Note: please forgive any weird font/formatting issues. I'm posting under unusual circumstances, using the Blogger app on my iPad, which doesn't let me select fonts or do a preview. Here goes nothing. I'll fix it later.
Since I started doing weekly posts at the beginning of this year, I've always gone in with a specific focus, something I'm going to talk about. Well, that's not on today. I'm digging back into an older tradition for this post, where I'm not talking about a thing but instead talking to you in a loose way about what's actually going on.
I'm doing that because otherwise I wouldn't be posting at all, seeing as how I'm reporting to you live from Children's Hospital here in Seattle, where my youngest boy was admitted early yesterday morning. No panic, he's on the up-and-up, but he had a bout of severe asthma, as bad as we'd ever seen it. He came close to getting sent up to the ICU, is how bad we're talking about. And Fred—who's kind of a veteran here at Children's (Fred : Children's = Norm : Cheers), and whose chill nature and joie-de-vivre are tough to knock off course—was brought lower than I'd ever seen him. Real distress. Horrible to watch. I had to turn my face and cry into the wall over and over. But he's turned a corner and is on the slow rise to getting discharged tomorrow, so the crisis part of the show is over.
I've had no time to think, though, and I don't know where I'm taking you today. This is pure, old-school winging it happening here.
What I'm wanting to talk about, what I'd been planning on talking about in a the-thing-I'm-talking-about way, I guess, is the body. Well, not the body. My body. A little history thereof. What better place to talk about the fraught history of a body than inside a children's hospital, too? That's got something to it.
If some cosmic police sketch artist were floating by and capturing some lifelong essence of my body to take back to his home planet/precinct, there would probably be a head, then maybe some rudimentary heart thing dangling from the head like a pocket watch, and then some feet. The body would be missing. My body's been missing, or I've been missing from inside of it.
This is the part where I get a hitch in my typing finger/a contracted feeling in my gut, the internal shut-the-fuck-up-Tina mechanism kicking in. The words stop flowing. They back up into each other, take turns shoving each other to the front so they can hide and not have to walk on stage. Nobody wants to say it. This happens every time I talk publicly about my sexual abuse, which looks like it's on deck today.
Every time. That's funny. I've talked about it here all of twice, and then once I kind of talked about it on Facebook. And after the two times it came up here, I sort of thought, okay, well, good. I talked about it. All done! I shall never bother the world with this again! Because I thought that to talk about it was unbearably depressing and maudlin, and it was my job to be neither of those things. But it's not unbearably depressing and maudlin; it just is, as they say, what it is. It's a common thing, and a tough thing, but I'm not forever tainted by it, like I might have thought and not wanted to draw people's attention to. And furthermore, that is not my job, to be neither of those things that I'm not anyway.
So, heads-up. This is probably not the last time I'm going to talk about this here. I may just be getting going. I don't know. It needs talking about, no? This taboo is oppressive. I want out from underneath it.
But let's get back to the body, the birthplace of it all.
I had a psychic reading at the beginning of the year. I like to get those every now and then, although I don't come at them with anywhere near the same frequency/urgency I used to when I was in my twenties or thirties. I have much more of an "I'll find out on my own eventually anyway" and "I got my own internal compass working fine" thing going on these days as an old lady in her mid-forties. In any case, it was pretty interesting, this reading, but one part particularly made me laugh. The reader told me that one of my superpowers was my body.
Ha! Oh, ha, hahaha. That's adorable. My body! A superpower. Oh, go on with you.
I might have laughed or snorted aloud, because she went on to say, smiling, that a person's superpower isn't usually an area that gives no trouble. The opposite, actually. And then I stopped laughing, because I suddenly felt like she was on to something.
I thought about the concept of the daimon, which I first read about in this very quirky and wonderful book I was in love with in the mid-late '90s called We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World's Getting Worse, which is a conversation in letters traveling back and forth between the famous Jungian psychologist James Hillman and a writer named Michael Ventura, who was (is?) a columnist for L.A. Weekly. (Read it, it's a joy.)
Let's see how garbled my explanation/comprehension of the daimon is. I'm going to see if I can wing it without the help of Google. So, my understanding of the daimon is that it's a combination of an individual person's destiny/innate genius/central bugaboo. It's your thing, you're born with it, it lies latent in you, and it will fuck with you until you solve it/conquer it/own it/live its expression. I don't have my copy handy, but I remember Hillman and Ventura giving a couple of examples. Winston Churchill was one, who apparently struggled in school, had problems with his speech and language. And the other example that sticks with me was a great Spanish matador (whose name escapes me), renowned for his bravery, who was a huge mama's boy as a child, perpetually hiding behind her apron. The theory of the daimon says that something in you knows your fate from the beginning, and so you unconsciously struggle with it/fight against it. Winston Churchill, Hillman and Ventura explained, will have understood somewhere in his being that his words were eventually going to shape world events, and he buckled in advance under that pressure. The matador, similarly, could feel that that the bull was out there waiting for him, so when he clung to his mom, he was dragging his feet against facing his future opponent.
