you are irreplaceable

“You’re replaceable,” a colleague said to me last week.

These words, seemingly harsh, were delivered with fierce caring and passion upon my return to work after being away for back pain. “I’m replaceable,” she continued. “If I die tonight, my job will be posted by Friday. But I’m not replaceable to my family and loved ones.”

I’d just expressed that I felt ‘bad’ for having missed so much work, after only recently starting in my current position. “Let me tell you right now,” she responded. “Nobody is thinking that but you. Nobody cares. I mean, we care…but we’re all too busy and wrapped up in our own little worlds.”

It was clear I had limited mobility and was still in some pain. “Don’t push yourself,” she cautioned. “Nobody is going to take care of you, but you. Are you taking care of yourself?”

This is perhaps the biggest lesson I’m learning from back pain: the need for self-care. I had been pushing myself, but didn’t recognize it. ‘Pushing myself’ was just so…normal.

The emotional root of low back pain, I’ve read, is feeling unsupported. There were many factors leading to my injury. I didn’t take enough work breaks, I sat improperly and for too long, my yoga practice had lapsed. But the emotional explanation resonated. I’d long felt I was ‘going it alone’ in life: I was misunderstood, my financial situation was a bomb, relationships with men were painful, God was disappointed in me.

But was any of that actually true? Or was it that I felt deeply unworthy of receiving support?

I know this is about my experience of being a woman. I haven’t wanted to be a burden on others, to take up too much space or be seen as too demanding. I’ve tried to be independent and accommodating. On the occasions I have been called ‘selfish’, it’s kicked me right in the gut. For a woman, there can be so much loaded in that word.

Hence the compulsion to people-please, to over-accommodate. The all-consuming worry about what others will think, the inability to make a decision because I’m weighing in so many voices. These aren’t conscious behaviours; they’re deeply ingrained, woven into my cells after many years – probably generations – of conditioning.

My body had long been giving me warning signals, straining against the push to live up to expectations that were largely my own. I felt so responsible to do a good job, and guilty when I let others down. Breaking my back, bending over backwards. How bad does it have to get?

stop and notice the pink

There have been many blessings inherent in this pain. I’ve had to be vulnerable in relying on loved ones for help with everything from cleaning to driving to putting on my socks. I’m physically vulnerable to strangers. Walking to work on the downtown sidewalks, people barrel towards me. I see how fragile this body can be; one random bump could re-trigger the pain.

I’m used to being the one rushing, becoming impatient with slow walkers. I’ve discovered that it’s a relief not to rush – to have no choice but to go slow. Some people give me space, and sympathetic smiles. These are small things…but they’re not.

I hope I can hold on to all this, as my back heals. I like being vulnerable. I’m self-protective, but not on the defence. I feel softer, more raw and trusting. And my vulnerability gives others, particularly my loved ones, the chance to show kindness to me.

In receiving this care, I’m realizing that I’m the only one who saw myself as a burden. And I no longer wish to carry that belief. I’d rather be irreplaceable.

33 thoughts on “you are irreplaceable

  1. Pingback: choked by the pink collar | alohaleya

  2. I just caught up on your last three posts and am once again feeling huge gratitude to have your blog in my world. Thank you for sharing your story with such honesty and heart. Your revelations are inspiring. I am sending you huge love and hope your back continues to feel better 💚

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    • Thanks very much, Brad. Vulnerability is a daily practice; it often feels much easier to get caught up in the busyness and hardness of the world, closing myself off. But I think there’s a big vulnerability movement happening out there – I just took a workshop on ‘Lateral Kindness’, and it was amazing – and I am inspired! ❤ Hugs, Aleya

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  3. I love this post.Thank you for being YOU. I think with this / your deep realisation your healing will soon be completed. 🙂 Did you know about Turmeric / Curcumin being at least as effective as conventional “pain-killer” drugs : and many other health-benefits? ( I know I am such a health-nerd, just can not let it be to share all these nice things, that helped me a lot… ) ) Many blessings , Andreas

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    • Yes, I was just saying to someone that I recently had a turmeric juice with pineapple, cucumber, lemon, and ginger, and my pain and inflammation was reduced. When I saw the juice, my body had an immediate YES feeling :). I’m glad I had certain meds at the beginning when I was in very acute pain, but they can be hard on the body…so as I heal I’m drawn to the more natural substances that feel very healing and soothing. Thank you! Aleya

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      • That sounds awesome dear Aleya. I forgot to mention,Turmeric combined with black pepper enfolds 1000 times it´s potential .I like your intuitive approach, listening to the body in that way, works also best for me .:-) Thank you for your answer dear Aleya ,Many blessings ,Andreas

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  4. You could be ‘reliving’ my own life, feeling unworthy and wanting to prove myself to everyone… and then the pain comes back to make sure we understand we are vulnerable and loved unconditionally and deserve all the kindness and attention from ourself and everyone… It’s definitely a time we are all looking at who we truly are and finally believing we are love incarnate having a human experience… much love to you… barbara xxx

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