In a week and a half

A week and a half ago (is that all it’s been?) the Trump tape came out. The next few days I was filled with anger. We took to social media, I mainly lived on Twitter, and we expressed our outrage and disgust. The debate followed and more anger followed. Everyone knows this story. This is nothing new.

And then this past week I still felt angry and fired up. But Friday night, I deflated. Maybe I just am not meant to be angry for so long. Maybe it was bound to happen no matter what. Maybe a balloon can only get so big before it’s bound to pop.

And I lost it. Not in a crazy way. Not in a meltdown way. But anger turned to tears and I cried. And periodically this weekend, my heart has felt heavy.

It’s great – truly – that this tape, and its results have inspired thousands of women to share their stories. Check the Twitter threads #whywomendontreport and #iamasurvivor. Look at what Kelly Oxford started, simply by inviting women to share their stories. People started talking and sharing stories that maybe they had never shared before. People are connecting and talking. And maybe, as a friend suggested, this is the beginning of a revolution.

But that doesn’t change that there are still so, so many girls and women that are in pain and hurting and I just want to hug them all. And where it gets me the most? That we can all share our stories, I can scream my stories from the rooftops over and over again – but girls are going to continue to be assaulted. People are going to continue to be abused. In talking, we’re collectively healing, but we’re not stopping the problem.

There’s so much that I want to DO. And I don’t know how to do it. I want to work on laws and policies around rape and assault. I want to end the backlog. I want to create more online support, particularly for children and adolescents who are too afraid or unable to tell their story to an adult in person – but with the advent of technology would seek out support online. I want to tell my story over and over again to anyone who wants to hear. I want to listen to anyone who needs to tell theirs. (Because if statistics are accurate – which they are, they’re statistics – there are a lot of people out there with stories.)

I am sick of people referring to someone sharing their story as “personal”. “She keeps sharing so much personal information,” or “Why is she telling the world about that – it’s personal.” Must I scream it until my throat is raw – it’s not personal. Nothing about it is personal. The events (which were crimes. Don’t lose sight of that.), the shame, the guilt, the fear – we made them ours, but they were never supposed to be ours. We don’t have to carry it anymore. It’s not personal. It had nothing to do with us.

The thing is, I don’t know what I can do or how to do it. But tonight, I can write. And it’s not new, and it’s not eloquent, and it’s not brilliant. And so be it.

Speaking is healing

Last year, our brave little elf girl destroyed a spiderweb that had her stuck in captivity. Patiently, she cleared the web, taking rest and nourishing herself more than ever. She was eventually freed from the web and had her garden back.

But deep inside of her she held a truth that she didn’t think many others realized: Just because she got rid of the spider web didn’t mean she wasn’t still afraid of spiders.

Oh, she still felt freer than she had in years. She worked in her garden, played with the fairy sprites by the river, and drank lemon drop tea in her hammock.

And she was still afraid of spiders.

Her friends were kind.

“The spider scared you so many years ago,” the water nymph told her. “Why are you still afraid?”

“You’re older now. You know that most spiders aren’t harmful,” the garden gnome added. “Don’t you know that?”

They didn’t speak unkindly. They just didn’t understand, and they could only see things the way that they saw them. That a spider from many, many years ago, is one spider. All of the other wonderful spiders who lived in their land didn’t go around scaring elves, and so, why should the elf  worry about it anymore?

Once a year, on chore rotation, the elf had the job “feeding the spiders.” This chore only came into rotation every year or so; but every year, she dreaded it. She took elixers before and after, to calm her beating heart as she did what she had to do. She didn’t tell the Elder Elf about her fears. She didn’t want to talk about it, and she didn’t want to seem weak. She preferred to just silently push through, though it meant days of recovery afterward.

But one beautiful Fall day, she walked to work with the sun beating down through the rainbow-colored leaves. When she got there, she saw that her assignment that day was feeding the spiders. She felt her heart start to beat out of its chest. She put a big smile on her face as she nodded and smiled, and walked out to where the spiders were eagerly awaiting their meal. But something shifted. Maybe it was the magenta streak in the sky. Maybe it was the glitter shimmering down from the trees. And so rather than quickly taking 3 elixers, and silently taking the food and getting the job done as fast as possible, only to need days to recover from her fear, she stopped. She looked at the Elder Elf who oversaw her job, and she spoke.

“I must tell you something, Elder. I become fearful with this job.”

The Elder Elf smiled, kindly, and replied, “I don’t think it’s many elves’ favorites. They’d prefer trimming the mint bushes, or harvesting the dragonberry fruit, or playing with the unicorns.”

