March 28, 2020

I’ve been taking a walk every day since Shelter-in-Place began. Sometimes I walk along the Bay. More often, though, I simply walk out my front door and enjoy the neighborhood, its variety of plants in colorful and often fragrant bloom, the progress of trees leafing out: sycamores, several Japanese maples, and three dawn redwoods on my block–yes, this type of redwood, a deciduous conifer, sheds its needles in the fall and grows new ones in the spring!

A couple blocks from my home is a front yard whose would-be picket fence is completely night-blooming jasmine vines, where I always stop to smell and pick a small bunch. On this particular day, a woman and her daughter, both wearing bright pink tops, were sitting on their front porch. When I commented that I loved walking by for the fragrance, the mother replied, “Please take cuttings! I’m allergic to it!” and we struck up a neighborly conversation.

As one topic led to another, I said “Now to find a neighbor with too many lemons!”

We’d exchanged names by then, and N commented, “We have a lemon tree in the back. And I’d love to give them away so the rats have fewer to eat. But my back hurts too much to go around to pick any.”

Until now the 11-year-old daughter, R, had been quiet, but she piped up, “I’ll go pick some. How many would you like?”

She jumped off the porch and ran around back–and I said to N, “I’m sorry you’re hurting so much. If only I could touch you from here! My professional work is about helping people with pain.”

“If only! I could use some help. Kaiser doesn’t give me any.”

Then the lightbulb lit up—I’d already offered clients to consult with me by phone or Skype for guidance easing tensions and specific-to-them self-care. Could I coach N from the end of her driveway? So I asked if she’d be willing to a have a little coaching right there and then. Maybe together we could find a way to decrease the pain.

She was willing, and at that moment R returned with a couple lemons. Simultaneously we all realized R and I couldn’t just walk toward each other for her to give them to me. We shifted gears, and all looked around. The grass didn’t seem like a good idea, and the roof of the van was too curved. But wait! The green waste bin was conveniently at the garage/house end of the drive a good ways from all of us, and its lid appeared rather level. We all smiled at achieving our goal in this awkward era.

Returning to the other matter at hand, I asked N if she was okay standing, so I could see more clearly the area she was referencing. She said yes and proceeded to get up, unfortunately with audible pain.

I noticed that her right leg was clearly splayed out, whereas her left leg was straight below her hip. She gave me more details about her sensations standing there and some of the 15-year history of the low back pain. With my observations and her report, I had a hunch her right hip bone was rotated out of balance, and suggested she try pushing the top of it forward, and then demonstrated what I meant.

N followed my instructions and said it immediately felt better and that whole side felt more integrated and a part of her instead of separate. Next was to walk, continuing to hold her hip forward. She smiled, then lit up. “This is great! But when I stop holding it, the pain comes back and so does the mismatch on the right side.” This entire time, R is watching attentively, silently soaking it all in.

“Ah, a good start. After this, try walking that way longer than 40 seconds. And given that it feels good, here are a few other things you can try, which can lead to integrating a larger area. (And I described them.) The more you experience reduced or no pain, the easier it is for your body to understand how to maintain that comfort.“

Our entire exchange was about 20 minutes from my smelling jasmine blossoms to her asking me to leave my card the next time I come by. I went on my way feeling uplifted–that in spite of physical distancing, I was able to use my skills to help someone, and I’d had authentic social connection with two someones I’d never met before.

My sense of my neighborhood is a little richer now.

Can you use your skills to support others around you—which of course supports you as well! I have a hunch you’ll feel a little more whole, grounded, quietly more energetic, and your immune system will perk up too. Try it.

And regardless of doing your best, if your own resources aren’t enough to address tensions or stress during these unusual and remarkable times, I’m available to offer some attention and guidance. Please do contact me. I’m happy to help.

And remember, you never know what will happen on one of your neighborhood walks. Be open to the unexpected! And take good care.