Regular readers will know I started the year with a couple of serious injurious falls and every now and again I am reminded of them when I move a certain way or get an attack of the giggles or have a giant sneeze. The body remembers even when we don’t. Muscle memory is a real thing and I am always astonished that my fingers still know where to go on a guitar even though I haven’t played in decades. Emotional memory is true too – instead of the muscle groups remembering – the synaptic pathways have experience to draw on … I guess this is why, back when I was counselling people, I always asked them to remember a time when they were (insert word here) joyful, excited, tenacious, flexible etc. Building on the pathway already there to be strengthened and used to serve you.
In this week when our country has changed leaders, I really wonder how a political party room, hasn’t gone to it’s national muscle and emotional memory? Making the same mistakes over and over again will only lead to the same results in the same way making the right choices over and over again will lead to improvements in fitness. Once you get to the bottom and all the bad choices have been made and you want to start making better choices it is a long and disciplined road to the future you want to create. It may even mean taking part in systems that you don’t like much or finding new ones hidden in your landscape to draw on. Taking yourself to an edge and then instead of jumping off, looking up not down. Going to your best self, drawing on the energy of the ground on which we walk, the ancient land in this pale blue dot that holds us all together – past, present and future.
I have sat with sadness this week embodied in others as well as myself. Sadness seeping into depression for one; sadness seeping out of being overwhelmed for another; sadness weeping like a sore for another and for me sadness as another layer of rock inside of me being worn away slowly by tears. This body knows how to cry now, it is beginning to learn how to accept generosity, and it is opening up to the weariness that is deep in the muscle memory each time stillness arrives. Years, decades in fact, of caring and comforting, holding up more than half the sky for those under the same roof have left the synaptic pathways finding themselves lost – threads of a tapestry seeking to be woven in and it is in the under side, the backstory where they are being sewn. This under belly of history, my story, a story not yet finished, and one that is searching to be grounded in a self under re-construction.
I often talk in my work about the difference between disruption and service reform and I find I am disrupting myself rather than re-forming. Cultural change at the cellular level living with less of everything in my life has me teetering on a precipice inviting me to more courage and vulnerability. With each little drama … and there are many …. a little of the old is chiselled away and either left for dust or replaced with a wobbly, fragile beginning of a new synaptic pathway. Sticking to the discipline and practice of reinforcing what will serve me from a baseline so low is almost beyond me some days. Deep breathing seems to help. I can remember how to do that and how it has served me well. Giving with grace and grit serves me too and I have plenty of experience to draw from that well. The learning is to add and draw from that well for myself, giving to myself with the same zeal and generosity is new learning. The idea of putting myself first, novel. The practice of choosing me first completely unchartered. My struggle with this has always been with the ego and selfishness, now I see it truly is, as Audre Lorde offered, self-preservation, a political act and silence will not protect you. I also find myself turning to other revolutionary thinkers, disruptors of comfortable thoughts. Freire reminds us in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed of the focus of change is confronting the seed of the oppressor planted within us to knows their tactics, understand their relationships.
The pain of growth and the changes it brings build new memories and fitness for disruption, this is part of the exposure, the transparency that comes with the decisions and actions we take. (Malcolm Turnbull asking for the signatures to call the spill was disruption is not lost on me as a tactic for self-compassion even though it may not have looked like that to others.) I am examining and cross-examining the oppressor inside my interior party room and not quite sure how to make a spill happen that will stick, but am doing quite a lot to lobby what needs to move on and exercising my values in the process. I have the values muscle memories and synaptic pathways to hold me, while I strengthen and get them fit for purpose for this time in my life.
In this year of self-compassion there is both exercising and exorcising.