I spent a lot of time yesterday reading a weird book called The Tapping Solution by Jessica Ortner. Not that I'm totally sold on the whole concept, but I am reading it as a way to try to understand my own motivations and beliefs, and it's been pretty helpful... and painful.
So, anyway, I was depressed yesterday because the scale has ticked up again and is stuck. I'm tired and frustrated. In one of the meditations she offers, Ortner talks about the scale and how we allow it to be the thing that tells us whether we are going to have a good day. She explains that the scale was not something that anyone even had access to a hundred years ago. Bathroom scales didn't come into wide usage until the middle of the 20th century. And here they are, these petty dictators that dominate our bathrooms and our imaginations. This led to a discussion of the beliefs we allow to limit us.
So, that's the background. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I started to think about my own limiting beliefs. Several things popped into my drowsy mind and electrified me. One of my beliefs was "I don't feel safe in my body." And another one was "My body is not a prison." This led me to think about my earliest experiences of my body -- THE BODY CAST. I've written about it here and here. Even though I don't remember it, how frustrating must it have been for a baby, at a crucial stage of motor development, to be completely encased in plaster from mid-chest to mid-calf. I remember my own children at that stage and their constant movement. I look at my niece and nephew who are about 18 months old now -- they are constantly in motion. Could this be why frustration seems to be my base emotional state? Really interesting.
While I would say that most of my childhood and adulthood was pretty normal, given the way things started, there are several things that have stuck in my mind and maybe have played too prominent a role in setting me up for all the "I Can't" stuff.
- When I was sort of mid-childhood, I "caught a virus" in my hip. I have no idea what that means, if it's possible, or if I am misremembering what actually happened. (What do you know.) What I DO remember is that I was not allowed to walk for what felt like forever (probably a week or ten days). I could come down the stairs (on my backside) in the morning, go to the couch and lie down, and stay there all day. In the evening, I could go up to bed. I could get up to use the bathroom. That's it. Incredibly boring. I mean, really awful. I remember it so clearly because I was allowed to eat in the living room, something that was off limits in our house, and because my beloved godmother took pity on me and brought my older cousin, B., up to our house in the middle of the day one day (I don't know whether she took him out of school or whether he was off anyway), and he played Scrabble with me. And let me win. He was so sweet -- playing board games with a 9 or 10 year old cousin when you are a pre-teen boy is probably not high on your list of "want-to-do's", but he was so nice to me. And I appreciate it to this day!
- On our road, an older girl lived in an old farmhouse. There was a root cellar built into the earth -- on the back, it was low to the ground, while it was high off the ground in front. One day, all the kids took turns jumping off the front of the root cellar, a drop of probably 8 or 10 feet. It was so much fun -- thrilling, even. I remember how angry my mother was that I had done that -- not angry at my sisters -- just angry at me. I couldn't understand why I was in trouble and they weren't. There was a similar incident with our middle school bus stop. Funny -- what's with country kids and jumping off of structures?
There are a couple of other things similar, but that's pretty interesting to me.
When I was thinking, "I don't feel safe in my body," that was pretty interesting too. I was thinking in particular of the terrible fall I took a few years ago when I dislocated my knee so painfully. It was really scary because my body just sort of turned against me and it took me so long to recover and get strong. It has made me really fearful of common things, although I was so happy to find myself stepping into and out of the baby pool easily and without fear, so I guess that is progress.
As I was thinking about these things, I thought also about how I could reframe these issues:
-- instead of "my body is not a prison," I considered all the amazing things that this body has allowed me to experience. I've looked at the Sistine Chapel, smelled the salt off the Irish Sea, heard the Poor Clares singing in Assisi, tasted food so good I wanted to lick the plate, felt my babies moving inside me. I've spent hours walking in cities that I loved. I've heard music that has made my heart sing. I've seen beautiful works of art and natural scenes that bring peace to my heart. I have felt my husband's touch and heard his laughter and seen his smile. So this body isn't so bad at all, is it? Thank God for it.
-- instead of "I don't feel safe in my body," I could try a little tenderness. For that baby encased in plaster. For that child stuck on a couch while her sisters got to run around and play. For the young girl who never felt good enough. For the young woman who had so dissociated her brain from her body that it was kind of pathetic. For the middle-aged woman who just won't give up already. For the old woman who I'll become who needs me to be healthy now. So have some frickin' compassion already.
It's a start.