close to the bone

For a long time, my life was like being displaced in some way, transient and fractured, forever exiled from my own body. I could not be or become comfortable, because at any moment the next evacuation might occur, where the alarms inside the head short circuit and scream ceaselessly even though all you’re doing is sitting there waiting for the coffee to brew. But time bends and reality blurs, trauma shaking itself through a body long after the day when the breaking became one tremor too many. And when that happens, the psyche doesn’t even have time to pack bags or boxes and instead it just flees, leaving your limbs sitting in a chair, terrified and hollow inside the numb. I could not settle inside my skin because at many moment I might be evicted, as if the part of me that found myself in bed with another person had failed to communicate with the physicality of the flesh being suffocated, and so the way I knew to make it right was to evict my own Self so as to survive.

I lived dismembered and disjointed, which the larger world supported and even encouraged. At times I was even praised for it, for my capacity to soldier through even when in pain, and for my ability to disconnect and leave the constraints of the horribly human realities of bodies that curse and need and bleed. I learned how to leave quickly and cleanly, and I learned how to never relax because I could be required to abandon shelter at any moment. This is what was required to make it through to the other side. So this is what I did. And it also was so terribly lonely.

There was forever a vague uneasiness, trying to locate what was missing. I was restless and searching for some crucial and important piece. Which was me. I was homesick for myself, returned and belonging to the body. 

The homesickness was the compass itself, the only way I had to navigate, trusting that I would find my way to re-member what had been dismembered, restored to the flesh and bone which was and is my dwelling place and wrestling space in this lifetime. It took everything I had. It was costly and harsh and achingly beautiful as cherry blossoms when they begin to weep pink and fill the air was ecstasy. And it was worth it.

Cracked Open to Trust

To return to the body, reclaiming our rightful space, and live fully embodied is to accept the very real limitations and traumas and soft hurts of the innate vulnerability in being human. No longer is it possible to pretend we can transcend all suffering, control outcomes, find refuge in ideas and ideals. We are tethered to the earth in a way, reckoning with our most human and our animal skin, our inability to avoid wounding and be wounded, our arrogance in having once claimed we would create reality with our thoughts alone. This is much of what abuse, sexual assault, and cancer taught me. I learned how to fight and surrender my way back inside. I learned how to finally crack open to trust, trusting myself and my body, which is different than leaving it and different than liking it. But the war was over, and this kind of reconciliation to reality is a powerful liberation.

To leave the body was to be forever lonely. To inhabit my own body was to live close to the bone of realities that we often choose to ignore, to live opened to the flesh of our want and hunger and subtle awakening when even the wind blowing through fingers, as your hand slips out the car window while driving, can become a portal to what some people would call prayer.

So it is not all love and light on the other side of returning after evacuations are over. And yet, it is also the only way to have all of ourselves. To live embodied is to know your full capacity, the full range of motion, having access to every part of you, in every moment, to respond to life as it arises and retreats like ocean tides. Here we can feel the full range of our own feelings, volcanic and new-leaf soft. We have the open book of our own truth and innate knowing, our own needs and resistance and rebellion, our own wholeness. Here, present, alive. It does not make the unknowns and unknowables any less daunting and even frightening. But it does make them less lonely. For we are no longer exiled from our home.

The Messy, the Mystery, Giving God Entry

This way of being and inhabiting our lives is radically different than much of the historical, deeply embedded and ever present perspectives of many religions and spiritual paths. There is such a long history of human attempts to transcend the confines of the human body and ascend toward god, the divine, enlightenment. Embodiment is messy and it makes such complete sense that we would find ways of labeling self-abandonment and evacuating the body as spiritually superior, so as to not be faced with Mystery and vulnerability, which humanizes and heals. And yet even when in the realms of the gods, the results are often the same. At war with our embodied humanity, we seek salvation in the realms above and beyond, and yet in leaving what is present and real we become strangers to our own selves, separated and restless for home.

Rabbi Kotzker Rebbe once wrote the lines that are a poem that are a prayer, “Where is God to be found? In the place where he is given entry.”

Here is a story different than what we’ve been told. The gods found not in detachment, in leaving, in rising above, transcending our embodied humanity so as to become pure or freed from suffering. This is to know and wrestle with and love the angels and demons with our own bruised and sublime bodies, becoming more fully human, awake to our flesh and feeling. And fully present inside our own skin, we have all of us, giving the gods of our choosing entry into this life, this world, into the hands that hold and heal and the back that arches in pleasure and the terrible and terribly stunning edges we encounter when fully embodied and loving another being in their wholeness. Liberation need not be leaving. It can also be returning, into the messy and mystery of this evolving physical form, the life force of veins and bones, rooted and real.