But the elf pushed on. “Yes. I know. But I’m afraid of spiders. You see, when I was little, one hurt me. And then I got tangled in its web, for a long time. And so when I am around them, I remember. And I become afraid.”

The Elder Elf looked her deep in the eye, and beckoned. “Come, child. We will feed them together.”

And they did.

Walking home that evening, the elf thought back over her day. She had worked with the spiders and yet wasn’t still thinking about them. She wasn’t remembering being scared. She wasn’t feeling the fear in her chest. And she didn’t think she’d need any elixers to recover. In fact, she felt like it had just been a regular day. She thought about the moonbeam lily soup she would make for dinner. She felt…fine.

Could it be, she thought to her herself, that words are as powerful as elixers? Could it be that by speaking my fear, my fear was released? Could it be that by telling the Elder Elf of my fears, it made them more manageable?

And as she paused, and looked up into a sky filled with fireflies, she knew the answer was, yes.

The elf and the spiderweb

Once upon a time there was a little elf girl who lived in a magical land. She adored her cottage and the sprawling gardens that filled it, filled with every herb and flower and elvin fruit that existed.

When she was very young, a spider had come along and scared her. She timidly made a deal with it, saying to the spider, “You can build your spiderweb if you live over there on the wall of the far side of the garden,” as she pointed across her property. Wordlessly, the spider followed her direction, and created a life for itself on that wall.

As she grew up, the elf girl avoided walking around that part of the garden. If such an occasion arose where she absolutely must, she held her breath while doing so. She knew that if she spent too long near the spider, it would scare her again.

The years went on, and that spider’s wall and part of the garden became overrun with weeds and vines. It was tangled and messy, and the girl felt torn. She adored her garden more than anything in the world, and she wanted it to thrive and bloom the way it did when she was very small. But on the other hand, she was afraid. Afraid of that spider. She took one quick walk near the wall and realized that the spider was no longer there. The spider was gone – possibly moved on to a new location, possibly dead. But all that was left was the web.

Ultimately she decided, I will just go destroy the web. It’ll be quick, and even if it’s a little messy, I’ll clean it up and my garden will bloom and I will no longer be afraid.

So one early morning, she set off into her garden with shears and a hose and gloves. She took a deep breath and began to wipe the web away. Out of nowhere, the web grabbed hold of her. Its silky strands wrapped around her arms, her body, and she was so frightened, fearing an immediate death. After some time, though, although still feeling paralyzed with fear, the girl realized that the web was not going to kill her. It had her in a deep hold, but she could breathe, and could walk. So she slowly made her way back to her cottage, feeling defeated.  I shouldn’t have ever gone near the web, she thought. Now I’m even more afraid, and in even more trouble than I was when I was just ignoring it. 

As one day turned into the next, she realized that she had to act. She realized that though dealing with this web was going to be hard and challenging, she had no other option. Patiently waiting day after day was doing nothing, and willing it away was doing nothing. The web was making her chores harder, and she couldn’t enjoy her days with a web so tightly wrapped around her body. After spending days rummaging through her musty old attic, she finally found what she needed – a pair of magic shears. She began to cut away at a part of the web, surprised at how, as she cut, it tried to hold on tighter. She realized that not only was the web wrapped around her, but it was wrapped around itself, in a series of intricate loops. Night began to fall and she had only eliminated a tiny piece of the web. Defeated, she went to bed.

The next morning she woke up, realizing she felt both discouraged that she still had the web around her, but hopeful that she could cut away at more of it.

Day by day, bit by bit, she cut away at the web. She took rest periods, for this was a hard job. She needed naps in the hammock in her garden, and plenty of healing elixers. She didn’t have time for many of her chores or other responsibilities, for this had become her priority. She learned to find patience, and though she frequently felt discouraged, she channeled that hopeful feeling, too.

One day, months later, as the season turned and fresh plants began to bloom around her cottage, she realized that she had done it. The web was gone. And she realized, despite how long and tedious of a process it had been, despite how many other chores and duties had been neglected during this time, it had been worth it. For not only was she free of the web, but she was free of the fear of the web. So, she thought to herself. Maybe it was all worth it. Maybe it’s a good thing I tried to just wipe away the web. If it had never taken hold of me, I’d never have gotten rid of it for good.

She walked out to her garden, and took a deep breath, as she walked right up to the wall where that web used to be. And she knelt down and weeded, and watered, and planted, and beautiful, colorful flowers instantly bloomed.

