We Don’t ask the Recovering Person to Carry the Piano up the Stairs.

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A post shared by Lady Lazarus (@ladylazintheory) on

“We don’t ask the recovering person to carry the piano up the stairs. A woman who is returning has to have time to strengthen.”

I came across this quote while reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés—a book that has become a kind of bible for me of late as a woman, but also as an artist and a human in need of creative and soul recovery.

These words couldn’t have been any plainer, and also more real to me. As a piano-playing singer-songwriter still feeling the effects of coming off a difficult breakup, a big move several states away to a new city, and some creative disillusionment, I have been dealing with a multifaceted kind of self-reclamation in all areas of my life and being. It’s been a struggle to say the least, with much time spent feeling lost in the dark woods—going too wild and not in a good way.

When I finally started to feel I was piecing myself back together again, I got struck with an incredibly painful foot injury that has persisted for several months now. The pain has been so acute at times that I’ve had to spend days or a whole weekend in bed.

It has been an alternatingly isolating, scary, psychologically, and physically tormenting experience. As someone who’s been blessed to be active all her life without any sports or other physical injuries, having to learn to just do nothing and let my body heal was an incredible lesson.

If you are going through any kind of physical or psychic pain at this time, my heart goes out to you, and I hope my words reach you. Whatever you’re going through: Don’t. Give. Up.

Rest. Take time to strengthen.

Here in Austin, I was invited to play a house party show (my favorite type of show to play), and with my foot pain still persisting, I had to say no. I said yes initially, but for once I listened to my body and all it was saying was no, no, no.

Visions of myself struggling to cart my full-size keyboard down my apartment stairs across town and into the party, standing all night, and playing in pain had me wincing. Beyond that, it’s been difficult to give my full attention to playing and prepping my set for a show when my mind and body have been distracted by pain.

It was the weekend after I messaged the party host to cancel that I came across the quote. It stunned me, of course. Then, it made me laugh. I would have literally been that woman lugging her piano up and down the stairs when her body was screaming at her to just rest. Strengthen.

And now, as I write this, over the past week my feet have been getting astoundingly better. Who knows why these things happen to us or why they start to leave us when they do? All I can say is that when I slowed down and had to just stop my life due to physical pain, it made me take a good hard look at it.

What I needed to work on. How I could make myself happy. The pain made me take care of myself and heal.

I’ve had to learn it the hard way, but whatever you are recovering from, take your time. Don’t rush into the next big endeavor, relationship, job, creative project, just because you feel you should and that life is passing you by.

You need all parts of you to make it through, and to carry your figurative (or in my case, literal) piano up the stairs.

author: Melissa Ann Sweat

Image: Author's Own

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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Melissa Ann Sweat

Melissa Ann Sweat is a writer, artist, and singer-songwriter whose music project Lady Lazarus has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, Pitchfork, Interview, and many more. Her writing has been published in Impose Magazine, Dangerous Minds, and Skirt! magazine, among others. Melissa lives by the beach in Santa Cruz County, California, and is currently finishing up her first novel, writing new songs, and performing shows in the Bay Area. Connect with Melissa Ann on her website.

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