As Small as I Am
Last night, I attended a workshop called “Embodying the Muse: Where Creativity and Spiritual Awakening Converge.” We had an intimate group, and my anxiety was definitely present even though I know that engaging, listening, and connecting to the body are key activities in creativity, in letting go of hyper-vigilance. I even talk about this in my classes.
In fact, here’s something I wrote last week for an online course:
I think part of the problem lies with Descartes’ famous statement: “I think, therefore, I am.” To me, this radical demarcation between thought and the knowledge of the body has emphasized the power and privilege of thought rather than giving us all, and writers in particular, a place to explore and connect with the knowledge of the body. Put another way, our stories come through our lived experiences, the sounds, smells, tastes, touches, sights we have gone through – the visceral is our most direct route to the stories, poems, plays we’d like to write.
I believe this to be true, but to dive into my own viscerality, to actually experience my body’s knowledge, awkwardness, and fear—that’s another matter. It’s not just being vulnerable, which is HUGE, but there’s some class anxiety as well. I think I’ll dive into the relationship between class anxiety and body work in another post – there’s plenty to explore.
In essence, the workshop was incredibly profound (yes, I did the exercises despite my reluctance) – and the insight that rides forefront today comes from the idea that I get to be as big as I am. I’m guessing for many people, this concept is about taking up space, inviting all the different aspects of themselves into their everyday, but for me, this idea connects to my first memory:
My father is on top of my mother, hitting her. We’re all in the kitchen; she’s under him and my brother and sisters are yelling for him to stop. Me? I’m tucked into a corner, maybe trying to look away.
Ever since that night, I’ve been told I was the weak one—skittish like a badly broken horse. In a hard scrabble existence, I became known as the delicate child, prone to stomach aches and tears.
Last night, I was able to let myself, through time, let that three-year-old be as small as she was – she didn’t need to be bigger than those few days under her belt. She gets to be tiny, frightened, confused. Not pretending that she’s bigger than she actually was will allow me to relax a little, let me soften into what my body was communicating to me in that moment. I was little, I was scared, and if I acknowledge that, maybe I can now be bigger and less scared. Like relaxing a half-tensed muscle by finally engaging it fully, a fuller self can greet each day, both as big and as small as I am.