If my body had a “presence” notification, like an iPhone does for weekly screen time, what percentage of the day would it show that I spend in my body versus lost in the ping-pong of my well-intentioned mind?
Stillness is illusive. For so long the present moment has felt scary, unproductive, unsafe, angsty and not stimulating enough. I am able to relax for a bit and then without consciousness, I am reacting on an impulse or a thought to text someone back or listen to a podcast or call or scroll or clean or…
Even the act of reading a book to my daughters can bring up some heaviness in my chest. Despite parts of me feeling unsafe in the present moment, stillness and embodiment are all I’m craving.
I recently began looking at the experience of my dad’s death from a trauma perspective and suddenly so many of my “symptoms” and shame-inducing triggers have started making sense. As my trauma coach nodded in affirmation and explained the nervous system in full detail, I cried tears of relief. She explained all about the different states, how we move up and down the ladder and how our bodies hold memories we don’t consciously understand. I am finally starting to pick apart and reframe the stale narrative that “something is wrong with me”.
My protective parts are holding me close, working to keep me safe while I do things that used to be simple or less turbulent before my dad died – like going to the grocery store, feeling big feelings, working out, being in big crowds of people, traveling alone, being alone, Ryan leaving on a work trip and so on.
Something about these experiences remind my protective self of a threatening time, an inkling of danger and she lights up my nervous system like a Christmas tree. She feels afraid, overwhelmed, helpless and out of control.
This loving part of me, she is so good at her job. Her memory is as excellent as an elephant’s. She will lay herself down in the middle of the road, throwing an epic tantrum to protect me from going down a path she perceives as unsafe.
She distracts me with fearful, looping thoughts or no words at all, only attention-grabbing sensations like dizziness, tingly hands, upset stomach, shallow breaths, tension, electric energy in my limbs, etc.
Not always, not everyday, but sometimes always and sometimes everyday, she gets looped into these same cycles of anxiety and fear, edging grief into trauma and PTSD, a different category all of its own.
Rather than automatically confronting my protector with frustration and shame, pushing her away, I am working on honoring her, nurturing her, and regulating her with words and somatic embodiment tools. Showing her that we are safe and that I will never leave her side. Proving to her that we are resourceful and can handle whatever comes our way. Giving her validation for how big she feels.
And without lingering or getting lost in the feelings for too long, I come back home to the present moment, to my body, to God. I try and fail and succeed all throughout the day. And I think that’s what it means to be healing.
When she is resting and well cared for, when my protector has left her fighting hands to rest, I can so vividly see and feel my softer, true essence, like a ribbon of silk and love, patiently waiting to come out and play. Everything flows. A grand canyon of peace, rivers, hot air balloons, blue skies and lush trees. An entire expanse of truth and beauty.
Of all the places we could travel, through the depths of the Earth, the present moment is the place with all the answers, all the secrets, all the peace; the most mystical state of all.
The owl calling in the middle of the night tells me so. Answered prayers in the quiet meditation of a rosary. Song lyrics appearing during a contemplative shower: “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die”.
Thank you for protecting me. I have permission to live in the present moment and not figure it all out. Everything is right with me. Right here and now.
I pause for a moment as I write this. Here I am today. Sitting in my tiny office decorated with everything that I love, looking out at the eucalyptus trees, my feet folded beneath me. I am remembering that while these words reflect my hardest and darkest points, I am still laughing, singing, dancing, running and connecting with friends. Depending on the moment or the day, these words about my suffering and challenges are either too much or not enough. This feels important to say.
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)” – Walt Whitman