Much of my life was no picnic. I do believe that I am the creator of my life; therefore, I admit that I chose this particularly difficult path for myself. I lived most of my life in fear. Ironically, I wasn’t really aware of it being fear, because it was all I knew. What I now recognize as fear simply felt normal to me.
My step-father, who entered my life when I was about six years old, was a horribly abusive man. I distinctly remember the beating (square yardstick on bare skin, left welts) that I got one afternoon because I forgot to take the trash to the curb before I went to school. Another, his belt on my bare skin from low back to knees left bloody welts, just months after he married my mother. He punched me in the face and broke my nose one Christmas Eve, and broke the back of my head open throwing me across the room one sunny afternoon. Those are a few distinct memories; most of what he did just runs together. He wasn’t the only abusive one; my mother was just as bad in her own way, though she wasn’t as physically strong. I developed a relentless vigilance to their moods and whereabouts in an effort to keep myself safe. That coping mechanism of vigilance stayed long after I left their home.
I remember an incident in a boyfriend’s bedroom when I was in my early 20’s. We had been out to dinner, and were joyfully on our way to a romp in bed. He flamboyantly whipped off his belt, and I ducked into a defensive crouch next to the bed. A mood-killer, to say the least. Coping mechanisms that work for one situation do not always serve well in another. Coping mechanisms also attract people who can relate to them. For the same reasons he left, others who were abusive were attracted to me.
Changing my life required changing my beliefs. I started that arduous journey from victim to master of my own destiny. There are many along the way holding signposts for me, but only I can make the trek.
The most recent shift came while I was in the practice of yoga. I was deep in a pose and realized that the muscle I was attempting to lengthen was full of fear. Pulling harder was not going to release the fear. I became aware that this was not the only fear-full muscle. It felt as though my whole body knew only fear, and had been using it as a form of fuel. It literally felt like I was fueled by fear.
Our Yogini is very intuitive and spoke out, “Breathe into the muscle. Just be with it and let it relax.” I dropped back to a space of compassion and acceptance. As I acknowledged what I was feeling, and did not make it “wrong,” the muscle began to process. I could feel it exploring a space of trust. As I continued to breathe with it, it began to release the fear, and the pain went with it. I moved deeper into the stretch than ever before, and more fully into a space of acceptance.
I have long known that the body holds memory. It had not occurred to me how those memories might affect the body, other than tightness. So far, this is the most poignant experience I have had of letting stored memories go. It wasn’t a single memory… more like an emotional landfill. I’m still processing, and the process requires that I learn to use other forms of fuel. Thankfully, I’m ready.