Instead I told them: "It didn't hurt at all. The pain in my back went away in the first five minutes." I'd been suffering with lower back pain for weeks. I didn't know if it was a UTI or caused by the two ruptured discs or the bone spur on my spine. I didn't know. All I knew was that five minutes after my very first acupuncture session started, the pain was just...gone. So what I told them was true, but the truth is that: my truth encompassed so much more than just that.
I wanted to tell them that I had been unable to pray for months, feeling so separated from God. I didn't tell them that. I didn't tell them that the acupuncture did something...almost like it cleared a blockage in the communication channel between me and God. I remember I began praying in that recliner, ensconced in all those pillows and covers, like I had not prayed in so very long. I sat there with my eyes closed, crying - and embarrassed to be crying surrounded by strangers - but cry I did. I had so much gratitude and relief to be feeling again that warmth, that connection with God that is such a source of strength and solace for me.
Let's go back to the point about being surrounded by strangers. I was not crazy about that idea at all.
You see, you might not guess this, but I'm kind of a hermit. I don't do well in social situations. I remember I went to a Chamber gathering one evening and the debonair Chamber director - who had been warned I didn't do well at these affairs but didn't believe me - came over and whispered in my ear: "I believe," he said, "that you may be correct. You are quite possibly the most socially awkward human being I have ever witnessed at one of these affairs." Then he glided off into the crowd and left me to my own devices. I left shortly thereafter and never attempted it again.
So being seated among strangers was not comfortable for me. This community acupuncture thing was not designed for someone like me. Except that I couldn't afford private sessions as often as I needed acupuncture. I gazed around at all of us ensconced in our pillows (4 pillows each at least), covered with blankets. I stifled a chuckle. We looked like a room full of Michelen men put down for the night in recliners. So I decided to roll with it and see how it went.
When I started crying, I peered around the room defensively. You know what? No one was even looking at me. It was like they were all looking inward. Focused on their own healing. Paying me no mind. I thought for a moment and decided that community acupuncture must draw a certain type of human being. None of them seemed gossipy or mean or inquisitive. They all had come because they were hurting or in need in some way also, and they too were hoping it was a safe place just as much as I was. So I just relaxed.
The peace, there, the calmness, was like a soothing balm. It was a social gathering that didn't frighten me. I didn't have to perform, I didn't have to make friends. I didn't have to talk or nod or smile. I just had to be quiet and heal. I decided maybe I could do that.
I went back a few more times and I never again had that first acupuncturist.
The other acupuncturist who ended up working with me was wonderful in her own way, but she was young. I could tell the other woman - who was just a bit older - must have been at it longer, learned more, been more experienced, or just had a special gift. Or maybe that first session just righted something that was wrong and it was just fixed after that. I say that because I never experienced anything like the first time - which was at the level of the miraculous. But my repeat sessions always helped me in one way or another with physical ailments and with emotional issues and stress.
The last time I went online to make an appointment, I learned the Rockbridge County clinic I had been going to was closed. I almost cried. I knew the "mother clinic" was in Roanoke, but it was just not feasible for me to drive to Roanoke on a regular basis.
Then, my daughter moved to Cloverdale, and as I was driving down Williamson Road from her house to Kroger, I saw the sign: Roanoke Community Acupuncture. Not five minutes from where she lives and where I'll be visiting regularly now. It felt like a God thing. I called up the owner and asked if I could feature her community acupuncture clinic in the first issue of the magazine. She was delighted to take me on a tour of the Roanoke clinic, and I grinned as we walked into the room with recliners and pillows - thinking I'd soon be joining the sleepy-time crew of Michelin men.
So I will begin again.
For What They Are Worth:
My Thoughts on Community Acupuncture
Occasionally one of us will have had experience with or know something about something we feature in the magazine, and our readers want to know what we think. So we may offer our thoughts - for what they are worth.
This issue, Donna Gail Broussard, the magazine's publisher and editor, shares her experience with community acupuncture.
The acupuncturist led me into a room full of big, fat, soft recliners, with a smattering of people in various stages of pensiveness, rest, meditation or sleep. I took off my shoes, my glasses, put my keys and purse in a basket to the side of me. She helped me recline the chair, then plumped oversized, cushy pillows underneath my feet, my knees, my arms...even put one on my chest. Then they covered me, like my momma used to, all the way to my neck.
"What did it feel like?" everybody asked me when I got home. I didn't tell them what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say was: it felt like love.