home with an air splint and told me to stay off it. I must have listened because it healed.

Every so often if I really over do it or it's particularly rainy it goes out. Like no warning, no pain and then mid-step my ankle can no longer hold me. No big deal. Every now and then it quits on me once or twice in 24hrs and then it doesn't happen again for months or years.

I took little Miss shopping and walked the great big store in horrible shoes (flip flops). Oops. I know better. Afterwards, I sat down for lunch and had some swelling. I kept on trucking and by dinner time my ankle had gone out twice. No biggie, it happens. Then it happened a 3rd and 4th time. I chalked it up to a rough day. The next day after lunch it happened again. I was annoyed, but not to worried. Then at dinner time it happened again two more separate times. That's when I got worried.

That night I had nightmares. I dreamed I had to re-attach my foot to my leg with duct tape. I finally called for some medical advice and was told to stay off it. That the ligaments were stretched out and I needed to ice and elevate.

Puppy Ankle
My dog taking care of my ankle.