I went to therapy as planned today, even though I was exhausted after work, and wanted nothing more than to go home, sit in the jacuzzi, and read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a book which, despite its having terrifying cover art, I’m really into right now.
But I’m not one to break appointments, so I forced myself to drive the 35 miles up to my therapist’s office, and, when she asked whether I was coming in with an idea of what I wanted to talk about, I told her I didn’t want to talk about anything. (Especially not the Scarlet Letter thing.)
And somehow, my disinclination to sit and prattle on and tell stories for 60 minutes straight, like I usually do, provided us with the perfect opportunity to get into the bioenergetic body-work we always seem to neglect. It seems a little counterintuitive to do when I’m too tired to just talk, but then, Elvis put it best when he said, “A little less conversation, a little more action.”
At first she tried to get me to let out a physical response to the Scarlet Letter thing I didn’t want to talk about: she put a pillow down on the folded up futon thing, and suggested that I hit it while screaming, “I hate this!” This made me giggle, as most of her bioenergetic suggestions do. It just seems so silly to hit things and scream, especially when I’m only mildly annoyed and mostly just tired and cranky, and especially in a public place in front of another person. I did mention, however, that I’ve been wanting to grab my Scarlet Letter friend by the shoulders and shake him, because he’s being an idiot.
This admission made my therapist grin and place a pillow into my hands. “Pretend it’s his shoulders,” she said. “You don’t have to say anything, just shake the pillow.”
I did as I was told, laughing all the while. At first, I actually felt a little relief from this action – it reminded me of going kickboxing and picturing my ex-from-college on the receiving end of my jabs. After a few seconds, however, I lost my connection with the pillow, and just started feeling silly and uncomfortable. (It’s not easy to grip a slippery throw pillow in one’s fists.)
She suggested then that I stand with my knees bent slightly and my weight centered over the balls of my feet – not where I usually center my weight, apparently. After a few moments of me complaining about the tightness in my lower quads – (“That’s a block in your body,” my therapist interjected. “I don’t have tightness there when I stand like this – I have it other places, where my own blocks are, but not above my knees.”) – she told me to just let my body do whatever it wanted to do. I said it wanted to bounce.
So we stood there, with me bouncing my knees, rocking back and forth on my feet, and shifting my weight from leg to leg. I told her about the time in college that my friend Carrie had read or heard that kids who fidget in class are less likely to be overweight as adults, and how she’d gotten faux-upset with me, a perpetual leg-bouncer, for being rewarded for my inability to sit still and pay attention.
“You know,” my therapist said suddenly. “I was thinking about you after our session two weeks ago – I had a break between clients, and I was going for a walk – and it occurred to me to ask you whether you’re familiar with your own internal rhythm. Like, is there any activity where you feel your internal rhythm at work?”
I thought for a second. “No?” But the question did get me thinking about things that have rhythm – music, obviously, and poetry (think iambic pentameter), long-distance running, this guy I was friends with in my late teen years* – verses things that don’t – driving, cycling (the variable speeds prevent it, at least in my experience), my ex-husband.
“We used to take ballroom dancing, and he was horrible,” I explained. “He would count the steps out loud, and I would end up leading, and then our instructors would tell me to let him lead…”
“Is that feeling familiar to you? Trying to lead when you’re supposed to be following?”
“Yeah, a little. Like with him, I was so insistent on hanging out with whoever I wanted, whenever I wanted – even before things got bad, I would always choose my friends over him. It was like he told me he didn’t like me doing something or seeing someone, so I went out of my way to defy him. I still catch myself doing it to some degree, with Doug, but Doug has a lot fewer rules.”
While I was telling these anecdotes, I was – as instructed – continuing to “let my body move in rhythm,” which is a fancy way of saying I was alternately bending my knees and kind of swaying from side to side. After a while, I lost the sense of tension in my legs, and after a while longer, I found I was no longer worried about falling asleep on my drive home – my energy had increased.
“There’s something about rhythmic movement – rocking back and forth, or dancing, or walking – that has a self-sustained calming effect on the body,” my therapist explained. “They’ve done studies that something shifts in the body’s chemical makeup after 20 minutes of walking – so you have to make sure you spend 20 minutes a day to get the benefit. And, do you ever just dance?”
“Like, in my apartment?” I pictured Cristina from Grey’s Anatomy, “dancing it out” in her kitchen on multiple episodes. “But I’m rarely alone in my apartment,” I protested.
“Kick him out! Tell him you need time to yourself.”
I admitted, albeit a little sadly, that Doug would love the opportunity to be kicked out so he could go for a bike ride.
“That’s your homework,” she went on. “That is, if you want homework. Try to get in tune with your body’s internal rhythm. I don’t know why that came to me so suddenly the other week, for you, but I just got this sense that it was something you needed to try.”
I have to say, I agree. I’ve marvelled at the benefits I get from walking here before, and I really have been meaning to find an evening to myself, pop in the dance mix CD a friend made me recently, and “dance it out” like Cristina. Now that I have permission – instructions, even – maybe I’ll actually listen to what my body’s been trying to tell me all along.
*This friend never seemed to connect points A and B by means of a straight line. He engaged in a practice I playfully termed “interpretive walking,” which included jumps and climbs and balancing acts – I was incredibly, incredibly jealous of his mastery of his body and the freedom of his soul.