When I was in graduate school, a lovely couple who had hosted me when I first moved down to begin the program threw a Halloween party unique to our word smitten crowd. We were to come dressed as our favorite cliché. There was someone wrapped in sheets who was “three sheets to the wind”—quite true to his character at the time. And someone who was an “accident waiting to happen.” My friend Holly and I went together. She dressed in pink from head to toe, thus being “in the pink.” I myself was not so inspired; I came up only with “inside out” and wore my clothes that way. It was a funny party. I was very entertained by what people came up with.
The idea of being so literally “in the pink” appealed to me, and I never forgot how pink is always associated with the picture of health. It’s only a skip and a hop to affectionately calling our littlest fingers and toes “pinkies,” as if their often pink and diminutive stature reminds us we were once little and new, and perhaps can be little and new again in surprising ways.
Over the years of my illnesses, my pinkie finger has been a telling indicator of how taxed my physiology had gotten. The most dramatic of these indicators occurred years ago when the edge of my right hand seemed to “disappear” altogether. It had no feeling or movement. My pinkie and the edge of my hand below it were simply “there” and had to be hauled around by the rest of my hand. Alarmed, I mentioned this to my manual therapy practitioner at the beginning of my next appointment, hoping she would jump on some cool technique to directly address it. Her answer puzzled and discouraged me at the time, but afterwards, I came to understand it as a show of great courage my body had offered to me. She had said simply that I was not to worry about it directly. That oftentimes the body will sacrifice something less essential to its primary function in order to keep the important stuff going, like messages that make circulation keep happening. That maybe the “gone” little pinkie was allowing my body to make sure my heart itself kept feeling and pumping, and so we would concentrate on asking and encouraging the body at that most essential level. The finger would come along again in time when it was safe for it to do so.
This therapist is not a woman of many words, so in telling you this I am filling it in with my experiential understanding of what that came to mean. In time the pinkie and the edge of my hand did come back, at least partially, and as much as a side affected by mild CP can. That’s what I thought at the time anyway. And was glad that at least I could feel it again. But it always remained somewhat distanced by the new weakness. Until I started eating fat free and vegan.
The following piece is a “little victory” entry I wrote to myself two years ago as I noticed another layer of re-emergence in my right pinkie. It is a very detailed and representative description of how I experience the healing process in my slow miracle. I hope it will help you to appreciate the indicators in your own health and life that demonstrate how by eating a fat free vegan diet your healing process is going in the “right” direction, however subtle that movement might be.
“Jan 9, 2011
The Right Hand
What I think is happening with my hand:
Simply put—the outer edge of my right hand “broke through” the false bottom—the level of use it had adjusted to, to a place restoring more feeling and function. But that place has not been used in years and is sore, very sore. If there is “scar tissue” “healing,” maybe there is a correspondence akin to a scab healing. The skin pulls and hurts and itches as it heals. Why not the connective tissue? Why wouldn’t it have a comprehensive reaction all over the place, especially since, or if, as Mary Jane once said, it was checking out in the service of saving more essential functions like my heart, etc. Why not the nerve tissue finding a new pathway, or using a once blocked pathway, or getting more blood to do its work than it has in years? Some model like that.
I also noticed recently that the fine motor coordination in that edge of the hand and that pinkie now allows me to feel and turn the little wheel that closes and opens the stove damper on the hearth to the outside.
I once thought it was nearly always stuck, but now I think it may have gotten stuck because I did not have the finesse to feel it, and so would, as with many other things, “paw it,” and thus contribute to its tendency to stick. It hasn’t stuck but once all this season so far, and at that time I don’t think it was stuck, I think I had a moment when I couldn’t feel it again, and then I could, and it moved. Using the screwdriver to move the levers is a kind of “assistive technology” that is now complete overkill.
So I think this part of my body is slowly healing, even amidst all the re-reguluation with this new phase of menopause. This often happens during hard times since I’ve been eating this way—I notice something is gathering strength, force, momentum, quietly in the background, and that the adjustments do involve pain, but they go in the direction of healing and restoring function. And maybe when the body is working so hard to do that, it is especially important to rest more, not run away from the seemingly unpleasant reality of having to do less, and catastrophize it as meaning I’m getting worse, when I’m trying to get better, and making progress with it. However slow, it’s real and comprehensive. And the (subjective, but nevertheless real) proof is in the pinkie!”
The ring you see on my right hand in the first photo is actually one I lost at age 15. It must have come off as I was removing my gloves up in the bleachers at a football game. I thought it was gone forever. This was sad beyond description, since the setting is antique, a ring my maternal grandfather gave my grandmother when they were dating as a “promise” ring. I had received the setting, and my sister had received the stone that was originally in it. And I had lost it through a careless mishap. I hadn’t had the ring for more than a year when this happened.
Many months after that, perhaps even a year or more after, our next door neighbor, one of my sister’s best friends, was at an entirely different place than the huge stadium where I had lost the ring when she saw it again. She was riding her bike down at the playground of the elementary school in our neighborhood. She happened to see that an older girl she didn’t know was wearing my ring. And she just said, “Hey, that’s my friend’s sister’s ring. You give it back to me!” I don’t know how she had the temerity to accomplish this, or why she was so sure she recognized it or even remembered I had lost it. She couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 at the time, yet she stood up to a strange teenager for another teenager, without a fight. And brought it to me, with the story of how she had recognized it, and insisted it be returned. The amazingly unlikely return of this ring, just like the “return” of the pinkie next to it, remind me not to believe too hard that something is impossible just because I can’t see how in the world it could happen. Sometimes we have to let the world, and our bodies, show us how. Because slow motion miracles do happen. And the best way I know to help them along in my body is one fat free vegan meal at a time.