So when I think of my body as connected to my daimon, somehing stirs.
Before Fred went into the hospital, before last week's Emmy post, I was sitting at a cafe brainstorming about and starting to make an outline for what was going to be my next post, which was going to be about the body. I was going back through time and chronicling the struggles my body had given me, back from the beginning, to search for threads. I was in the section about my childhood, jotting down some words. Heart murmur, I wrote. Eczema. Sick a lot. And then I wrote down allergic to chocolate and before I could get the word chocolate out, an existential nausea took hold of me. A shoe dropped.
Fuck. I knew it in an instant, for the first time in my life. I was never physically allergic to chocolate, as the story had always gone. I got it, I knew it, I knew it before the thought could form itself into words. My chocolate allergy was psychological.
I got sick a lot, as I said, as a kid. Missed lots of school. Apparently, every time I ate chocolate I got bronchitis. I was frail, I'd always been frail, it was just who I was. Oversensitive and frail. We all accepted it. We were all frail. We were frail together, as a group, our family. It was our thing.
What I knew, bodily, in that moment in the cafe, was that chocolate figured into my sexual abuse. My dad had given me chocolate as a lure, or a reward. And so later I was "allergic" to it, and fell ill when I ate it. The knowledge dropped in a wordless, complete package. It popped open, all mine, irrevocable.
Son of a fucking bitch. I'd never questioned it. Yep, allergic to chocolate. I was given a whole lot of fucked-up carob brownies as a child because, aw, poor Tina, she just can't metabolize it. Son of a goddamn bitch.
I sat there in the cafe and wept, a complex weep. Something was simultaneously being taken from and returned to me. Awful, gratifying.
My mind doesn't remember everything, but my body does, and it's starting to slip me information. It's starting to tell me what it knows.
I never liked using my body, when I was a kid. I hated P.E., hated sports, hated anything where you had to put your awareness in your body. I didn't like having my awareness there. It felt weird, dangerous, vertigo-inducing. I was not interested in dropping into my body long enough to figure out how to throw or kick a ball, or how to balance, or do a cartwheel. Fuck that noise. If you want me, I'll be indoors hiding behind my brother's bed with my face in a book, eating purloined loaves of bread.
Early carb cravings. Comfort food. Repression mechanism practice.
Bear with me while I wander around. I don't know where I'm going, exactly, or how far I'm taking this today.
Here's what's new. I've been taking yoga. I've always resisted it, but it started calling me lately, and I started taking classes at a studio in town that teaches something called Viniyoga, which translates to something like "yoga of adaptation". It's a gentle form, meant to be adapted to the needs of each student. From my very first class, my body loved it. The class moved so carefully, so respectfully, and never asked of us anything our bodies didn't willingly want to give. I had a hard time not calling out THANK YOU FOR THIS CLASS during poses, it was such a revelation.
For whatever reason, something in me has stopped fighting my body and shutting down awareness of what it knows. I've stopped struggling. I'm open, I'm willing to go in, whatever I find in there. I'm to the part in the story where I stop fighting my daimon and let it drive. I do cobra and butterfly and lion and cat and cow, unlocking myself.
I've mentioned here before that when I sit in session with my teacher, Jim, I've been getting these shooting pains up my spine, along with more pictures of my abuse. In the session before my chocolate revelation, the pains were so strong they made me cry, and they wrapped around my waist. I saw a picture which I will not describe, one that gave me horror, and no sooner did I see it/narrate it out loud than a pain shot through my head, like my brain was getting squeezed by an invisible hand, retribution for having seen what I saw. I cried out and held my head when the pain struck, and at the same moment, Jim said, "You have to let go of doubt."
I'll tell you what makes me mad. I scan back over my life, and I see myself struggling along the way, struggling in my body, struggling with self-doubt. All that sickness in my childhood. The painful, disfiguring masks of eczema that started visiting me in my early 20s, just as I started to suspect somehing was amiss back in my past. How I froze so easily, got paralyzed by doubt and shame, hid my problems and made them worse. How my hands used to shake. How easily and often I cried, and how I wondered what was wrong with me, why did I take everything so much harder than everyone else? Why couldn't I deal? Why couldn't I function? How I was afraid to give my opinion because it was probably wrong because I was made of doubt, I was practically a solid block of doubt. And then closer in the past, the illness I had just a couple of years ago which almost killed me, where my body went on strike. No more, it said. No more until you listen to me. No more until you respect me. No more until you pay attention.
The whole thing, all of that, all stemming from this grave violation to my tiny body. This whole life operating unconsciously in response. This disembodied head floating over some feet, this needless frailty.
No more, all right.
Fred comes home tomorrow. It's for sure.
I'll tell you one last thing I know, and then I have to sleep. I know that what mom and dad are carrying in their bodies unresolved gets passed down to their children. Here, a mysterious burden. Good luck. I didn't want to deal with it, so you try.
I have lots of work to do, but it's okay. I can work faster now that I'm not erasing all my work with this endless, godforsaken doubt.