Yep. Today, I am going to write about poop. An online dictionary defines constipation as “a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels, usually associated with hardened feces.” As some of you know, I am the founder, pastor and sole worshipper of the religion of joan. (Religion with a little “r.” Thank you J.B., for your spelling suggestion.) The book that rests in the pews of joan’s church is, “The Bodymind Workbook,” written in 1990 by Debbie Shapiro. This is my bible. In this literary gift to the world, Ms. Shapiro explores how the mind and body work together. Chapter Six is titled, “From Abscesses to Ulcers.” In just over 70 pages, she covers nearly every physical ailment and illness-the body, and connects them to their likely mental counterpart- the mind.
On Page 124, she writes about Constipation. The first sentence covers the physical definition, and then she goes on to explain its mental component. “A lack of muscular movement indicates that we are trying to control events, to hold on to them for fear of letting go. This implies a lack of spontaneity and go with the flow attitude, a desire to control due to insecurity, for if we are feeling very insecure then we will want to hold on to everything we can…..Relinquishing control implies a deep trust and ability to surrender to what is.”
I first looked up this condition many years ago when my then young son, Mark, was potty training. He mastered Number 1 early and easily, especially for a boy, however, Number 2 proved to be a bit more challenging. He did eventually conquer dropping the deuce, but was prone to bouts of constipation. His poop schedule would often allow five or more days to pass before he would go, causing his belly to become distended. I often likened this to the photos you see of starving children. Their faces are drawn and gaunt and their limbs are thin like spaghetti, yet their abdomens are large and protruding. This is how Mark often looked. He was a thin and smallish child, yet he would have this large and somewhat hard stomach. I would refer to it as his “poop belly.”
Reading Ms. Shapiro’s definition of constipation triggered my “lightbulb” moment. Mark was holding onto his poop as a means of control. He understood very little about his dad’s long illness and untimely death, as he was so very young. He did, however, intuitively know that things were amiss within our little nucleus. One moment we were a family of three and in an instant we were reduced to two. When I was hospitalized for nine days in September 2003 for reasons associated with my Leukemia treatments, my sister had to step in and take care of Mark. While staying with Betsy and her family, Mark was unable to poop. She was eventually forced to treat this current bout of constipation with an enema. My cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments, which had arrived just 21 months after Alan’s passing, invaded Mark’s newly created safe, stable and secure world. He had lost his power yet again. The only thing that he could control were his bowels.
In the months prior to Mark’s passing as well as the nearly three months since that unimaginable day, I have been experiencing my own bouts of constipation. I initially blamed this condition on menopause, because frankly, I blame EVERYTHING on menopause! I recently retrieved my handy-dandy bible from its perch on my bookshelf, leafed through its worn pages, and located Constipation on page 124. As I ponder the mental connection to this physical condition, I focus on the word “control.” I am completely aware that I am experiencing “control issues,” as this is my go-to vice. Anorexia and traumatic life events have attempted (without much success) to teach me that I am in control of next to nothing while in my human form. I can control what shirt I put on this morning, or what I might eat and drink throughout the day, but the BIG choices or life events are mostly managed by the divine.
If I was capable of being 100% in control, Alan would not have succumbed to a rare cancer when his son was just three years old. I would not have been diagnosed with a different rare cancer when Mark was five years old. AND, Mark himself would not have been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he had only inhabited this planet for seven years. What loving, caring, devoted mother would allow these horrific events to happen to her only child? And more recently, if I were the CONTROLLER OF ALL THINGS, I most certainly would not have allowed my 20-year old son to die alone on the floor of his dorm room as the result of a diabetic episode.
And so, in an effort to nurture my body, which includes allowing my bowels to move in a more frequent and natural rhythm, I am incorporating more fiber in my diet in the form of fruits and vegetables as well as occasionally sprinkling MiraLAX into my morning coffee. As a means of healing my mental state, I must allow myself more time to delve into and work through my grief. This includes relinquishing control of that which is uncontrollable. Daily, I must repeat a phrase I learned some time ago: “Let go, let God.”
And you thought this post was going to be about poop……………