I recently exited a LYFT car ride knowing a whole host of intriguing things about the driver—a delightful woman making a life out of driving complete strangers around the country. I chose to sit in the front seat and make small talk. I heard all about how driving had enabled her to get debt free, to travel to any state she felt like exploring, and to live an adventurous life. She had a pristine, payed-off car that she encased in plastic on the nights she drove college students home.
A mere few hours before, I shook hands with a big Santa kind of man who needed to borrow my phone charger while we both waited for a sub-par airline to speed up their departures. I had smiled at him and just a few minutes later he asked. Before we boarded, I saw him with a woman, eyes lit and animated, telling the story of the dead phone, the lady with the charger, the hours of waiting in the terminal. He saw me and said, “God bless.”
Two kind-hearted and rather insignificant interactions, which might be as normal as day to you, but are notable to me.
A few months ago, I addressed a women’s retreat and exhorted them to take notice of irrational emotional outbursts. I told them these outbursts were often signs of a smoldering story lurking in the recesses of their memory. I had plenty of examples to share and they drew some laughter. So irrational were my stories! I keenly implied negativeoutbursts. In my mind, and in all of my examples, I only described the ways in which we’re triggered – the ways in which our bodies feel what our minds cannot name.
To be completely honest, I had never considered that our bodies could also give clues to places from which life was resurfacing like the crocuses in early spring. Perhaps my recent attentiveness to strangers was also a smoldering story lurking in me, trying to surface?
Because I’m learning to listen to my body, I was surprised by these two interactions. They were notably different than my norm for traveling, which can be likened to a turtle or a possum. I am invisible, hiding in my “do not disturb” shell, or worse, deadened to my surroundings. I am reading! I am sleeping! I am clearly uninterested. What did it mean that I was suddenly open to and genuinely aware of the people near me?
I wept for my own body recently. After months of stiffness, I finally succumbed to a doctor’s visit and summoned every ounce of courage to go to a chiropractor. Scans and X-rays produced a color-coded diagnosis of my poor back showing chronic and severe problems. Tears sprung. How could I have ignored my own body for so long?
It is beginning to speak too loudly to ignore. The muscle tightness, the irrational triggers, and even the joyful presence among strangers, all begging of me to pay attention. While my mind may not be able to name all that is going on, I am trying hard to listen. I am trying so hard to attend to the pain while also celebrating signs of rebirth, acutely aware that they coexist, that life is a beautiful mess.
If I were to guess, I would say there are stories lurking and my body is taking charge so they might see the light of day. It’s as though my body is pushing its way back to a prominent place, declaring equality with my mind. Perhaps I’m overly introspective over a sore back and a pleasant travel day, but I wonder, is your body giving you clues too?
Does your body feel what your mind has yet to name?
Maybe it’s tenderness that has you curious. It’s been so long since you felt like that.Or maybe it’s irrepressible envy that’s surprising you with its tenacious grip. And maybe it is a pain you’ve ignored and suppressed that is standing its ground.
Might you listen? And join me in attending to and celebrating?
Beth is passionate about issues of injustice as it relates to a global sisterhood. Often, this looks like curating the stories and work of incredible women and calling her two teen daughters at least once a day to “come watch this.” Married for 23 years, she and her husband share a love for dark chocolate, dark coffee, and bold wine, among other passions. Their son is headed to college so Beth is not thinking about it by nursing an obsession with Turkish hot air balloons and European villages on her Instagram feed.