All the Energy
"Nobody Passes," Make/shift, Fall/Winter 2013
A realization: an investigation. How hard it is to eat, still. How all the energy goes to my head, chin lifts and head leans back, throat closing, eyes up and away. And then when I think about it I just feel so sad: how it’s still so hard to stay in my body. I try the breathing awareness practice from somatic therapy but it’s too exhausting to do that all the time. So I try to focus on one or two things, the feeling of my feet on the ground or the weight of my pelvis on the chair or just breathing into the back of my neck and that’s what makes the chin lower, but then right away it’s back up.
When does Nathan ask if he was behind me, my father, how do we get to this place where I’m a little kid I’m trying to speak I know what I want to say but I can’t until I start and then I’m sobbing sobbing sobbing so much sobbing on the phone just from breathing into the right places, the places in my body where everything gets stuck, sobbing on the floor of the bedroom in the place where I’m staying in L.A. on my book tour, sobbing during this phone therapy session where I say: When we were playing and I was in his lap and I felt safe and that’s when he raped me.
And: What’s the point of feeling safe if that’s what always happens?
Another phone session, today: talking about when I was a hooker and sometimes I would go to a trick feeling so exhausted but somehow during the sex I would go deep into my body, out of my head, right, out of my head where now I’m realizing I mostly reside, still, after all these years of trying, trying not just to be in my head but then here I am again.
And when I would leave those tricks, sometimes I would walk outside into the air suddenly so fresh and filled with possibility. Or, rushing into a cab on the way there thinking how, how am I going to do it? And then afterwards, another cab, looking out the window at the buildings and rain and thinking oh, I finally feel okay.
What was there in that transformation and then I look up at a bottle of something on the top of the refrigerator in the place where I’m staying in San Francisco and it’s some kind of oil or vinegar with specks of something sticking to the side and suddenly there’s that flashback feeling in my head, but what is it? Dead bodies, guts, blood, why now?
And I still don’t know, exactly. But, by the end of the session, I can go up close and read the ingredients: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, canola oil, roasted garlic. Garlic—it’s just garlic.
How to be able to talk about these memories, everything, how to talk about it all I figured out long ago but how to talk about it all while remaining present in body not just head, feeling it without going to a place of re-traumatization. As a kid I needed to live in my head, this was the only way I could survive, but now, what about now? Somehow we get to the comforter I had as a kid, all the animals that were my friends: the giraffe so tall it saw everything and no one could touch it, those cute hippos playing in the water, friendly alligators, the mice under my bed and everyone gets along. They know what is happening; I don’t have to explain; I don’t have to pretend that I’m okay.
When I went back to that house after years away I looked for that comforter, the one with all the animals, but my mother had thrown it out. So I eat, and then I feel horrible, but a few minutes later I have to eat again. Not even thinking about it, just eating, and feeling horrible, trying to stop but unable because I’m hungry, or I think I’m hungry, and what is hunger? A feeling in my head. And how the moments when I feel best are generally when I’ve gone the longest without eating, but then that comes to an end so soon as my brain races and then crashes and I think that eating will balance my blood sugar, right? But it so rarely balances anything.
So what drives me to eat more, more when I already feel awful, bloating pushing my guts forward if it doesn’t happen now it will happen later, no matter what, no matter what it will happen later, maybe in bed or maybe before and in any case it will ruin my sleep leave me yearning for more.
So I thought I was done eating, but here I am again, sitting at the table, chewing on something, what is it, I don’t even taste it, why, why am I eating? That frantic push to eat enough but why, why if it doesn’t make me feel better, why if I don’t even taste it, what is it. Pay attention to the texture, that’s what I was thinking. But then this awareness fades so fast. Like the way my head immediately leans back again and what would it mean to feel nourished, full of something other than pain and discomfort? After so many years of focusing so much on my health and feeling this way anyway.
And then my head closes off: I’m trying to think, trying to write about this, this food, this eating, this terrible place in my head, closing off, just when I’m getting into the flow of writing, thinking, and then where, where again, what, what was I writing, who, who is this, what, what am I except this fog and pain I’ve been investigating and treating for almost twenty years, really, and now this awareness that it’s so hard to stay present in my body while I’m eating, that when I try it just makes me feel angry and stuck and hopeless and I’d like to think that this discomfort will lead to comfort but oh I’ve been trying for so long.