A few days ago I ran into a friend whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. I was delighted to see him, we hugged and exchanged some updates about our lives. I felt vibrant and enthusiastic, but somehow that didn’t translate into our communication. Something in my facial expression felt weirdly off. The feedback I got from my face’s muscles didn’t seem to reflect the emotion I was feeling.
What’s happening with my face?
The left side of my tongue had been numb for a little over a day as well, and as I became aware of the strange sensations in my face, suddenly an unsettling understanding kicked in. I rushed to the toilet and tried to smile at myself in the mirror. Bang, there it was. My face was split in half: the right half was my familiar face, with fine lines, a few wrinkles and full of expression. The left half looked years younger and strangely still… moving the muscles required hard work and sorted minimum effects. What was going on?!
Lately, I have been reflecting on the changes of my body. Skin is wrinkling and getting saggy in places, cellulitis is showing and my breasts and arms are not as firm as they used to be. My joints need longer to readjust after sitting in one posture for some time. It’s not as easy to jump a fence as it was only a few years ago. These things are moving from subtle changes into unmistakable first signs of decay. As everything in nature and life is a constant movement of birth and death, so is this body…
‘You are so beautiful’
For most of my life (and still now) I have felt incredibly blessed with having a healthy, pretty body and face. Wherever I go, people respond positively to the way I look. I have often been told I look beautiful. I have always appreciated my luck and also always known that this beauty was futile and fleeting when just concerning the outside, the packaging. That could all fall away in a split second. And then what’s left? My efforts in self development have therefore mostly been on the inside, and much less the outside. These last days, I have thanked myself over and over for that.
So now here it is: a facial paralysis. The doctor gave it a name: Bell’s palsy (my Mac has a sense of humor and keeps trying to autocorrect it into Bell’s party). There is about an 80% chance the nerve will fully recover within a month or three, and I trust that it will be so. (Especially when watching the video, I seem to have a rather mild case.) And whatever is here to stay, is welcome as well. I am inviting in whatever experience is here to unwind any false attachments.
It is with wonder that I look at my new face these days. In a way, it’s a look back into the past, because in the ‘silent’ part of my face, there are no more wrinkles nor frowns. The paralyzed part of my face is youthful and serene, like the effects botox would have (free trial, yay 😉 ).
Also, eating and drinking are a whole new experience. Whatever is not working now, shows the intricate teamwork of so many facial muscles that usually provide for a pleasant, clean and efficient meal.
Sad about the loss of expression
What saddens me, is the changed look of spontaneous laughter and surprise, or love, or friendliness on my face. When I express these emotions while seeing myself, for example when making a Skype call, I can see it looks off. I’m becoming aware of how much the expression of an emotion also feeds back into the experience of a situation. When I laugh out loud and see or feel my face ‘stuck’ in a different configuration of muscle tensions, the emotion doesn’t last as long and changes into something new faster.
Plus, of course, people’s reactions are different. With strangers I sometimes want to hide my face. With family and friends it feels ok to be naked like this. I will have the next couple of weeks to explore this further.
What’s this telling me?
And then there is the question of how I invited this medical situation into my life. It’s a huge signpost that something wants to be changed. I am making small changes to my diet, have started eating meat and fish every now and then because it feels good for my body in this moment and I have let go of sugary candies again. It’s also inviting a deeper look into self expression in my life. Writing, dancing, playing music, conversations with people, work, relationship, physical activity. I realized that I need to move way more than I have in the past couple of months.
What remains of me?
And most of all, it is inviting me to let go of any false image that remains of ‘me’. It is great to enjoy a body that works without fail and looks pretty, making it easy to connect with others and express myself. But what remains of me when that falls away? Is it anything less? As with the aging process, thoughts arise about parts of this body being unpleasant to look at, accompanied with feelings of unworthiness. The clear seeing of this knows without question that this is utter bullshit, but the thoughts arising deserve attention rather than just being cast aside as nonsense.
I can see how this party Mr Bell is throwing for me could be here to show me exactly that.
PS: although the video shows the case a bit milder than it actually is, I have already seen some improvements since this morning and I am in good hopes that all function will return. Many cases of Bell’s may be more severe than this one.