Catrien Ross on Shouldering Lessons in Personal Growth in Japan

Monday, December 7th, 2009 - No Comments

For more than a week I have been nursing a sore shoulder so painful I have spent several sleepless nights.

Kohdoh’s acupuncture helped.

Holding energy points moved the pain along.

But with stiffness remaining I have been asking myself how and why this particular injury occurred at this particular moment.

Maybe I raked up this year’s harvest of ginkgo nuts with misapplied enthusiasm.

Maybe I hauled one too many logs for the hand-built masonry heater that warms this old minka in the mountains.

Maybe I walked through the winter garden careless of the cold wind.

Or maybe this is something else entirely.

Could my damaged shoulder be physically expressing an emotional pain I am unready to face in a more appropriate way?

Pain that includes my shouldering some pretty heavy family responsibilities in Japan, for example.

Responsibilities I resent for their perceived unfairness.

Do I want not to carry them?

Or is it the recent incident which triggered the flare-up of unpleasant memories I believed I had released long ago?

Perhaps the inability to move my shoulder reflects the frozen energy trapped and hidden in those memories.

Calcified outrage not yet transformed by forgiveness.

A shoulder nursing past grievances.

There may also be my biological age to consider.

The Japanese language has a phrase for the stiff shoulder problems common to men and women once they pass the age of 40 or 50.

Shiju kata or Goju kata.

Any shoulder injury is thus simply a troublesome aspect of growing older that most Japanese adults proclaim you can do absolutely nothing about.

So not only am I shouldering far too much responsibility, I’m struggling over the hill with it, too.

Such lack of sympathy doesn’t help.

What’s this all about, really?

Am I sensing a powerlessness that is playing out in this powerless arm hanging down by my side?

Events of the past 15 months have tested our situation and our relationship in almost overwhelming ways.

At times I have felt exhausted.

Certainly I have perceived myself as vulnerable and very much a foreign woman in Japan.

But today I step outside to catch the December sun through the last maple leaves on the trees.

Their scarlet brilliance flames against the blue sky as if to rebuke my lack of awareness.

Instantly I feel a calming of my inflamed senses.

My shoulder will take time to heal.

Pain can take time to heal.

Memories will continue to peel inward like layers of an onion.

And sting, too.

Frozen energy and the shouldering of responsibilities may well be what I carry right now in Japan.

Yet this moment in nature startles my heart to beauty and gratitude.

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