Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Sweet Gift

On Tuesday I tried acupuncture for the first time. It hurt. A lot.

Everyone (and by "everyone," I mean acupuncturists) tells you acupuncture is not supposed to hurt, even though it is a procedure comprised entirely of pricking a person with needles, leaving them in the skin and then moving them around. Still, those who swear by acupuncture say they don't swear in pain. These people are liars.

Granted, the needles themselves are invisibly small. Like Victoria Beckham-skinny. And even someone who hates needles (me) couldn't feel them go in at first. It's the moving those suckers around part that did me in. After placing a total of 12 needles in my legs and lower abdomen, the acupuncturist twisted each one until I felt a chord of discomfort braid itself through my system and zing its way out at another point entirely. The most painful one radiated from my lower right side straight into my shoulder. Totally weird.

But on Wednesday, I felt great! This could all be relative -- as in, Wednesday did not include any run-ins with needles -- but hey, pain-free is pain-free.

Why did a needle-phobe like me feel compelled to try this in the first place? Several reasons:

1. It was on sale. Usually needles are not a big clearance purchase, but the gym where I train clients offers a reduced rate for treatments like this for trainers like me.

2. My alter-ego Stressy is refusing to let me sleep. Or eat any vegetables. She clearly only likes Pop-Tarts and tortilla chips.

3. For pain relief. Two months ago I landed in the hospital with what I thought was an appendicitis. It turns out it was a ruptured cyst, which might keep happening. I am close enough to the poverty line to hopefully have eschewed the majority of the hospital bills, (Did you know a single dose of morphine is $200? No wonder people try to make drugs in their own kitchens.) but I certainly can't afford to keep popping back to the ER. Plus my whole right side hurts fairly consistently and is visibly swollen.

So I went to get pricked.

And it turns out Stressy was right to want all the Pop-Tarts she can handle. Apparently when we are in pain, our bodies try to heal themselves by craving certain foods. When that pain is localized in the lower abdomen, specifically to organs that correspond to the heart, we want sweet things. This is how someone like me who eats produce like a farm animal could go for a whole month without eating a single vegetable.

The connection between sweet and healing extends to other areas in our lives as well. Think of all the times we use sweet things as a soothing comfort or a security blanket...

  • Homemade cookies in care packages when we're far from home
  • Gingerale or Gatorade when we're sick
  • Hot chocolate when we're cold
  • Raisinets or Sour Patch Kids when we watch a scary movie
  • Lemonade or Soda when we're hot
  • Candy or ice cream when we're heartbroken

Or, as I have given before, sweet baked goods for grieving friends and family. I have made banana bread, cakes, truffles and other treats. I have also made full meals. But I usually come back to cookies.

There is something about a platter of soft and chewy, sweet and buttery, warm and melty cookies that reminds us of an older generation. Of caretakers and worry-free childhoods. Of safety and happiness. When we have lost someone important, there is a hole where these needs were once met. Cookies may only last a few days, a few minutes even, but the gift of cookies meets that need and reminds us there are others there who can pad the hole so it feels less jagged. Who can heal us, sweetly.

I made cookies for a grieving friend last year. The details are not important. What is important is a gesture that honors what the body craves. Our bodies are smart and they crave what will help. What will heal the pain.

Which is what brought me to acupuncture. And today I ate an apple without thinking twice about toaster pastries.

**If you are at all interested in acupuncture, I do highly recommend Korina at Happy Healthy Whole. She is extremely knowledgeable, compassionate and gentle.**


  1. So happy you're back to blogging! :) And also that you survived the needles!!! :) :)

  2. Haha, thanks Kathryn!!! Probably not a lot more needles for me...but hopefully lots more blogging.