'You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves'.*
You know those awful scenes in films where someone is being absolutely brutal to an animal....one that comes to mind is a man flogging a horse that can't get up. I only mention this scene of horror to clearly illustrate what I have been saying and doing to this body of mine for as long as I can remember. That is how cruel and full on the yelling, berating and abusing has been in my head. I have screamed at it to 'GET UP. JUST FUCKING MOVE' but it's just continues to sit there. I've pulled its fingernails out, slowly, from the bottom up. I've gouged and bitten out chunks of skin. I've drowned it in alcohol. I've not let it sleep when it needed to, not let it eat when it was hungry. You'd think I was trying to make chocolate pate from the amount of the stuff I've shoved down my gullet. I've sat there quietly while it was raped many times. I've steeped it in a foul cocktail of chemicals for hours whilst imagining and reliving horrors....my own and others'.
I'm clear now that none of this was my fault, all trauma-related. I've known that it's not ok to do it either but I haven't been able to stop. Something is definitely changing though. The psychologist I see suggested a while back that, every now and then, when I think of it, I just put my hand over my heart...simple as that. It seemed like a waste of time but I've been doing it.
I had a dentist appointment the other day. They're scary for me at the best of times. But the lines of this poem were swirling around in my head and, before I went in, I found I was saying TO MY BODY, kind words! I was telling it 'I know you've had bad experiences at the dentist and I'm sorry about that. This needs to be done and it won't take long. You will be all right. You're safe.' And I WAS all right. The dentist, who specialises in seeing people with severe trauma, remarked on how different I was this time....even after she accidentally gave me an anaesthetic with adrenalin in it and I had to ride out a 'simulated panic attack' right there in the chair!
I've heard for years about talking kindly to your inner child. It's never worked for me, I can't hitch it on to anything, it pings around like a bullet in a metal bucket (well, that's probably only in cartoons, where most of my knowledge of physics comes from). But, when I got home from the dentist, I started noticing how I talk to my daughter, the kind words I use. And then I started noticing how I talk to my dogs, I greet them kindly and am very warm with them. For the first time in my life, I thought, 'I can talk to the soft animal of MY body like this'. And that's what I've been experimenting with since then. I've also made the commitment to a half hour massage once a week. I stay sitting up and fully clothed and it's head, neck and shoulders. Nothing to trigger me. They're used to me crying every time now and give me tissues up front. I assure them it's ok, it's crying in a good way. There's a spot on my back, between my shoulder blades, that releases tears every time.
Driving home from there today, I was reflecting on our dog, Buffy, whom we brought home from the pound last year. She was very overweight and now she's not. I was thinking how I just loved her from the start, I was never mean or cruel to her because of it, never teased her about it and yet that's how I've been with myself. There was an incident when I was five years old where I was on a stage in front of a crowd and was the only one who didn't receive a prize as my parents didn't realise they were supposed to provide it. My child-mind linked that to being laughingly told I was 'chubby' and the 'sugarplum fairy' and I believed there was a reason I missed out, was not deserving and it was because I was fat. My disgrace was on show for the world to see. It didn't enter my head to discuss this with anyone, ever. Too shameful. Until now.
I'm deciding to be as nice to me as I am to my dog.
So, although I'm not yet at the stage of knowing much about what 'the soft animal of my body loves', I do know that it loves and responds to kindness and I'm going to keep heading in that direction.
* For the whole poem by Mary Oliver, called 'Wild Geese', go here: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/geese/geese.html