After a three year gap, I went to a Five Rhythms dance two weeks ago. It felt like a homecoming. As soon as I stepped onto the dance floor, my body remembered. It twirled and moved the way it used to when I went to the classes weekly.
The body remembers….
Then, last week, I had a bit of a shock. We have a lovely lady who comes to help us with a bit of cleaning. She’s been somewhat unreliable lately, cancelling or rearranging her visits. She called me last Tuesday and said that her partner had left his job, and she was stressed out. We agreed that she’d come the next day.
‘I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been stressed out,’ I said when she came.
‘He beats me, you know,’ she said tentatively. Then unable to stop, she poured her heart out.
I stood frozen at the bottom of the stairs. It suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t imagined her black eye the week before. That was the reason why she’d cancelled. We spoke about her situation at length. Sadly, I know a lot about this topic. After all, I’ve grown up with women being beaten up all the time. A ‘wrong’ look was enough to provoke men to decorate their faces with bruises. Well, I myself have experienced that too. But it was the first time I’ve encountered this in England. Apart from flyers in the female toilets at the women’s maternity hospital, there haven’t been many reminders that domestic violence takes place in England too.
After she left, I crumpled. My body felt heavy and full of despair. I hadn’t left my country behind to find domestic abuse in my home again. Could I ever have her back without peering into her face and wondering whether she’s been beaten up again? But was it fair to let her go only because she was beaten up? As I spoke to my husband, my sense of anxiety grew stronger. I realised her man knows where we live. On one occasion, he came to pick her up. He was early, so sat outside of our house, music blasting out of his car’s open windows. He is a tall, burly man and I remember feeling uncomfortable about his presence on our doorsteps. According to her, he is bipolar. He was diagnosed some years ago, but refuses to take his medication. What if he becomes vengeful if we help this woman out? And what can we do to help? Ignoring the situation did not feel like an option, but helping her didn’t feel easy either.
My husband did some research and compiled a list of agencies offering support to women in her situation. We invited her in and passed on the information making sure she understands what she can do if she feels unsafe or if he becomes violent again. Throughout last week, I found myself shutting down and feeling intense anxiety every time we discussed this topic. It was as if I was attacked myself.
The body remembers….
This Tuesday, I had another reminder of this. I went to have my cervical cancer test. It’s a routine test offered to women, but I’ve been avoiding having it done since 2009. It never was the right time: either we were trying to get pregnant, or I was pregnant, or I had just had a baby…. Anyway, I promised a friend that I’d do the test. The nurse was nice and I’ve known her for about three years. I gave my usual ‘warning’ about severe sexual trauma in the past, and how apprehensive I was about the test. She was reassuring and as gentle as possible. I got up from the couch and sobbed my heart out. Quietly, of course. There was nothing to provoke that reaction on that couch. I’d been treated respectfully and gently. Except…
The body remembers.
But that doesn’t mean that it always has to be that way. Take my Five Rhythms dance practice. When I went to my first class, I was so freaked out that I didn’t dare to go back for a whole year. Once I started going to classes regularly, my body learnt to trust the space. Over time, it started to relax. Time and again, my body gathered ‘evidence’ that it was safe. And even after a three year gap, it still remembered that. The venue was different, and out thirty-odd dancers, I knew only three. None of that mattered. I know it in my cells that the dance space is safe and heartful and I can unravel, letting my body move as it desires.
The body remembers.