Help yourself to some water.
Today we honor your Survival Strategies.
How did you survive Neglect? Being invisibilized/genocided, etc.?
Which of the brainstem’s fight, flight, freeze, appease and dissociate, reactions became automatic for you?
We fought. With everything we had.
To be seen, to be heard, to live.
It’s called courage it’s called truthforce its called social justice.
We fought and fought and became fight.
Sometimes we fought each other.
We fled when we could.
Disappeared into bush, caves, swamp.
We went underground.
Built new towns of our own, far away.
Sometimes envy and hate came to burn us down.
We froze, still as rabbits.
Bland as deer.
A good plan when no one has your back.
We mastered small-silent, eyes down, quiet feet, slo-mo movements.
We pleased. Family servants, existing only for others.
So many appeasings.
Our smiles mirrored your importance.
We made you laugh. Asked you about yourselves.
Anticipated your every need.
Bought alone time, unmolested time. Bought our lives.
but most of all,
Numbed. Forgot. Severed thought from feeling, flesh from mind.
Erased and neglected, we erased ourselves in turn. For ghosts, dissociation is lifeblood, antidote, wraparound friend.
With words. With touch.
Let us acknowledge where you’ve come from, what you endured. How brave, how ingeniously you survived. How loving, how persistent you’ve been!
And look closely at what your ancestors did, what you did, to get you here.
Praise the creativity, the ferocity of survival.
Affirm its precise genius.
First, gratitude To Your Ancestors:
Dr. Joy DeGruy shows us how to thank one’s ancestors.
“DeGruy (points out that) It’s customary for black parents to denigrate their children when they’re complimented as a defense mechanism. In the past, when a slave owner showed interest in the skill of a child, the parent made the child seem unappealing or unintelligent to prevent them from being sold or raped.”
Thank you ancestors who camouflaged your beloved children. Thank you for making them seem unworthy of notice, protecting them from atrocity.
Thank you for passing that wisdom through the generations.
I thank my mother and my female lineage. Thank you Sylvia, for teaching me to forget. Thank you grandmothers, great grandmothers, for showing me how to step aside, to fade.
I used to only see the damage this caused, to me and our relationships. But you gave me the best vaccine you had for abuse, misogyny and ableism.
To all the ancestors, who kept us alive. (Entombed, dormant. But alive.)
Thanks to you, these acorn shells are intact. Ready to land in soft soil. To plant themselves. Burst, give birth to saplings and trees.
Gratitude for Your Personal Survival Strategies
Second, gratitude to your wise animal soma.
Let’s remember your history, your body;
How you survived neglect, erasure;
How ghosting away protected you:
The more I made myself invisible, the less I got hit.
If I wasn’t a bother, maybe they would love me.
I learned to do without. To need so little, I could survive anything.
Thank you, wise body. Still here. You got yourself here.
Now, on the bodywork table, while your bones rest;
I praise the survival in your body.
Witness your resistance and resilience, with hands, eyes and presence.
My hands, my gaze speak:
Thank you, flashing eye and clenched jaw.
Thank you for fighting so long, so hard. Bless you.
Thank you pounding heart and restless feet.
Thank you for running…to live on. Bless you.
Thank you held breath and poker face.
Thank you for drawing no attention. Bless you.
Thank you, automatic smile, dropped gaze.
Thank you for lulling your enemies into harmlessness. Bless you.
Thank you, floating soul, vacated limbs.
Thank you for finding refuge from suffering. Bless you.
Thank you for fiercefiercefierce self-love.
Befriend Your Disembodied Body
Because it is most difficult of all strategies to sense, to name, to identify;
Let us especially thank your dissociation survival strategy.
When your disappearing trick reveals itself in your body; I thank it.
While it comes, while it goes, ever elusive;
I wait quietly.
When it shows up, I keep it company. Physically support it.
I welcome your voice, ghost-body. I listen.
When back says, “if no one has my back, if it’s all on me, why bother?”
My hands say, “Yes, back, thank you for saving your energy. So smart.”
When the body says, “No one loves me, no one even knows I exist! Why not just melt away?”
My heart says, “yes, such a good idea! Why not?”
My voice, my hands say,
“May I hold you, phantom back?
Will you let me support you a little?”
“I invite you, oh back, to let the table have some of your weight. Just as much, just as little as you want.”
We take our time. We let your back try it out. Bit by bit.
‘Til your back discovers trust.
‘Til it’s safe to be a back again.
My hands feel your lungs gasp,; “Why bother to breathe, to do, to live?” Your heart groans, “Why bother? Nothing I do matters.”
I hold your heart, cradle your shoulder blades. My heart says, let me help you hold that give-up shape. You don’t have to do it all yourself.”
With hands, with voice, I say,
“Wow, you are so smart to hibernate. You survived the long winter!”
My flesh listens as muscles and nerves tell their story.
Rheumatoid arthritis? Of course.
Disheartened immune system? In the wake of neglect, you make perfect sense. Perfect sensations.
My body murmurs to yours, “You deserve to be warm. You deserve to be held. You deserve to rest for a thousand years.”
Your arms mutter, “Why should I extend?”
Hands hiss, “Why lift a finger?
No one cares. I make no difference; always more-more-more dishes, housework, demands, bills to pay. Nothing I do makes any matter.”
My heart reaches to support your arms with mine.
My palms hug each finger, one by one.
I admire your superhero-(disem)-body powers.
Once upon a time, you learned to be unfindable, undetectable. To live without texture, without voice, without needs.
How did you learn, at such a young age, to hide desire? To strike down your arms, extended in longing?
My eyes, hands, and heart honor your heroic resilience.
Your aggressive “I quit;”
your volcanic “fuck you” implosion;
your black hole despair collapse defiance;
your persistent refusal to exist.
I say, “Yes, arms. Yes. Rest.
Rest for a thousand years.
I lift you up. Hold your burden with you.
Ah. Your arms begin to sink. Surrender to gravity.
Ah. Your always-watchful eyes close.
Next session: Part III.
We will make space to melt your armor and repair your boundaries