She was free.

It’s Time to Let Go

I was over at my beloved Some Talk of You and Me last week, writing about realizations, visualizations, and lightbulb moments that had been a long time coming.

If I was vulnerable enough to submit and publish it there, I might as well do the same here…..right…??

It’s Time to Let Go, originally posted on Some Talk of You and Me (edited and formatted by the wonderful Brandie Smith, who continuously gives my words space to be heard):

“This is a perfect example,” I told him.

“I’m fine. My mood is fine, I’m not crying, we’re having a perfectly fine morning. But I feel tight and low in my chest.”

You know how something can happen a million times, but it only clicks when it’s ready?

That’s what happened today. I was on my way to a yoga class and before going into the studio, I took out my phone to type in my thoughts before I lost them.

“Makes me think maybe the heaviness isn’t my mood, doesn’t dictate my mood. Maybe the heaviness isn’t depression. Maybe it’s just all that little kid stuff, that fight or flight, that panic, that decision to stop talking and keep it all in. Maybe I need to talk to it and nurture it.

Tell it,

“I know what you are. It’s okay. You don’t have to be here. I’m taking care of me this time around. You don’t have to hold it in. You’re free to go. I promise.”

This makes me cry.

Maybe so many of the tears are about just that—relief at finally being soothed, relief at not keeping it in, shock over how intense the feelings are that I’ve buried down for months and years and decades.”

During an appointment on Friday, we were discussing the physical feelings of the emotions.

I had been so focused on the emotions themselves—the panic, the fear, the shame, the guilt, the despair—but she had been gently encouraging me to go beyond that.

“Where do you feel it in your body?” she asked.

I quickly scanned my body, but knew exactly what I’d fine, knew what I always find:

“Pressure behind my eyes, tightness in my throat, a heavy constriction around my chest, and a pit in my stomach.”

She encouraged me to focus on the tightness in my throat.

“What happens if you focus on it, if you pay attention to it? What purpose do you think it’s serving?”

“It gets worse when I pay attention to it.” I replied.

I thought some more, and then added,

“I think….it’s about fight or flight. It’s the panic, the wanting to fight. I’m a talker and a problem-solver. I like to find solutions right away. But there were no solutions, nothing I could do, or nothing I perceived I could do, so I think the tightness is the words trying to get out—but there are no words. So, it’s some sort of being trapped by silence.”

She suggested I tune into that feeling. I used one of my visualizations—the sparkly white light that clears away murkiness, and tried to clear it away from my throat.

And promptly started crying.

“I have no idea why I’m crying,” I said.

A few moments later, I added,

“It makes me feel young. I mean. I don’t know how to explain it. Um…so, when I imagined the white light coming into clear it away, it felt soothing, like the light was comforting the tightness, telling it that it was free to go, that the light would help, that the tightness didn’t need to hold the burden of solving all of these problems.

And that makes me feel like I would’ve as a little kid.

If I had talked about things, and allowed myself to be soothed and comforted. But, I usually didn’t.

Because, well, bodies didn’t contain emotions for me. Someone else’s feelings just moved right through their body and into mine, and I was maybe even more hypersensitive than I am today. And I had no idea what it was, I was just a little kid, all I knew was that I felt so much all of the time and it made it hard to breathe.

And if I told someone I was sad or upset or having a hard time, I felt their empathy, and it’s good that they felt empathy, because it meant they cared, but then I felt it in addition to my own feelings, and it was too much and hurt even worse than if I hadn’t said anything in the first place.

And so, consciously or subconsciously, probably subconsciously, I decided to stop sharing, to stop reaching out. And I just feel sad about that.

I see the little kids that I work with and I can’t even bear to imagine that one of them would just decide to hold everything in from then on, because they viewed that as the only possible option.”

I paused and took a breath.

“Wow,” she said. “It sounds like maybe you’re grieving. Feeling sadness and grief for the silence you felt you had to undertake.”

So, I sat outside the studio and I typed those thoughts into my phone, and I talked to the tightness in my throat like I would to one of my students, and I told it,

It’s okay. You can go. I’ve got this. I’m taking care of me. You don’t have to stay. I know what you are. You are panic and fear and wanting to scream and wanting to run and silence. I know. You can go. It’s okay. I promise.

And slowly, tentatively, it left.

And slowly, tentatively, I allowed it to go.

