How The Body Holds Grief: Part 1
I had a reiki session the other day with a practitioner that I'd never met before & who knew nothing about me other than what I told her. As part of the intake she asked me about my injuries & concerns. I related to her that my primary physical issue was in my left hip. It had fallen out of the socket in 2001. And I'd had more than a few relapses since then. I didn't get xrays at the time because even though I cried nonstop all the way to the doctors office 3 days later—which was the soonest I could get an appointment—all the time waiting in the reception room, and continuously throughout the exam because I was in that much pain; my PCP told me I wouldn't be able to see a specialist until 5 days later. Up until then, I'd viewed Chiropractic as nothing more than dangerous quackery (even though my ex-wife swore by it). But I was so desperate for professional relief from my pain that I sought out a Chiropractor when I left, made an appointment that day, shuffled in hunched over & walked out 15 minutes later upright & smiling. And So Began My Path Into Alternate Wellness.
About 10 years later I got an Xray from the Chiropractor I was seeing during one of my relapses (caused by using a strap-on of all things!) & my first thought upon viewing the images was "My God! How am I even able to walk?". The xray showed that my pelvis is skewed on two different axes.
I live in more or less a constant state of pain. My life has been impacted in all arenas by my hip & only a few things alleviate my pain. Some activities I've had to give up. Some I've had to modify. Some I have to figure out whether or not they'll limit my activities the next day & then choose or not choose to engage in them. Needless to say I have a lot of grief about this.
As the Reiki Practitioner laid her hands on my hip, I was overcome with sadness. At first I thought the grief was just about how my life had changed because of the injury, the new limitations & recurring pain. I began to feel like I needed her to hold more of my hip and asked her to move her hands further under me. And slowly my body gave up its secrets.
The original injury took place on a night that I spent having sex in a sling at a swingers club. I'd recently started having sex with men again after about 14 years of living as a lesbian. Part of my choosing to have sex with men again was because I still had physical needs but no longer had the bandwidth for emotional entanglements, and I tend to treat cishet¹ dudes as props: sex toys that don't need batteries.
I didn't have the bandwidth because I was still in the first year of mourning my Mother's really rapid death from her colon cancer recurrence. My mother was never really fully on board with my being a lesbian. She went through a bunch of the "stages of grief" around it: blaming herself, anger towards me, negotiation, and a kind of resigned acceptance. She was at my wedding to another woman, because in her words "No matter what, she's my daughter & this is her Big Day & of course I should be there", but she wasn't exactly ecstatic about it (she wasn't overtly displeased either, but Kate gave good Poker Face). In the end I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mother loved me, and not in a "hate the sin but love the sinner" kinda way. She would've just really really preferred I was straight, like she would've really really preferred I'd finished college, had a "good 'govment job'", equity in a house I owned, and that I wear sandals instead of engineer boots. But still, the truth hidden in my body was that I started fucking men again not because I authentically desired them, but in some kind of unconscious wish to please my dead mother. And my body carried a lot of sadness about it.
This was less than a week after the Pulse massacre so I was already sad. And I'd read a (hopefully fictional, please I hope it's fictional) meme about a survivor of the shooting desperately wanting his Mama during the shooting, and desperately wanting to hear her voice after & yet not being able to talk to his mother about that night because they both knew that she didn't want to acknowledge his gayness. So my grief about my physical limitations & pain got tied to my grief about losing my mother got tied to my grief that I knew she'd rather I was straight got tied to my grief about how grief makes you behave illogically got tied to grief about queers of color having to slice off part of their identities to keep their parents' love & it all got lodged in my hip.
The body lodges grief in that way, linking things together in ways our conscious mind cannot often follow.
To be continued...
¹cishet = a heterosexual who was agrees with the gender they were assigned at birth