Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blow-up

In my dream last night, I needed help from three people who all had blue skin. I was in pain, and I needed them to help me with my pain. Their skin color was something they could control, and I needed them to have blue skin. Like Shiva the Destroyer.
he cuts quite a form, eh?
I woke wondering if I should wrap myself in blue today, if I should change the sheets on the bed so they match.

I am in pain. I've been avoiding writing about it here, because frankly I'm not sure if this is as safe a space for me as it used to be. While I'm not afraid to put myself out here, I think that there are one or two people skulking about here who shouldn't be. (hence the post about online privacy.) Still ex-boyfriends or former friends or estranged relatives aside, it takes time to be vulnerable, right? So right, I'm in pain. After the blue-skinned-people dream evaporated, I was left thinking of Shiva, and of healing. Impossible to think of the god of destruction as a healing force, right? And still, this is where I am: when a thing is destroyed (think a storm-ravaged region, a meaningful relationship), we often feel great sadness. What about all the good times, what about all the memories and talismans and loved things? We can never have that again!

But this impermanence is the nature of life, right? We can't actually have these things for all our lives. Our homes, our towns, our relationships, even our bodies, are aging, transient; they wear out, they change, they atrophy. All we can do is care for them and hope that the care we provide is helpful.

a sculpture wing is under construction at the Art Institute. When we were there, the sculptures looked huddled and strained underneath plastic tarps. Strange draping.
So what I've been thinking this morning is that healing is quite painful work. I've surrounded myself with all the resources I need to heal--good nutrition, a mighty and amazing (!) network of loved ones to support me, lots of time, and good care from the medical community (that includes decent painkillers)--but still, there is a fair amount of hurting to do as my body knits itself back together. I have lots of limitations:

  • I can't kick down on my mat and sun salute myself into a better mood, or vinyasa my way into a writing solution, or even sit cross-legged for meditation. I feel the sting of this limitation quite a lot. My practice has changed, for the foreseeable future, in a big way.
  • I can't move as fast as I sometimes want to.
  • I can't work for very long. I can't do anything--but rest--for very long.
But what I can do is witness. Because I am grounded, forced to be slow and quiet and take my time, I can really tune in to what's happening in my body. This is perhaps a gift of destruction: when you break a thing into pieces, you can either move on to another place and time and start fresh, or you can start fresh there. You can wait for ashes to nourish the soil, and see what wants to grow next.

Maybe two years ago, I began a break-up of two of the most formative relationships I've ever known. I didn't know at the time that I would be breaking up with my parents; I only thought I wanted to change the dynamic of how we relate to one another. But that's the way relationships go, right? One person says, this isn't good for me anymore, and the other person says this isn't my fault, what's wrong with you, and despite everyone's best efforts (or not) to avoid blame or defensiveness or name-calling or ugliness, the whole thing gets very ugly and then it's over, blown to smithereens. That's how I felt: like my relationship with the two people who were most responsible for making me the citizen I am was suddenly and thoroughly blown to shit.

For a while that injury really hurt. For a while it defined me. I was Girl Estranged From Her Parents: it was the lens through which I saw the world, and it colored absolutely everything I did, said and saw. That healing was so difficult--lots of people didn't understand, and I was aching, just aching inside. You know, after you get hurt, you try to set yourself right, so that when your body heals, everything still works--my bones were set pretty well, but man was I hurting. The healing was painful, but I had to feel the pain in order to heal. There were painkillers for the soul that I could have taken, and I probably did sometimes, but not enough to stop the hurting. 

But no more: I'm healed now. It doesn't hurt anymore. I'm no longer defined by this break-up; now it's just a thing that happened to me. college-grad, first tattoo at 25, broke up with parents, started yoga at 19, got married, went to Hawai'i, stopped eating animals, painted nails purple, had a dream about people with blue skin.

So today I'm in a new kind of pain, with a new kind of healing. And it hurts, because healing is bloody, complicated work. It takes all of your energy. This is my point: you have to feel the pain in order to heal. Things can only grow after the healing happens, and the healing only happens when you let it hurt. If you're trying to avoid or skirt around or deny or downplay the pain, then you aren't healing, you're lying. Healing is painful because it has to be. Once the pain is done, it's done, but you aren't healed until you feel it. 

The good news about destruction is that after Shiva has blown a thing to shit, then a new and wonderful thing can be made. This doesn't give me hope for restoration of what was, but it does give me joy for what may be.Destruction allows for new beginnings (writing that just makes me want to put my Ganesha t-shirt on. Yogis, does Ganesha have his own pose?)

I believe in the pain of healing as integral to recovery from any injury--physical, psychic, emotional, relational. I believe that destruction can make way for beauty and power and goodness--but you can't avoid feeling the pain. 

Also, Emily Dickinson. I was thinking on this, and she kept echoing in my head.

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

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