Friday, January 18, 2008


The year my father died, I met and moved in with a man (N.). He was everything I'd always loathed, and because of circumstances, he morphed into everything I hoped would save me from feeling sadness. He remains the only other person I've lived with besides my parents. He remains the only other person to have seen perhaps who I really am, underneath the scarves and dyed hair and flouncy skirts.

I was new to sexuality. It was 1987 and I was 19. I was new even to dating, yet within two weeks of meeting N, I was dropping out of school and moving to Tucson with him to go to the U of A. It was exciting. I can't say that it wasn't, even now that I know what happened. To be shopping for a 'family' at the Smith's down the street. To be taking Sun Trans to the U of A campus every day like a grown up. To write checks out every month for rent, food, car insurance. It was exciting.

In the beginning, it was hot -- the kind of hot you see on the movies -- the kind of hot that comes from desperation to be absorbed into another. I was the thinnest I have ever been -- down to 98 pounds and a size 3. A woman like me becomes 98 pounds by eating M&M's and drinking water for six months. A woman like me can eat M&M's and drink water for six months because she no longer could hear her body's cry for food. Men looked at me in ways I'd never experienced. Everywhere I went, people looked. By then I was 20, my father was six months dead, I could wear a miniskirt (and it worked), I had an engagement ring on my finger, and I knew I would never, ever marry this man. I knew it when he asked and put the diamond on my finger (a ring I never in all my life thought I'd have) and when I said yes, I learned something -- yes means no. No means no. But yes means no even more.

But still. We had an apartment. We had cats and ferrets. I worked as a projectionist at the now vanished AMC El Con cinema. N was the second man I had been with, and the first man to take what I didn't know I could lose.

Last week, I went to see my teacher, Cain, for another chi nei tsang session. On Wednesday, I went back because I couldn't do my kettlebell training anymore. It felt too aggressive. Too mean. I wanted to strengthen my abs instead, curl into a ball, and breathe. My knees were hurting from doing squats with the 27 lb kettlebell. Really, they were hurting because I didn't have my knees lined up properly over my feet. And really, I didn't have my knees lined up over my feet because I just couldn't open my legs.

I hate this pose. It's called malasana ( which literally means pose of the impure. Mala means impurity. Asana means pose. Malasana is designed to facilitate healthy bowel elimination. But as anyone who's ever had body work knows, the physical poses are only one piece of the puzzle. I'm afraid to stand on my head, but I loathe malasana. Three years ago, I couldn't lower my heels to the ground. Then, I learned to overcompensate with my outer thighs so I could lower my heels, but the result was that my knees bend too far inward. I loathe it. Ironically, I try to pick malasana-moments in class to go to the bathroom.

Cain sat on the floor opposite me, his back up against the desk, while I did my best to crouch into malasana. He put his feet on my knees and began to press them apart. My inner thighs contracted. "That's fear," he whispered. And then I remembered one of many things N did to me while we were together. My body remembered it. "It's not your muscles keeping you from the pose," he said. "It's your heart." So I breathed and cried a little and breathed and leaned into Cain so I could stabilize. I remembered the time he threw the butcher knife across the room at me. The time he broke my cat, Apricot's, tail. The time he thought (of the zillion times) that I'd been out cheating and pushed me onto the bed and forced my legs apart and pushed his hand inside to find the semen that wasn't there. I had long since, by that time, decided that sex was not on my agenda for this life. N had taken it and I had given it and there was really nothing left at all except the same dresser drawers and dishes to divide.

But still. I stayed several more months. I went dead when he touched me. I slept next to him, dead, and when I finally was able to leave him, I stayed dead for almost a decade. I was never going to surrender to anyone again.

Now, my own body is pulsing with his poison. It's been twenty years since I last saw him. There's never been another man in my life who behaved like he did. I feel like I'm detoxifying after a long inebriation. I am anxious today. I feel closed and hollow and as I watch and listen to my body, I go back to the routine Cain gave me on Wednesday to do for a week. Malasana. Slow. Hold onto the door. Breathe into safety. Breathe into forgiveness. Trust the body to release what it's been holding. Connect the pelvis and the heart.

I woke up at 2:30 am this morning, terrified. Keith slept next to me. I couldn't touch him. I reached my hand out, but it shook. I wanted to throw up. I was dizzy. Just lying in bed watching the moon through the blinds, I was dizzy. The feelings lasted until almost 8 this morning after I did my routine. Malasana. Slow. Hold onto the door. Breathe into safety. Breathe into forgiveness. Trust the body to release what it's been holding. Impurity-asana.

Let go of what doesn't serve you.

Connect the pelvis and the heart.

Let go.

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