For me, for the people I come from, it’s Xmas Eve today. I’m not with them, but I’m remembering. I’m remembering how excited I used to get about what presents I’d be receiving the next morning (after having gone through the huge Sears catalog and cut out the pictures of the toys I wanted; my sister and I would create enormous lists for Santa on pages and pages of printer paper that my dad brought home from work (remember when the paper was all connected in perforated section? Yeah, that paper.), about preparing the plate for Santa (with carrots for the reindeer and cutout sugar cookies that we’d frosted and decorated for Santa himself — Santa always left us a note thanking us for our generosity, telling us how tasty the cookies were and how much the reindeer appreciated the treat; I learned the truth, I think, when I began to recognize my dad’s handwriting), about getting to go see whichever cousins we’d see that year, on my mom’s side or my dad’s side. There was something in this time of year (for awhile, at least) that made room for being excited about being excited, getting to live in anticipation (however painful!). I miss that big anticipation sometimes.
Now, though, I get excited about being in my home, about baking for others, about getting to share something new with someone who will appreciate it, about getting to reflect on the accomplishments and struggles of the last year, about connecting with cousins again (even just through xmas cards, it’s still a big deal).
Much doesn’t change at this time of year the way that I thought it did when I was very small: everyone doesn’t start loving each other. Wars are still waging. People are still killing one another. Many families, many many kids, will not be safe tonight, or tomorrow, on the big holy day, even in the supposed holy places (and I mean in the world, and on their bodies). Unbridled consumption isn’t saving our country or our communities.
Bring it to the page, if you can: all that loss and celebration, all of our complexity, our beauty and our horror, your feelings about it all.
As a part of this project I’ve taken on, to be more fully in my body, I went yesterday for a first appointment with a somatic therapist (let’s call it a project and not just self care — these are the ways that I trick myself into being kind to myself). All I know about somatic therapy I learned from Staci Hanes’ Healing Sex, so I was kind of surprised not to find a table in the room, where I would lay myself during the session, so that the therapist could put her hands on me while I spoke to bring awareness to places in my body where I was holding emotion. No, it was a regular therapy room: peaceful, calming, muted colors.
The difference, though, was that as I shared my story, the bits that can be shared during a first meeting, she asked me to be aware of my body — what’s happening in my body, how am I holding my body, where is there energy? It was a powerful shift. When she asked about my nervous system, whether it knew that I/we’re safe now, I turned some attention to that rage of energy running (through) me, and I burst almost instantly into tears: no build up, very much like I think/remember a kid would. Scared kinds of tears, electric. Wow — I guess it had something to tell me. Maybe we don’t know that, here all these years and all this work later.
Somatic work feels important now, powerful and terrifying, too, because it’s unconscious, the body, or sort of of a different conscious than the verbal-linguistic one I’m so comfortable with. I talk about it here not out of a place of exhibitionism but because I know I’m not the only one who feels outside of her skin and yet, too, like she didn’t dissociate, didn’t leave her body, because she never had the experience of being up in a corner of the room, watching myself act (or be acted upon) from far away — because I never lost time (except in alcoholic blackouts). But there are so many ways to leave the body, aren’t there? And there are many ways to come back. One of the ways I come back, invite myself back, is through writing — and now, maybe, through mindfulness, paying attention to how this body is feeling and then taking action (responding) based on that attention, based on the information my body holds and shares. Just imagine.
Be easy with you, as best you can, over these days of this holidaytime, this holiday that has its roots in an ancient tradition of welcoming not the Son but the Sun: yes, hello, light. Welcome back. Thank you.