“What does the body hold? And where?” my poet friend offered to the room as she read her free write exercise. I listened, thought deeply. In the privacy of my journal, later, I added, “How does the body release? And when?”.
I’ve always been concerned about the body, and it’s uncompromising betrayal. I’ve got a chronic illness, though only realized and recognized it until recently. I’ve put language to it over the years, sometimes unable to shake that our lives–bodies especially–can be countdowns to explosion.
This week I was hit with news about two important people in my life. One was diagnosed with depression. The other with breast cancer. I handled both differently. And both were strong punches to my stomach.
Stress, anxiety, and fear sit on my shoulders. They pinch my shoulders skyward to my ears, and make their way to my stomach. I’m hunched, horseshoe-like, when I’m not well. My back cries for a thick-straight spine. This is where my body holds things I can’t decipher, or choose not to decipher. It was no different this last week. When my back hurts, I know there’s something itching to release.
I thought of how I could be more present for C. Her depression has called on her to retreat from people, think incessantly about the purpose of her life, and eat irregularly. My reaction was concerned, fearful, and understanding that I’d need to be stronger, energetic, and positive, which I’m not use to being. I promised to be a positive source of energy for her, though. She’s been that for me, selflessly, perhaps ignoring her own needs, for years.
She shared that perhaps the depression was a result of holding so much. Fears, anxieties, and traumas. When her stomach couldn’t hold them anymore, she looked to release them by way of communicating to close friends. She spiraled into more confusion, exploding into a newfound feeling of uncertainty. It seemed like all questions had no answers. Work, relationships, and plans for the future. I’m learning that the body has a capacity for what it can hold. And as much as I want this to be a piece about answers, I don’t have any resolutions to give.
A few days after this conversation with C, a relative mentioned that he needed to share some news with me. I learned from him that R has spots across her chest, with one reaching the size of a grapefruit. I couldn’t fill the room with any words at that moment. I stood still. R is perhaps the most selfless, determined person I know. Always chucking up a smile and working long hours. A single mom. And always on the go. I wondered how this could happen to R. How something so nasty could claim her body. I was reminded of how ignoring the body functions as an indirect way of holding. Not to say R did this, but what if she did. Again, no answers.
My reaction to this was, in the only way I can describe it, numb. I think I’m still in shock. I think I’m choosing not to think deeply about it because I know it’ll carry me into excessive worry. It’ll be a long process for R, putting her body through hell to release this cancer. Close friends and relatives have shown their support. In their voices, body language, too, I can see they’re holding a lot of pain and concern.
The truth about when things will improve, sometimes, is unapologetic. Releases can be quiet explosions, unrealized. Big grapefruits, too, in an instant. I’m learning to not be afraid to turn inward, acknowledge my pain–my family’s pain, too. What keeps me moving is knowing that the body is a regenerative powerhouse. Not the case for everyone. But as much as I fear the body, I also trust the body. And I know C and R will fight this–win.