This morning I wrote into the fog of the day with this tea, this candle, these fingers on the keyboard. I’ve been writing this post all day, needing breaks to stretch, to walk, to nap. Maybe eventually I’ll get it done enough to share.
The pain in my back flared up again after I got back from Atlanta. I was worried about traveling, afraid that something would torque badly when I lifted my bag into an overhead bin or sat for so long in one position on the plane. Overall, though, my back seemed to be at ease when I was back east, and did not complain the way it is now. Could there be something about being back in Oakland, in the space I am creating for my writing work, that’s sparking this renewed spasming?
It’s no accident that the pain is where it is just at this point in my life, although I don’t think it’s all psychosomatic. I spent my adolescence treating all pain and sickness as though it was a symptom, and had no basis in my physical reality — a good way for an abuser to keep his victims out from beneath the eyes of people who might have seen something alarming and been able to take action.
Yet, I’m aware that there’s a psychic or psychological component to any illness or pain. The pain I have now radiates out from my sacrum — I looked at that word this morning and finally saw within it the word ‘sacred.’ When I look up ‘sacrum,’ I find this: “ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from Latin os sacrum, translation of Greek hieron osteon ‘sacred bone’ (from the belief that the soul resides in it).”
The soul resides in it.
Then, in between walking around my apartment to loosen up my back, I read about the sacral chakra, our second chakra, which resides just at our center: “The ancient Sanskrit word for this chakra is Svadhisthana meaning ‘sacred home of the self.’” The author of this website tells me that the second chakra holds energy around everything that’s up for me in my life right now: making change, allowing flow, creativity, control, relationships, dreams and manifestation.
The wikipedia page for the Swadhistana (or sacral/spleenic) chakra translates ‘Swadhistana’ as “One’s own abode.” And look at me at this place in my life, finally trying to make home for the most painful stories, for the work that I believe in, for this good and fragile body.
I have a strong visual of this pain is as something new and persistent trying to break through my substrata, as a seedling unseats solid rock in its push toward the sun. I am feeling tight right now and the words aren’t coming. I don’t want to breathe or flow. I want to stay locked. Locked is how I know safe. This struggle toward words, struggle in my body, feels like a physical manifestation of a conflict emerging in my novel right now: a character has a part of themselves ready to open, and the part that has stayed closed for decades in order to protect them is wildly resistant, doing everything it can to keep them held in tight, keep them in the cocoon, the exoskeleton, the carapace, the safe and shelled place.
I told my sweetheart over this weekend that I believed my anger lived beneath the bedrock of me. Part of this back pain is that good and necessary anger in its natural desire to flow and release, finally breaking through the foundations of me and seeking freedom. We can’t keep all the old feelings locked away forever, the grief and sorrow, the thwarted joy, the need — but I keep trying. Earlier this year, I experienced this breaking in a completely different form, had a sense of release that still necessitated a breaking away from nearly all of my known life structures. Now it’s my inside structures that are stretching, splintering.
And today I realize (again, again) that I can’t write this book alone, I can’t muscle through the generation of difficult tellings, I can’t sit myself in front of the computer and write into agonizing interactions and memory with no break. Because it’s all break right now — break and brake. With no braking, I fall away from the book completely. My body, the vessel for this book’s emergence, needs tending to during this process: acupuncture, massage, maybe a chiropractor. There are stories emerging from this sacral bowl, and I both want to hear them and am also as wildly resistant as my book’s character. Haven’t I listened enough? Can’t I just watch some tv now?
This pain brings my attention directly and specifically into the bowl of me, the place of my own crucible-ing. It also brings me into my bones and musculature — as this spasm continues around my sacrum, it’s harder for my hips to open, harder for my legs to swing freely — and harder to breathe.
I both resist and welcome this awareness. I think, maybe this is my work right now: writing my book, and learning what forty (and what nineteen years of trauma recovery) means for my body. How can this be my work?
So I break. Write, then take the dog for a walk, fold down on the floor for some stretching, I get quiet, I write more. I’m making very few plans with people these days — I need space for these stories to emerge, these feelings, the loss and the gain.
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I don’t have a prompt today. Maybe this: consider the possibility that your (or your character’s) body is sacred — that places of pain or struggle in your body are sacred. That the trigger points and parts you want to ignore are sacred. That the knowledge your body holds is sacred. What emerges for you as you read these lines? What’s your first response? What do you want your response to be? take just a few minutes — eight, let’s say — and start with the phrase “You say my body is sacred…” Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go. Keep writing if you reach the end of those 8 minutes are you are in a flow.
Thank you for the spaciousness and possibility you hold around your own sacred body, around the sacred bodies of others. Thank you for your good and necessary words.