Dear Forearms,

a painting of a dark-skinned woman's arm. She wears a red bracelet on her wrist. The background is yellow.
Art by Mica Gadhia

How are you? Last I checked, you were still a little tender to the touch, but the bruises were fading. Isn’t it amazing how you heal? Is there anything more you need?

I’ve been thinking so much about pain and healing since our massage last Thursday. About how I make repetitive choices that create tension and tightness in you that I ignore until I can’t. About how I am so familiar with your tightness that I don’t even realize how constricted you are. About  how I overlook you when I’m stretching.

And mostly, I’ve been contemplating how the fastest way to release your tension was to sit with some intense discomfort as the massage therapist used a special tool to break up all the knots in your fascia. The sensation created a synesthetic crackling that reverberated in my body. And of course, it’s left you tender and bruised. And also looser. And healing.

I can’t help but compare this experience to what happens when I come against an old wound that’s ready for healing balm. The emotional pain rises sharp and swift. It hurts in its intensity, and I question why I agreed to this. But I sit with it. Teeth gritted. Body tensed. Tears flowing until I surrender. And I breathe. And breathe again. And breathe once more.

As I hold on for another breath, the pain lessens until eventually it’s transformed. I’m tender and bruised. But also lighter.

Healing sometimes comes with pain, but it’s a different kind of pain than what I’ve been holding onto. And it’s worth sitting in the acute discomfort for a while in order to find myself in a new space with a little more clarity about what I need going forward.

And for sure, there are moments of divine grace that bring healing with complete ease. I celebrate those gifts. But however the healing happens, I’m grateful for its miraculousness to create change.

Nicole C. Ayers