What my physical pain is teaching me.

boundary waters canoe area wilderness lake isaballa BWCA

Last week my family and I, along with some of our dearest friends, camped in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) for four nights. It's wild there. All gear, everything, must be paddled in by canoe, and carried on portages that connect the vast land of lakes. 

You can't reserve a campsite, and there are only a few on each lake. It offers an opportunity to sync with nature in a way that I've not found accessible in my life in Minneapolis. 

Last October my body began to feel life-altering pain, stemming from a 25-year-old back issue. It comes and goes, mostly it's gone, but lately it's here and it's loud. It's breaking me open emotionally. It's all-consuming, confusing, tiring, too. 

This past weekend in the Northwoods, I couldn't carry packs on portages. I couldn't paddle the canoe. I couldn't stand long enough to prep or cook food. I couldn't sleep in the tent. I couldn't walk down the shore line to the mouth of a river where the Earth had created a warm pool to enjoy. I could barely stand up. 

children carrying packs on portage from parking lot to lake isabella in the boundary waters canoe area BWCA

I was vulnerable. And what I realized, in this forced disruption of my usual rhythm of independence, is that it was time for me to learn how to receive. 

Receive help from my friends. Receive patience from my children. Receive unconditional love from my husband as he unflinchingly sacrificed so many of his favorite BWCA traditions to care for my body, even when I begged him to believe that I was fine. Receive grace from myself as I surrendered. 

couple on chairs in water on lake isabella in the boundary waters canoe area wilderness bwca

Receive receive receive appeared as text my mind, a whisper in my ears, a tingling in my pain. Receive, Allyssa. Receive. You'd do the same for them, I reminded myself. Let go. Get out of your way. Receive. 

Upon my return to civilization I took action on advice received in my moments of darkness and made two appointments I'd been resisting, allowing myself to receive the help I need to move past this acute phase. I already feel better. 

three people throwing rocks in lake superior at brighton beach

Yet, what makes me feel most hopeful today isn't the diminishing discomfort; its wondering what else I've stopped myself from receiving before this pain forced me to learn this lesson. What else, perhaps even in my moments of strength, might come my way when I allow myself to receive it? 

Warmly, Allyssa