At the end of the month I'll be getting back on the Rolfing table for another three series of advanced work. Every summer I return to walk through whatever experience is waiting for me...to journey into the unknown as my Rolfer, Tony, and I endeavor to allow my body to integrate the past year and take it to the next level. When I had my initial ten-series in 1998, I was so anxious about what might happen physically or emotionally, I threw up before nearly every session. Fifteen years and countless sessions later, I've learned to just go with it.
The work might hit a trigger point -- and it usually always does -- but I've lived through enough of the benefits to just keep going. Keep breathing. Keep striving to move through whatever pain might be in the moment on my way to letting go of compression or tightness that no longer serves me.
We all have trigger points. Some people keep them hidden, some wear them on their sleeves. Some cover them up with work or cyclic relationships. Others choose to numb out and walk away. I've embodied every single one of these choices, and while most of my behavior in my teens and twenties was unconscious, since I started practicing yoga shortly after my thirtieth birthday, what was once in shadow has now come to light.
An article in a June issue of The New Yorker discusses the reality that books are now being labeled with "trigger warnings" to alert readers to scenes of violence, racism, abuse, and the like. The idea is to prepare a person who might be struggling with PTSD or other psychological challenges to not get triggered into memories of their own experiences. As someone who was triggered plenty during the early stages of my own recovery, I poured a lot of my own process into the characters I wrote about in my novels. So while they are not autobiographical in the literal sense, they are infused with the feelings I had to endure while walking through a life that often seemed like an emotional minefield. There were no warnings in my life...nor in yours I might imagine. But can there always be? I had to tiptoe around a lot of stuff, but often found myself blown apart by things I could not control.
Even now it's still an ongoing challenge.
On a mundane level, there are some things that come through my Facebook news feed that I'd like to erase from my memory. I wish I could "unsee" what was posted...but of course, I can't. So I take care of the issue myself and "unfollow" anyone who's posted something that I'd never want a child to see if I happen to be using a public computer at the library. But that involves someone else's choices...someone else's idea of what's funny or informative or just plain entertaining.
But what if I clearly make the choice to push on a bruise to see if it still hurts?
During the last edit of COMMON THREADS, I was working my way through a very difficult scene in which the main character has to confront many issues from her past that were intersecting in an intense moment in time. Wanting to make sure I had written her emotional response in a way that felt real, I thought about an issue from my past that once had the power to cut me off at the knees.
Why don't you hit that trigger point again, Katie? I thought.
Now...there's a fine line between self-flagellation and self-awareness and I've meandered back and forth across it many times in the healing of this particular old wound. But this time, however, I felt grounded enough to look under the bed and see if any more monsters were lurking there.
A few taps on the keyboard and up popped images I'd seen before. Images I wrote about in the blog, "I did a bad, bad thing." Images that surprisingly made me smile with delight this time around.
Of course, in that exact instant, the phone rang.
"What are you doing?" my friend, Lisa, asked.
I told her about the photos, then laughed, "I thought I was going to burst into tears, but all I can do is appreciate how very far I've come this year. How much I've let go of and how thankful I am that this doesn't hurt me now."
I'm not one to dwell in the past...not anymore. And while I do know that any pain I'm encountering may be linked to events long over, I'm not afraid to push on those triggers. How many of us have had a massage and said something to the effect of, "Oh...that hurts...but it's a good hurt."
In sitting with my pain, in accepting it for what it is, in not allowing it to overwhelm me, I can learn from it. I can practice patience and tolerance. I can find ways that allow the pain to speak through my experience and not get lodged somewhere in my body where I feel I have to protect it as part of "my story." I've figured out that to heal means I let go of the old narratives that keep me tied to my pain and tethered to an existence that no longer jives with who I am today.
Last Friday was a banner day for my trigger points...although I didn't know it at the time. "Only in Katie's world," Lisa said afterward. And I had to agree...but had the warning signs been there, I'm not sure I would have responded in the same way. But in the end, I'm thankful for it all.
Early in the morning, while I was waiting to be interviewed at a local news station, someone walked by that reminded me of a several people from my past -- people who unconsciously and completely squashed my sense of self. Later that day I walked right into a situation that reminded me of the sketchy boundaries I sometimes experienced at Esalen and the uneasiness that I was left to deal with in the aftermath. And then in the evening, I got wind of news about a man from the distant past (someone I had ironically been thinking about last week) that turned my head around. He had pushed on some serious bruises when we met, but allowed me to look at an issue that has since turned itself inside out.
In feeling triggered and not allowing myself to recoil from events that I had not anticipated, I'm grateful to keep going into those places that may look like shadow, but often are simply hidden from my awareness. In walking hand in hand with my friends, with my yoga students, and with myself, I can continue walking forward into light.
Perhaps the words I wrote at the end of my memoir say it best...
(Now) I celebrate the open road before me...
the beginning of a new life that I trust will be filled with peace and love and joy.
This is a life worth working for.
A life worth healing for.
A life worth waiting for.