Inside a hard time

[Editor’s note: I feel compelled to preface this by telling you how vulnerable I feel in posting this. I realize that vulnerability comes from fear of being met with shame. Being shut down, being quieted, being negatively talked about. But, I will write it anyway. Because I channel that feeling that I have when I read a blog post that deeply resonates with me, that makes me think, “Wow, someone else really gets it. Someone else was brave enough to write about it.” And I hope that maybe I can evoke that feeling in just one person. And should that be the case – should one person feel grateful, relief, companionship, then the vulnerability was worth it.

I have written and re-written this post many times, ever since my wonderful dad suggested that I write. During many versions, I added in something at the end to the effect of, “But I am okay! Don’t worry about me! I’m fine!” Which speaks to my fear of worrying others, of wanting to do everything I can to keep those in my life calm and happy. But I am gently putting those fears aside. And writing what’s real.]

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Not if they are wounds that were never processed. Events from a month ago, a year ago, two decades ago, can and will still affect you.

Events and memories that you had buried deep within you, taped up, and topped with a sparkly pink bow, will not be fooled, and will still find their way to the surface, claw their way out, and demand to be acknowledged and processed. Gates will be broken down, dams will be breached, and it will rush at you, over you, through you, just as a flood does. Five weeks later, you will still be waiting for the waters to abate.

Old habits and behaviors will rear their heads. You will initially welcome them back without a second thought. You will initially forget to question them.

You will initially try to fight it. You’ll think things like, I shouldn’t be feeling this way or What is wrong with me? and I’ve been fine for so long, I should still be fine.

Your chest will constantly feel constricted. So will your head and stomach, but it’s in your chest where you’ll notice it at all times.

You will sleep, a lot. You will have little energy. You will throw your energy into work, and collapse after. Weekends will be hard.

You will inwardly laugh when one of your students says, “You are just so happy! Are you ever NOT happy?” and you will respond honestly but simply, and say, “Sometimes I am happy, but sometimes I am mad or sad, too.”

You will remind yourself to eat, despite a lack of appetite.

You will go to new types of appointments and cry. You will cry a lot. You will realize your voice is flat. You will talk about events and memories. When she asks you if you want to process x, y, or z, you will laugh, and tell her, “No. So I guess we should.” You will realize that these appointments, this new methodology, might be the key to your lock.

You will start to have a few minutes, an hour, maybe even part of a day here and there when the tight compression in your chest lifts. When you notice that you can breathe. When you haven’t cried. When your voice is a little more sing-songy. When you can think about people and places and memories without waves of nausea and dread.

And then those moments will end.

You will feel a true acceptance of where you are, of what’s happening. You will understand that it was kind of inevitable. You’ll get that while it might not have happened this year, it would’ve happened eventually. You will trust that it can’t last forever. Eventually the waters will subside. Eventually the floods will stop.

And so you will just keep going, minute by minute, day by day.

Because there’s no other option.

And you remind yourself of your beloved poem that you post every solstice, and you take to heart the words:

So do not lose heart
when vision dims.
Journey forth
as best you can-
bloom when you are able,
rest when you must,
keep faith,
keep always
towards the light

Colored lights

Tonight in yoga, I attempted to focus on my breath, something that has been quite difficult for me lately. I tried to set an intention, as we were being guided to do, but I immediately got overwhelmed and tried to do it all: I wanted to breathe in courage and happiness and lightness and freedom and safety and so many more.

As I began to imagine my breath as these feelings, trying each one out and seeing how it felt in my body, colors took hold. And I initially found this surprising, as colors have continued to fail me over the last few months – but they appeared, slowly, gently, timidly.

I began to breathe in a sparkly, light blue light, that swirled around me for a round of breath. I sent it out on the exhale and a glistening pale green light took its place. Next came a deep, glittering red light. In and out the colors swept, washing over every cell in my body, exhaling the fear and doubt and confusion. I didn’t know what each color meant or represented, but it didn’t matter. My body thirstily drank in the magical, colorful lights for most of my practice. The colors matched my breath, healing me from the inside out, up the chakras, through the cells, breathing space and lightness deep inside, into the dusty and blocked off corners of my being.

When thoughts started to take hold of my brain, a gentle yellow light softly melted the thoughts away. When a muscle began to tense, a breath of orange softened it. When I forgot how to breathe deeply, a radiant indigo light opened me up. Wave after wave after wave. Focusing on them. Allowing them in.

Until my head was quiet.

Until my body was relaxed.

Until I had all of those intentions – courage, happiness, lightness, freedom, and safety, swirling inside of me – for a split second. And I grabbed it. Held it. Cherished it.

And breathed it out.

Knowing. Trusting. Believing.

It would be back.

The colors would be back.

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