My mind is a fascinating place sometimes.
It is an observer, an interpreter, a warning bell, and a ruminator. Sometimes all at once.
With this brain, I have written books, I have solved problems, I have stayed up all night obsessing about something, and I have continued to breathe and have a heartbeat.
Some of this is in my control and some of this is not.
Some of this would appear to be in my control, but apparently not.
The mind is a terrible thing to waste, they say. But it’s also a place where I can get lost, stuck, and confused. It thinks certain things based on what my parents told me. What society told me. What I believed.
What I internalized.
And it’s complicated, isn’t it? Just my thoughts about all of this…are suspect.
But here is what I think I know: my mind is in cahoots with my body.
So, who do I listen to?
The Mind Palace, or Something
To be clear, this whole conversation started on a run. Well, saying that I run is probably a bit generous, but a friend of mine said any movement above a walk counts, so let’s say run.
During a run today, I noticed that I was having trouble getting into the rhythm of moving and breathing. I couldn’t seem to sync those things up in order to feel comfortable. When they don’t sync up, I tend to tense up and feel anxious — which doesn’t help the whole ‘run’ thing. It makes it feel harder than it is. Or harder than I want it to feel.
My body feels like it can’t do anymore. It starts to yell out in knee aches and muscle tightness.
So, I did the first thing I always do: ignore my body.
I listened to the music and lip-synced every song, as though I was lip-syncing for my life. I looked at the next mailbox or car and promised myself I would only focus on getting there.
I tried to think about the food I would eat or the conversations I wanted to have.
I tried to get the f out of my body.
The Muscle Memory of Avoidance
My body is wise. It tells me when I need to eat. When I need to sleep. When I need to get away from a person. When I need to drink more water.
And I often ignore it.
When I was a kid, I had anxiety attacks. My mom taught me to count things to get my mind off of the feelings in my body. Eventually, those feelings would go away, she’d explain.
She was right.
But I took this a little too close to heart. I learned to distract myself from any feelings, good or bad. I spent years ignoring how hungry I was because society said my body needed to look a certain way. I spent years with partners that were abusive or unavailable because I ignored what my body felt like when I was with them.
This avoidance is a muscle memory that I return to when things hurt. When things are tough. When things are just not what I want them to be.
I leave the body and jump into my mind.
I don’t think this does me any favors. Sure, there are reasons for this — survival and stuff.
But in spaces where it’s not about life or death, I want to listen to my body. I want to let it know I am willing to sit in the discomfort and KNOW IT.
(Maybe) heal it.
Shifting and Dancing the Body Alive
Life is excruciating. For bodies and minds. It is a story of a willingness to grab onto things, knowing (or being reminded sharply) that you can not hold onto everything.
All things leave, die, and disappear.
The body knows this. The heart knows this. And I think the mind comprehends this, though often doesn’t want to be bothered with the possibility of pain.
(Speaking for me, anyway.)
So, today, on the run, I stopped moving away from my body. I let my left knee hurt and my breathing sound like it needed an ambulance.
I let the body be as it was. This did not make it easier — and I certainly danced between the mind’s adaptation and the body’s feedback. But I remembered the audacity of being alive and living and hurting and feeling it.
I felt it.
After all, if I turn off one feeling, I turn them all off.
I welcome the wisdom of my body, even in small drips of sweat.
Even in moments when I call myself back from the wanderings of a brain that needs explanations and wants to avoid pain.
Call myself back. And back again.
Step by step.
Moment by precious moment.
(And running is not required.)