When I was 10 years old, a mind tape started to play. A hostile and foreign voice that screamed at me for decades. Here are the top tracks:
“I look gross”
“Suck in your tummy”
“You can’t wear that”
“I am fat.”
This incessant tape had one energetic theme: self loathing. Disgust. Never good enough.
It is awful to even write that down, but there it is.
I worked at ignoring these monotonous, nails on a chalkboard, life-sucking hecklers from the cheap seats. I could go a few hours without hearing it. Sometimes even a day. But it was like being in the front row of the theatre and hearing the whispering “ssssssssss” during the quiet scenes coming from the back. My hackles were always up, my body charged with the vigilance to shush the mother fuckers. I don’t think I took a proper breath for years because either I had too much anxiety, or I literally was holding my stomach in.
It got better.
I learned to change theatres.
One where I decided who was admitted.
Hope, you can enter. Optimism, yep. Adventure, sit over there! Gratitude, I’ve saved a special seat for you! And pretty soon my theatre felt lighter and full of the buzz of a movie that has everyone stuck in their seat, riveted as they watch.
So imagine my surprise when all of a sudden the movie starts to sputter and jerk, goes to black with this blaring voice of “Who gives a fuck?” “You are such a fatso”, “It’s all a waste of time”. Every little and large shitty thought I have ever had about myself oozing out of the speakers like an unwelcome B horror movie voice over. When it later shuts up I think, “thank God, my hormones must be all over the damn place”, but then wince as the voice booms throughout the theatre again.
I am definitely a bit wiser and not as prone to knee-jerk reactions, but this scared the shit out of me. I have been through years of healing, self-help training and can honestly say I know what it is to take care of myself. I know how to cope, I know how to manage, I know the warning signs. This came out of nowhere. What flipped the switch?
It is not my hormones.
It is not diet.
It is not sleep pattern.
It is not my relationships.
It is something else and it is coming for me with a furor I have never felt before.
And this week I have encountered four women who are experiencing the same thing.
Call them old beliefs, limiting beliefs, crappy and nonsensical beliefs, but I am going to call them demons, because that is what they feel like. And these demons have come back with a vengeance.
I hear them. I feel them. I witness myself hearing and feeling them, which is a strange and startling thing. And I feel a lot about having this onslaught of vicious self-talk. I feel angry, I feel grief, I feel perplexed. They came back in an instant, all at once, and they haven’t stopped. I want to hide. I want to pretend. But I can’t.
To know that there are other women I know, who are incredibly self-aware, creative and loving, going through an uncanny similar experience, makes me think we might not be the only ones.
So what is going on? This can’t be coincidence. It doesn’t feel like coincidence.
All I can do is theorize. So here is my best guess: I think we are going through a spiritual, alchemical blaze of transformation so that we can set our world to rights.
I think that we are being provoked and challenged and we have two options: give in or get through. If we give in, I am sure you can imagine what that path might look like. We are watching all around the globe what happens to people when they give in.
And don’t get me wrong, I am not judging. When it is my ‘wine o clock’ I am the last person who is pointing fingers.
But what if we get through?
Can we see that? I know that for myself, trying to see past tomorrow has become a task of epic proportions.
But I know that what is rearing up in my being is a reckoning. It is an invitation to be whole. To be real. To be more than I am willing to believe so far that I am. It is asking me to be okay with not knowing while suggesting I become my most vulnerable. I squirm when I think of myself as a more intimacy-seeking tender creature who loves on herself and everyone she encounters. I used to be good with mush and leaning in. But now, I am mostly terrified.The times when I showed my sweet belly, I was gutted. What used to feel playful can feel dangerous. What used to be instant gratification now demands a deep, drawn out willingness to peel back the expectations. I have grappled with my past hurts and spent time with parts of myself and my life that wasn’t much fun. I did it with the hope I would never have to do it again. What do I need to do now?
I lean towards logic. I prefer safety. I seek adventures with itineraries. A moderate high where you see exactly where you are going to land. Putting words to my feelings? Actually telling people how I feel without the false shield of anger but rather soft self-belief? Being graciously silent without a shot of disdain? Where there is a pause for potential rejection and I don’t fill it with a verbal shield? Admitting I have never had it figured out and I really never wanted to no matter how much I acted the opposite? And actually not trying to figure it out?
This reckoning is taking me where I have to go. All the way in. All the way down. All the way under. All the way through.
Perhaps it is about balancing the masculine and feminine divine. To restore our inner world so we can restore the outer one.
I don’t really know other than there isn’t time to mess around.
Can we really arrive at a place where there is divine silence? Where fun doesn’t feel forced to fit between produce and consume? To adapt and become stewards of a simpler and saner way to be?
I am going to do what I have resisted doing most. Showing my soft belly and breathing. Again and again.
When I want to turn away, step back or tune out, I am going to lean in.
When I want to defend, explain or explode, I am going to take a breath.
When I want to suck my tummy in, I am going release it out.
This is not going to be easy. I am going to rely on my constant, gorgeous and soldiering heart. Did you know the heart starts to beat not because the mind signals it to, but because of its own hope to beat? It creates its own first electrical impulses. It doesn’t need the mind.
I am going back to the beat. To the place beyond the booming voice.
A am going to try a bit of creativity. A bit of play. Connected conversation. Tuned-in silence.
Without an itinerary.
A movie without a script.
I asked myself if can I see what it takes to get through and I remember a vision I had years ago: tribal fires around the world, glowing like thousands of fireflies in twilight. Women coming one by one and tossing into the flames those demons that have kept them bound. I see chains, garters and girdles, locks of hair, words, and every little thing that felt like a bond crashing into orange and red, burning fierce and hot. I feel the witnessing. I hear hands pounding the drums in unbreakable circles, songs exploding into air, cries of life and loss, and I see naked, unashamed, blood-filled freedom.
We are done with the demons.
If this finds you in a battle, you are not alone.
I am not giving in. I’m going through.