Body and Words

While my struggle to be seen, heard, affirmed, validated and accurately mirrored may seem from the outside to be an intellectual quest, it most assuredly is not.

It comes from somewhere much, much deeper, somewhere much more potent and tender, somewhere in my heart.

I’m sure that Dr. van der Kolk, as a psychiatrist, would tell me that those parts of myself I metaphorically call my heart are not based in that beating knot of muscle in my chest. but rather are physically located in the neural tissue between my ears.   They exist in the brains under my brain, the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain, the right hemisphere that exists outside of language and rationality.

I need a way to talk about those parts, though, and for many centuries humans have called the seat of sensation, of emotion and of love in the heart.  Those parts of the brain that connect to the body seem to exist somewhere deeper inside of us. below our socialization.  somewhere out of our head.

My big, verbal brain has worked diligently to keep me going over my years.  Using it, I have looked for the power of healing, especially the power of mirroring.

By being able to have words for my feelings, I have unwired my buttons, making me safe to talk to.

My skill at putting language to my feelings has made me helpful to others in putting words to their feelings, either because they see bits of themselves mirrored in my writing, or because when they converse with me I am very present, mirroring them in ways they find kind, affirming and useful.

When they want to heal, my hard won skills and knowledge helps them, but when they want to stay compartmentalized, I am just annoying as hell.

The power of a wounded healer, it seems to me today, is in the way they can use their own pain, their own damage to offer a mirror to others, one that can help them move their own self image towards understanding and their own choices towards healing.

I am proud to offer my smarts and my persistence to others, so that they might catch a glimpse of something they haven’t seen reflected before and come more to peace with themselves.

The cry of my own wounded heart, though, of those brains beneath brains, is often missed in this process.   How can people possibly see in me what they cannot yet see in themselves?  How can they connect with the knowledge and feelings still buried deep in my body rather than just with the words that come out of my mouth?

“We see things not as they are, but as we are,” said Anaïs Nin.

Any writer will tell you that people see their own reflection in writing, picking up phrases with their own assigned meaning, missing what seems to them like noise or filler, and putting emphasis on what resonates with them.   People always read with their own eyes.

I live, though, in the the spaces between their attention.   I am not the symbols I offer, “I am the shadows my words cast,” (Octavio Paz), the deeper meaning I struggle to code in my text.

It is that deeper pool where I really live, in the wellspring of humanity which lies deep inside of me.  My experience of the world is not verbal, it is embodied, a multisensory trip though a real world that I struggle to express through words.

When I share my words, I am not really asking people to hold onto my intellect, my virtuosity or my brilliance.

I am asking people to hold onto my heart.

My words may be smart, tough and resilient, but my heart is tender and torn.

Sometimes people wonder why I never tried to court an audience, never decided to climb into the spotlight, as The Drama Queens tried to do time and time again.   I knew that I could get my voice heard, could court visibility, get my ego fed, but I also knew that my heart wasn’t in it.

The message of the world is simple: people can’t give you the kind of engagement that you want, so learn to settle for what they can give you.  Get enough of that and you will be have the resources to find what you want, will be so visible that people who may be able to help will see you.

A life of denying, suppressing and doubting my own vitality has left my heart quite shredded.

It is unreasonable to expect others to engage the depths of me, even more so if I see their own fears and unhealed places quite quickly.

I understand the expectation; if I am able to move beyond my wounds, able to engage their wounds, then I have the obligation to do that, the requirement to be the bigger, more forgiving person.  I have the obligation to care, just like I had that obligation with my parents from as early as I can remember.

The expressions of my heart, the desire, needs, and so on were things to be kept down and under control.   This was the way I could keep others comfortable and not attacking me for being stupid, sick and perverted.   I learned to stuff and swallow.

The body keeps the score.  My heart demands its breath.

The only way for me to move ahead is to go back into more aesthetic denial, something that feels like going back to entombment, or to go forward to a more playful, sensual, emotional, integrated and feminine life, something that feels beyond possibility for a broken old tranny like me.

As smart as I am. my intelligence won’t save me, won’t make me blossom in the world.   That intelligence is there for a reason, though, an artifact of the long desperation to be engaged at a deeper level, to have my tender heart seen, felt, respected, mirrored and maybe even, dare I hope, adored.

People want to argue me out of that need, telling me to grow up and be a man, to put on my big girl panties.   Just get over it, they say.

I have done that, though, started doing that when I was very young and continuing through.   My childhood was denied, for so many reasons, my life backwards, adultified too early.  Being mature had a cost, and the body, well, it keeps the score.

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
-- W.B. Yeats "He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven"
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