A daddy-longlegs died in my kitchen last night. This morning it was belly up on the counter, its lithe legs curled inward.
My own limbs have curled inward since the stroke. I've often pondered this reaction of my body. Why, when my brain became damaged, did my muscles contract? I think about the fetal position – how it's common to assume this position when under attack. Perhaps contraction is nature's response to threat or injury.
I roll this hypothesis around in my mind. What about emotional hurts? Quite often my response to emotional injury has been to withdraw – to pull away from people. Contraction.
My stroke threatened to contract me emotionally as well as physically. I felt ashamed of whatever weakness caused me to have a stroke so young. I sometimes resisted letting people who knew me before see me after. I feared their judgment and pity. I sometimes avoided get-togethers and said "no" to new experiences that might have made me uncomfortable.
I have to fight these feelings and act against them as diligently as I exercise to rehabilitate my limbs. Facing each new person, each new experience, requires a summoning of courage. But I believe this stretching … of muscles, of boundaries, of limitations … helps me recover.
If contraction is part of death then perhaps expansion is necessary for healing.