I used to joke with my kids, rubbing my belly and saying, "This was your first home!" It went along with the way I parented: attachment parenting before it was popular, co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding. (I made some epic mistakes, too, but that's another post.)
I wanted what every parent wants: more for my kids than I had. The disconnect between my brain and my body began before I can remember and I'm still trying to knit the two together, like a lopsided Tim Burton character.
Trauma will do that to a person. In addition to my early sexual distresses, my sister and mother were having their own food and body image issues. When puberty made its awkward arrival, my role models were assuring me that thin thighs were the most valuable currency. Anorexia, bulimia, heroin addiction and sex work were my spectral sisters.
After my daughter was born, I exercised maniacally. I was keeping up my end of a deal I'd struck with my then-husband: if I lost weight, he'd quit drinking. It was also a result of nothing else to do besides parenting my daughter, as well as a manifestation of my depression. I biked ten miles every day, walked four miles daily, and lifted weights and practiced yoga. We were vegans without even realizing it as a result of a tiny food budget. I learned only that I enjoy movement, and that fruit is my favorite breakfast. It occurred to me that food might not be the enemy.
My new body annoyed the hell out of my mother.
People said surprising things to me, like, "If you get any thinner, we'll be able to see through you." I was startled by and grateful to the men in vehicles who honked and whistled.
It was a vague fear, and not the expected joy, that settled on me when I noticed my finally-thin-thighs. I felt...vulnerable and anxious. I couldn't put any cohesive thoughts together then: I only increased my exercise. Anything to expend the nervous reactive energy.
I struggled with mongamy--you can read about that here.
When my cheating escalated to a career as an escort, suddenly I had the money, time and justification for self-care. I delighted in having my nails done, my toenails attended to, and all the waxing at the refuge of the salon. The tanning bed was my sanctuary. Running five miles a day was required, because I had to look good for my WORK. My body and my appearance were something to control. My body was my tool and I operated it from the command of my brain.
The fact that I often cried when I ran remained a mystery to me.
When I left everything---ran away from my marriage and my home---I took my body with me. Then I found myself hiding in hallways at my new, "straight" job, gasping back inexplicable sobs. Suicide became my favorite fantasy, the one I fondled the most. When I reached out for help, a team of amazing therapists came to my rescue.
A lot of the healing happened in offices, sitting in chairs, talking, using my brain.
I wanted to move again. I wanted the grueling punishment of running in the dark and rain and snow. This was not recommended. I was growing uncomfortable in my softening body and disturbed to watch my muscle tone melting away.
No running. Dance.
I am clumsy and I don't like group exercise. But instead of shame, I was able to laugh when I misstepped or couldn't keep up.
I attended a workshop at Kripalu with Toni Bergins and Adam Sutton, on scholarship. I cried and I hid and I slept. I moved a little bit on a floating dance floor. I watched other people move.
I began attending Nia dance classes. I drew in my journal.
In February, I will go to Montreal and become certified as a Bellyfit instructor. Dance has landed me squarely in my body and does not allow the escape that running does. Dance has given me the fibers to begin to connect my mind to my body.
The world does not, to me, seem like a safe place. I was unable to name this constant, low-grade discomfort until I recently observed my daughter, now 22, and how easily she moves through life. For her, the world is a safe and manageable place. Her body is her own safe haven.
If I want to be comfortable in the world, I need to start at my foundation. I need to feel secure in my first home, my body. I need to understand that my body is not be a tool to used for others' approval and enjoyment. It's my own.
That's a new idea for me.