acupunctureI cannot recall a new year starting off this bleak. Outside the weather is often sunny, and unseasonably warm, but inside my emotional climate is wretchedly stormy and fogged in — even as February has come and gone, marred by hurtful words and sudden distancing.

I have been quietly frantic for weeks, unable to get beyond sleep deprivation and anguish. Some kind of indistinct, pristine, and static image of my marriage (now starting year number 18) has dissipated into the storm. I feel lost, and my overactive brain is congested and confused.

In the midst of great personal pain, I discover acupuncture, and although it has not yet cured my sleeplessness, dry eyes and parched skin, the regular treatments are moving something around.

The discovery of a local community acupuncture clinic is helping me to get out of my head, somehow anchoring my saddened self back down into solid muscles. I can run to this clinic to feel again the warm flow of lifeblood, and an appreciation of my body’s solidity and strength.

The tiny needles are pumping my blood, churning some chi, and sometimes leaving invisible pinprick bruises that I later examine in the mirror.

Although the acupuncture is helping me to heal, I see these tiny dots as vestiges of my love’s harsh and scornful glances— looks that have lately punctured my spirit and turned me into a needy, dejected shell of my true self. At home, we are both pushing the limits of closeness and distance and I am surfing some very frightening waves of anger and love, fearing the worst in the middle of the night.

Seeking relief, I find our local community acupuncture clinic and make an appointment for the next day.

The clinic sits in a flat-roofed commercial building near the shopping mall adjacent to one of those dungeon-dragony retail outfits whose windows blocked by stacks of dusty boxes covered with rather bloodthirsty and jarring Gothic images.

Once I enter the acupuncture clinic, it appears the antithesis of its Goth neighbor — a place people come to relax and heal. It is noticeably warm inside, the music is soft and new-agey and—behind a bamboo screen— ten large plush reclining chairs face each other in a circle. According to the map in the bathroom, there are hundreds of community acupuncture clinics across the country. It is a modest clean spot with a sliding scale payment system; it seems to work because instead of high-rent, fancy private offices, the practice takes place in the common room.

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