I’m pretty sure the kid in this picture is a lying bastard. Or perhaps he’s an idiot who has just realized he’s stuck in this stupid ball, and because he’s an idiot all he can do is grin (kids can be idiots too–I know this from experience). If he’s not intentionally deceiving us or unfortunately dimwitted, maybe he’s just a tragic victim of the advertising agency. He was originally posing with his super hero cape, but they photoshopped that out and stuck him for all time in this nerve tweaking, truth telling device.
No, I was not molested inside a Hoberman’s sphere as a child. If one were molestationally minded, that would be a sloppy choice of venue. However, a few weeks ago during a dance workshop, our instructors started taking them out of boxes and bags like the feral, multiplying bunnies they are. The movement principle we were working on was expand and contract. We had started with our breathing; inhaling as arms raised across the meeting hall, exhaling as they lowered. My attention was immediately drawn to the bottom of my rib cage, but then I thought, “Wait, when have I ever noticed my rib cage before? Does everyone know about this? IS THIS NORMAL OR A SIGN OF IMPENDING BURST APPENDIX??” (Okay, I didn’t worry about my appendix, but I was shocked.) Then came the spheres, explained to us outward symbols of how our nervous system works both in optimal and less than optimal conditions. We were supposed to stay tuned in to our bodily experience as our instructor started to manipulate the first sphere.
As she expanded and contracted the brightly colored toy, I started to cry.
First reaction? Why the fuck am I crying about a stupid toy? Second reaction? God damn it, the normal (and at this point totally silent) circle is going to be all fucked up by me crying. This of course lead to clenching and horse nostril breathing, which if I would’ve been able to pay better attention, was exactly what this exercise was trying to help us avoid. As spheres continued to be brought out of hiding, my reaction intensified. By the time we were broken up into groups of three to work with them together, my hands were shaking so badly I could barely get mine open.
I felt like my secrets had been exposed. Clearly the whole nervous system was random, chaotic, and no matter how hard I tried, I would never learn to be one of those people who modulates gently. “IT’S NOT FAIR,” I screamed internally-not giving myself any credit in the moment for how far I have come in this domain.
I stepped off the dance floor soon after the exercise was over to go sit with this great tree I’d met out in the courtyard. It was a rainy weekend, and this naked beauty was covered with eye-flayingly green moss. I repeated my complaint to the tree: “It’s not fair gramma.” The tree was having none of my mopey self-indulgence. “You know it’s not really chaotic,” she said. “Look at my branches for a moment.” “But…” I started to protest. “LOOK!” And since you don’t argue with the ancients if you know what’s good for you, I looked, and as I looked, the images of expanding and contracting multiplied across the folds of my defensive brain. Branches, lungs, irises, flowers, tides, and last week I actually found myself quite involved in reading about sphincters. It was rational and it was regulated. Sigh. I calmed down enough to go back inside. I was worried my exposed nerves would betray me again, but I was committed to trying my best.
Fast forward a week and it wasn’t surprising when I circled back to this topic in my therapists’ office. After expressing my frustration with how shifting back and forth is hard for me, she got THE look on her face. This is the look I have come to know as preceding a great moment of intuitive questioning, the kind that makes my brain shiver in delight. “You’ve described this quality that you’re calling rigidity, and for some reason I’m picturing it as a rock. I’m wondering what would happen if you spent some time with it, dressed it up even like a pet for a while. What does this rigidity want from you?”
Dang. Rigidity as a teacher? It’s definitely been around in me longer, but I didn’t know if I could wrap my mind around it. I’ve just barely gotten to the point where flow and integration seems possible. I started thinking about what I might want if I was a rock. I submit to you my attempt at either a list-like poem, or a poetic list–you be the judge.
Maybe it wants
to be rigid without apology
(to be right without apology?),
to make noise like a rock in a a can–
it’s not functional,
but it’s a lot of fun to shake
a rock in a can.
Maybe it wants
to not be forgotten,
to not be considered boring now–
just because it’s a rock
and not the ocean.
I understand that,
but I don’t usually keep rocks around
Maybe it wants
an explanation of why you’re
or for you to learn to drive stick shift.
Or to sit closer to the
where the waves change without force.
This is a good start of course, but I suspect that it’s only the very beginning of a very long conversation to be held between me, myself, and I. I’m now looking at a second list in my journal entitled: “Benefits of Rigidity??” It’s pretty blank so far, but the three things on there are not to be sneezed at. 1. Keeps me stubbornly clinging to the belief that there is goodness in people. 2. Kept me working with “lost” students and “lost” schools when others had abandoned giving their best and only showed up to survive. 3. Whatever rigidity is left might be a great illuminator to all the new and delicious flow and integration. This thought feels juicy because despite my desire to progress more quickly, I have truly come a long way. I changed plans at least five times this week–which I know is not a lot for those of you with kids or other chaotic things, but for me it’s a crap ton.
As I terminated my plans last night by pulling off the traffic fucked 280, I had no idea where I’d end up. But as I drifted down a hill I had never been on before, hugging the curves of an unknown street in the Zipcar that doesn’t belong to me, I said out loud–“What now?” I realized that statement as good, and I grinned.