The Body Remembers

dancerAfter 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.

 

30 thoughts on “The Body Remembers

  1. Such a personal piece of writing about your experience Gulara, so moving. I’m so sorry that this has happened both to the lady who cleans for you and to you too. It must be very difficult to deal with this, but I am so glad that you tried to help her and that you are finding a sense of trust again with your dancing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Marje. My poor body has been through a lot and the way I coped was to disown it. Now I’m waking up to this amazing thing which has stored all sorts of unresolved emotions which surface now that I feel safe. I find it both fascinating and frustrating at times…. But overall, it’s great to re-build that trust. Thank you for reading and your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sad stories, Gulara. The body does remember, and it does take a lot of courage to move beyond the memories and establish new trusting relationships. It is important to take it slowly and compassionately for healing to occur. I’m so sorry for the damage that was done to your ability to trust. No one should endure that pain. Unfortunately the stories are all too real and all too common, though often hidden from others, as if the victims were somehow guilty.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Oh Gulara, I just want to give you a big hug! I am so sorry for your history of domestic abuse and am glad that you are trying to help your cleaning lady.
    Just please don’t avoid the cervix screenings, please!!!! I had an operation when I was 23 as I had some positive (well for me negative results..) back then. Now I stress every time I get screened, which has to happen every six months. But there is also the medical condition of someone close to me that makes me say get screened!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s done now, Solveig, a friend said pretty much what you said and had it done on Tuesday. I’m sorry to hear about the operation and I can imagine how stressful your regular check-ups are. Thank you for the hug – it’s always welcome 🙂

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  4. So moving, Gulara. I’m glad you have a good place to take your body memories, despite the pain. And you should congratulate yourself for going for your smear test when it’s such a difficult area. Sometimes it’s only when we are treated kindly but we can express the pain of the past. I think we often forget to give ourselves space for this to happen.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for your tender words, Anne. It’s quite a journey to trust the body again, and for my body to trust me too. Healing that split is taking time. But one step at a time, and each step deserves celebration. Thank you for the reminder.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s great that you started and ended on a positive note with the dancing or that would have been a hard read indeed. Very moving. I hope your house-help can find a way out of her situation. And I hope you have more good experience for your body to remember so the painful ones fade a bit.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I had no idea what was going to come out when I started off – it was one of those posts which writes itself. Thank you for your kind words – you articulated this new realisation so clearly for me. I need more positive body memories for the hurts to fade away. And the dance is the proof that it’s possible. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Trent.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. The body remembers, and gives us away when our minds want to forget! It’s nice to read that someone else is learning to pay attention to their body and its memories, as difficult and distressing as it can be. Honouring my body’s memories has helped them become part of the narrative of my life, because that’s what they are. More and more of them now sit alongside all the other stories in my memory, as just another memory, without the panic and fear.
    By the way, this was beautifully written, Gulara. x

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s quite a journey, isn’t it Louise, to get to the point of paying attention to the body despite the memories. Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s still often unconscious for me when body shuts down and it takes me hours, sometimes days, to come out of that stupor and numbness and say, ‘oh, was it about blah-blah’. Although I’ve done a lot of healing on emotional side of things, it’s only integrating body and emotions that’s helping me to feel whole again. And thank you for your sweet feedback about writing itself – it means the world to me. x

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Such powerful words, “The body remembers”. It does, indeed.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I was so sorry to hear about the violence towards you and the other woman you described. I hope she will find what she needs to deal with this horrible situation…

    The articles you post are moving and thought-provoking, but made even more so by your incredible writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh my Gulara, what sad and frightful experiences. I am SO thankful that you advised your cleaning lady of where to go to receive help. I PRAY that she takes you advice and seeks help. But the memories are frightful! Congratulations on taking care of yourself. I am sure the dance class felt like a reward to your body. I too would LOVE to give you a Big Hug!!

    Can you talk to anyone at your police department about the cleaning lady and your fear of her partner? TAKE CARE!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I too pray that she finds the way out of that toxic relationship. Your big hug is gratefully received. And for once, having a police station down the road is proving an asset (usually I get annoyed that they make a racket and wake up kids 🙂 )

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Words fail me upon reading such a heartfelt post but I wanted to let you know how admiring of your strength I am. This is a beautifully written post and always, like a stubborn knock on the door, the reminder our body remembers. Beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Elissaveta. I learnt to ignore that knock in the past. Just re-acquainting myself with it’s voice and learning to pay attention. Thank you for your kind words, Elissaveta, I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My word, this is a powerful post. Honest, brave, and beautifully written! I hate what happened to you, and to your cleaning lady. I’m not sure you can ever really get over, or forget abuse…any type of abuse. Your strength, resilience is inspiring. Your story will help others, I believe. Hopefully empower them. At the very least let them know they’re not alone.

    Thank you for sharing. It can’t have been an easy write/share. Kimmie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for reading, Kimmie, and all your support. Yes, it wasn’t an easy one to write, but once the words decided to come through, the post wrote itself up and I feel a whole lot better for it. Lovely to connect.

      Liked by 1 person

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