It was a crisp fall day in October, I took the same route home from high school I always took. I distinctly remember the sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet as I walked, the sun on my face and the cool air brushing my skin. That day was not an “ordinary” day, but then again, I had not lived an ordinary life.
I remember walking up to the house, what we called “the house in town” – I don’t remember who was there or what words were spoken, all I remember is sheer, gut wrenching pain in my stomach, the inability to take in a full breath and a feeling of being out of my body, watching the scene unfold like a movie in slow motion and I was one of the characters. Maybe I screamed, I know I cried, a hysterical cry…
“Chato is dead.”
My father died of a drug overdose – a lethal injection of drugs into his veins. We had a fight that night. I told him I was disgusted by him, that I hated him. He called me an “ungrateful bitch”. He left to “go out”, not an unusual thing for him. We knew when he came to town he would be partaking in his usual pastime of drinking himself into an oblivion. At this point he was already drunk and incoherent from his preferred combination of Coors and Percoset so I was less fearful of his lashing out or ability to overpower me. I wanted to overpower him with my words, for him to feel weak. I wanted to hurt him, to make him feel the pain and impotence he had made me feel for so many years.
I made up a bed on the couch after our confrontation. I felt sorry for him, sorry for my unkind words. He was so sad and broken. Caretaker, empath, responsible for his feelings and well-being, that was my role and I played the part with tenacity and diligence. I stayed up late that night – talking on the phone to a friend, venting about having an alcoholic and drug addict father – wishing I could just live an ordinary life, be a regular teen, go to parties, my biggest crisis – being grounded by my parents for getting a C in calculus.
I woke up in the morning, the couch bed still made up. He never came home.
His lifeless body was dropped off outside of the hospital in the dark of the night. I wonder, did he go peacefully or was there a moment when he was alone that he struggled to fight his way back.
I remember this part of the story. At least I think I remember, but there is so much I have forgotten. Buried deep inside. Left behind, vowing to forget, to never look back.
But the body remembers…
Every year around this time I feel a familiar sense of heaviness, sadness, tension in my body, gnawing in my stomach – a weight in my chest that feels as if I’m being crushed by something and I can’t seem to catch a breath. Then I remember…
Regret, Guilt, Shame, Abandonment, Responsibility…
We can run from the pain, we can try to hide. We can let the memories fade into the depths of our consciousness but they will still remain. They will bury themselves deep in our cells and will penetrate every facet of our being.
A series of traumatic events preceded and followed that day…events that until now, 26 years later I have tried my hardest not to remember. My mind has pushed the memories down for so long, out of survival, fear that If I remember and face the shame it might be too much for my heart to take. Fear that if I am to face the shame I must unlock the past and dare to tell the truth.
The truth will set you free
Shame is a funny thing. We take it on as our own as if the inflicted anger, abuse, trespassing of our feelings or bodies was the result of our willing it to happen or that we “deserved” it in some way. Others shame becomes our shame and it weaves itself into our psyche until we can’t remember who the shame really belonged to in the first place. Their “wrong doings” become our wrong doings even when we were powerless over their actions towards us.
I no longer want to feel powerless. I want to let let go of the shame.
I want to remember
It is through stillness, quiet observation of my breath, the welcoming of the shame, guilt and pain, that I have begun to remember.
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. ~Rumi
I have a story to tell, one that is riddled with sadness, buried with secrets, layered with shame and guilt but also filled with courage, love and triumph.
And so I embark on this journey, through the layers of muscle and tissue, the density of my bones, the beat of my heart, behind my eye sockets where so much has been seen but not spoken.
I lie with my body, in my body and watch the story unfold. I welcome each sensation, the gripping, the panic, the desire to escape. I will stay until the story is complete so that I may claim my story as my own, liberate the past and set myself free.
This pose is Viparita Karani – “Inverted Lake Pose”
It is called Inverted lake pose because the blood flows from the feet and legs and pools into the pelvic region.
Water is medicine for those in grief. Water is the lake and the sea; places of dreaming and subconscious unfolding. It is common when in this pose to experience a release of emotion, for tears to flow just like the flow of water. Allow the tears to come, welcome them with tenderness and compassion.
Emotions work in synchronicity with our thoughts, cells and organs. When we experience emotions we feel physical sensations in our head, chest, stomach and muscles. When we allow a safe space for the body to let go, emotions can arise and release. Like a gentle wave coming to shore and flowing back into the deep sea.
May you claim your own story.