Six weeks from the launch of my new book, I found myself in the emergency room with severe pain in my neck and shoulder.
I was diagnosed with a herniated disc and began treatment, but what I couldn’t get out of my mind was something I’d read when a friend suggested I look into the spiritual meaning of shoulder pain.
“When we are under stress, many of us unconsciously hunch and twist in towards ourselves. Imagine someone was throwing a dodgeball at you—how would you protect yourself? You’d turn away from the impact, contracting your abdomen and curling around yourself. Instinctually, most of us do this by showing the metaphorical dodgeball our right shoulder blade—if there’s an impact, it won’t hit the heart.” (source: Julie Peters for Spirituality & Health)
Those words instantly transported me back to my middle school gymnasium — the musty smell, the squeaky floor, the big vat of balls just waiting to become projectiles.
I hated dodgeball.
For some reason, I was an easy target and my classmates always seemed to throw the ball harder than necessary. I felt the sting of impact before the ball even touched me.
“You’re out!!!” the aggressor would yell at me.
I don’t know what hurt worse – the bruise on my skin or the one on my heart.
Suddenly, it made sense why this spiritual explanation of shoulder pain – to protect the heart – resonated so deeply.
Every time I’ve launched a book into the world, my fear of rejection caused me to overwork and overcompensate. When I agreed to write Soul Shift, I promised myself I’d protect ME as I ventured into this depleting territory. I’d done well for many months, but as the launch date drew near, I was slipping into old habits. My body was giving me a warning sign, and I chose to heed it.
Five weeks out from the book release, I stepped back.
I did not follow-up.
I did not re-record.
I did not pull all-nighters.
I did not skip meals.
I did not post until I could not post no more.
Little by little, I released control, trusting my book would land into the hands that needed it.
Two days after Soul Shift released, I brought a signed copy to my doctor.
After we hugged and got a photo together, she checked my upper shoulder.
“Wow,” she said with a look of genuine surprise. “This is not where I expected you’d be.”
I’m pretty sure she thought I’d be immobile on floor of the gymnasium. Honestly, I did too.
But I’ve learned the importance of listening to my body in order to protect myself. Sometimes that requires turning inward, but sometimes protection requires turning outward.
I’m talking about human connection.
The worst possible place for me to be when presented with the standard measurement of success in the publishing industry (i.e., initial sales numbers) is alone.
In fact, what I experienced inside my body in the aftermath of Live Love Now (which launched in the COVID-19 Shutdown of Spring 2020) was so concerning that I sought professional help.
To avoid a similar experience with Soul Shift, I planned a few in-person book signing events in cities I’ve lived and worked.
“You don’t need to do those events,” a trusted person in my inner circle said. “That’s just extra work for you, with very little return.”
I recognized that statement as their opinion, not my truth. This person had no idea what it was like to write a book and then work tirelessly to garner pre-orders and early reviews. But because I did, I knew I must advocate for myself.
“I know you are trying to protect me,” I stated, “But I know what I am going to need at that point: to look into the faces of those being touched by my book.”
Sometimes protecting our heart means turning inward, but sometimes it means opening our chest toward the healing power of connection.
My friends, if today finds you weary from life hitting you like a dodgeball, will you take a moment and ask yourself two very important questions?
Have you been pushing yourself despite the warning signs your body’s been giving you? What is one small thing you can do today to honor your body and make it feel safe and nurtured?
If we were in middle school, I’d suggest we ditch the dodgeball game and go get a long drink at the water fountain.
There, I’d whisper, “Don’t forget to protect yourself,” as I placed my hand upon your back.
Sometimes protecting our hearts looks like connecting our hearts.
You are not alone.
My hand in yours,