This is the house where grief lives
We’re getting creaky here at The School.
Bruised, achy and tired.
It’s what we signed up for but it’s taking its toll and so we sign up for private Reiki sessions with a classmate, Alexander sessions with a teacher and, myself included, acupuncture.
Earlier this week I booked a session, a knot somewhere around my shoulder sending paralysing pain up my neck.
Uninvited accusations of “Exaggerator” “Bandaid Queen” “Sarah Bernhardt” assault my mind but I thank them for crashing my party, point them in the direction of the hors d’oeuvre table and promptly ignore them.
Kyle quickly finds the source of my pain and sets out to cover me with pins, an assault he calls it. He asks if I’ve been sick or coughing, I haven’t, why? He’s noticing somethings up in my lungs, how’ve you been this week, emotionally? Ah, I say, well I have been crying this week.
Jessie you are having a rough day. Yeah, I know. I want to cry but I don’t feel ready to let it happen yet.
I am a bit late. I cannot find my way into the conditioning class that starts each day. I write in my journal later keep thinking of finding a way in but seems like too much work. And later, Have to really fight to have any engagement – feel very “outside” “observational” “sensitive” this is a general note not only about this class.
We spend an hour examining the three movement sequences that, we’re told, encompass all the known analytical movement in the world – forms that explores our bodies For, Against & With a larger space and energy. No big deal. Undulations and eclosions.
And then, it’s time for this week’s main focus. Neutral Mask. The great betrayer of stories stored unwittingly in our bodies. The great revealer of doubts and hesitation. Today we must give the impression of running through a forest without turning in on ourselves mentally, we must create the illusion of a reality, a space that allows the viewer to dream, a forest we run through in which we suddenly smell smoke and suddenly the urgency explodes as we run from the raging fire. We ’emerge’ into a clearing, a beach and the water laps at our feet and we wade in until it is up to our chest but we are not safe because a storm is coming and the water begins to knock us around. Where we can’t say, impossible to predict the directions of waves in storms like this. We try to create the illusion of a reality, a space that allows the viewer to dream until we find ourselves ‘out of the water’ standing downstage. Holding all the motion from the waves and all the urgency of the fire inside of us. Not letting go. Radiating out into the space. Holding the space and inviting the viewer to join in. Because this is where we are trying to be when we start. All that bouncing, flailing and rolling around is just the warm up. Here is where we are supposed to be, ready to step out in front of the curtain. So we stand there trying to stay alive, trying not to withdraw inside, our breath ragged and short.
This is when we take off the mask. This is when we are ‘seen’.
This is when I take a breath and this is when I break.
This is what I wrote, later that day: I am feeling rocky but ready to go. I’ve already decided to go up in the first group. To really allow myself to explore, to be surprised. But instead she asks us all the find a space and run through it ourselves – almost instantly I am hit with fear – I say fear of hurting myself and maybe that is true but maybe I don’t mean just physical – either way, I run and sit down and she’s almost immediately on me.
I indicate my shoulder (it does hurt)
I don’t think so, go, go, your head is hanging so heavy today, just go.
And I don’t want to make a scene maybe even I know it’s time for what’s coming – I turn as I enter the fray, the only thoughts in my mind are of panic and fear and how on earth can I get out of this, and she’s drawing a line down from each eye – do it even if you cry – and there it is, in the next breath it comes and I flee, she’s calling my name, Come back come back, and if I could, if I could dive in and ride this wave I know I would come out someplace new but I cannot make that – I choose not to let that – happen. So I hide and I weep, standing there collapsed into a tumbling mat. I bounce between the release of the tears and the desire, the finger pointing narrative that I must avoid becoming That Girl again. Eventually, I rejoin the group and we begin to do the exercise I had been so ready to do less than a quarter of an hour before. I let a few groups go, bouncing through emotions of forgiveness and derision. Finally, I am up. I am moving just to move, going through the space hoping I’m doing it Right hoping that the chatter I hear isn’t about me and assuming it is but I’m okay if a bit distant then I’m out of the ocean standing downstage and I lift my mask. For a moment all is well, I made it. Then, hoping to contain my breath, I breathe deep and my face does that thing where it just crumples.
Let it out, let it out. She’s in front of me, pulling my gaze out from it’s internal cave. Keep moving inside, Breathe, Let it out. Stay with it, Go Go. Forever it seems I am battling myself, the need to control, the desire to stop fighting unnecessary wars and the realisation that, through it all, in the depths of this place I find myself, this exercise to engage and hold huge amounts of space – I’m irritated that the class is on to something else, that I can’t even do this for them and it occurs to me that this is just another way to hide, to mask to refuse myself the privilege of experiencing my own truth and grief… and my lungs shake as I hold on to a relic of a story I used to tell to make everything okay
In retrospect I realise I have been feeling both a deep desire and a disconcerting inability to draw deep breaths. I am fascinated when I discover that this is the house of grief. So much of the work I have been exploring comes to my breath. I can’t count the times I’ve talked about breath and breathing in this forum. The amount of times I’ve felt a blockage in my lungs.
I wanted to talk about class this week. To talk about the amazing journey we’ve had discovering the stories we hold in our bodies. I had a lovely anecdote about how, as a young child, I preferred second hand clothing because it came with a story and I was going to work it to a conclusion that while I may not be able to ‘buy new clothes’ I was at least learning how to ‘wash, mend and make the clothes I had as good as new’. If only I could get past my lungs. Then again, maybe this is me washing and mending my clothes. Maybe all the tears I’ve shed over the past year or two of artistic development and education are different from the tears I’ve shed in the past. I can hold a lot of space, this is a powerful thing.
Creaky, bruised and tired we discovered new reserves of strength, we wade our way through a program designed specifically to cause us to fail because it is not for us to do our best work here and we all, every one of us, are starting to show signs of growth and development as a result.