Thursday, January 26, 2012

Degunking Your Inner Light

We all know a lot of people on anti-depressants.  We probably know more people than we think who are on all sorts of psychiatric drugs. I mean, people don't exactly walk around with a sign outlining their prescriptions.

But we also know even more people who are on anti-depressants of the self-medicating kind, including the Perpetually Busy Pill.  You know, that pill that ensures you never really have to sit down and have a face to face discussion with your underlying feelings of sadness, anger, inadequacy, shame, fear, or whatever toxic mix of self-judgment you are currently carrying around in that invisible Backpack of Pain that you wear.

I personally picked up my Backpack when I was eight. I have a very distinct memory of doing so.

I was sitting on the back porch of a townhouse we lived in, watching my friend in the distance playing with another of her friends, feeling isolated by the things I had experienced in my short life.  Feeling walled in by the embarrassment and fear of living in a house full of so much anger and cruelty.

That day had been especially bad inside those walls, and I was sitting outside listening to the frightening silence of the End of It or the In Between of It.  Who ever could know?

The fun my friend was having with her other friend felt like a foreign object in outer space and I was sitting with a small magnifying glass trying to identify it when I really needed a Hubble telescope.

Sitting there, I realized that I was deeply sad underneath all of that fear.  And I said to myself, as I picked up the backpack at my feet, spilling its ugly contents, "I will be sad for a very long time but I am going to survive."

How does an eight year old say this to themselves?  I will never know.

I did survive.  But I only did that.  You know, stayed alive.

I was in no way thriving.

I was that plant that you only remember to water when it is already so wilted you can't imagine that water will make any difference, but it does and you swear you will never let it go that long again...

No thriving.  Just walking through life as a spectator, thinking my primary purpose for existing was that damn backpack.

That backpack full of Gunk.

Gunk that leaked all over me, covering my light with Pittsburgh-ian soot of the early 20th century variety. The kind where they thought it was night time...all the time.

Funny that I bring up Pittsburgh's infamous pollution out of all the towns with infamous pollution.  Pittsburgh, the city in which Martha Graham lived her early life until her father moved them from California to get them away from that pollution.  And California, that place that turned Graham into a dancer.

Because, of course, dance is what made me finally set that backpack aside.

You cannot leap or turn or twirl with a big, heavy, sooty backpack on your back.

You cannot truly inhabit your body with all that extraneous weight.

Which leads me back to all those people we all know who take some form of anti-depressant.

Have you noticed that beyond the occasional "I am no longer suicidal" (and thank GOD for that) that these drugs don't create a Greenhouse effect (of the good kind), where their little plant selves can truly thrive?

That's because the drugs don't deal with the Real Problems, and there ARE Real Problems. Sadness, anger, all starts somewhere.

The drugs don't get to that Somewhere where it all began.


Getting in the body...that is how you get to that somewhere.

Why?  Why does this work?

It works because when we get into these bodies (and dance is, I think, especially efficacious due to the marriage between body, breath, and rhythm)...when we get into these bodies, we realize the most essential thing about ourselves.

We realize that, regardless of what happened to build that Backpack of Pain, we are still alive.

That is nothing short of a miracle for too many of us.

We realize that if we are still alive it is because our Essential Inner Light never stopped shining.  Regardless of how much it feels like that.

Our Essential Inner Light is just gunked over.  Big Time.  But it's there.

Every time we breathe into our bodies and move and sweat and find ourselves laughing or crying or just FEELING, we are chipping away at that gunk.

But we have to be willing.  And Big Time Brave.  And persistent.

There is no easy.  There is the work.

It's your choice.  Maybe you want to take that backpack to your grave, but I don't think so.