Tuesday, April 29, 2008

straining my voice.

*i started this post almost a month ago, and promptly lost it among the drafts here. it's still totally valid, still totally appropriate, so here we go again. updated, finished, published, done.*

i've been developing an intense knot in my shoulder/back over the past month or so (ever since dinner with my parents, now that i think about it.)

i've been noticing it as it's gotten worse and worse, but i've been mostly unsure about what it was stemming from. i had some ideas, mostly related to the cafe and the rest of the general stressors in my life, but none of them were all that convincing to myself.
still, i was ready to dismiss it as your general sore muscles, as general stress-related tightness.
(aside: it's times like these that i especially wish i had the funds for massage/bodywork on a regular basis. my friend tried to help me out, work it out a little bit at work, but there was only so much she could do for me. a full massage, though? where i could get to the bottom of what's really causing this ever-growing knot? would be amazing. so, those of you who know me: this isn't a bad idea for a birthday (or any-day) gift.)

this morning, though, i noticed a distant soreness in my throat. i pressed down near my larynx, above where my vocal cords lie, and...
i felt the pressure of my fingers on my throat...directly in the center of this knot in my shoulder.

my vocal cords connect to this pain, this soreness, this tightness.


i'm still a little unsure as to what exactly this means.
is my voice/body sore from speaking these things i've kept such a tight lid on for so long?
or is my voice/body sore from still not speaking those things i'm still pushing down, under that tightly sealed lid?

i wanted to lean toward the first. a big part of me wanted to believe that this work i'm doing, this incredibly hard, painful, excruciating work, was actually doing damage instead of good. a big part of me was searching - is always searching - for a reason to abandon all of this entirely.
...but after therapy a couple weeks ago, the large, large knot loosened a little. not a lot, barely enough to be noticeable, but still, enough.

and so this, i guess, is what speaking does. the act of speaking those unspeakable things, those unspeakable truths, is going to make you sore.
but keeping those unspeakable truths unspoken and pushed down underneath that ever-tightening lid...that is what causes the most pain.

i've tested this theory recently, this theory that keeping silent causes this pain, this bundling of energy into a painful little knot.
i went to Rowe Camp & Conference Center up in Rowe, MA (in the hilltowns/berkshires) last week for a self-designed personal retreat. despite the miles i spent hiking (including accidentally hiking up Todd Mtn) and the unfamiliar mattress/pillows, when i returned to northampton, that huge knot was significantly smaller. despite spending almost the entire 25 hours i was at rowe thinking about and speaking (to myself/in writing) my truths about family, trauma, abuse, love, all of these things that are so hard to think, the knot that's tied to my speaking parts (my vocal cords), was alleviated.

in the past couple days, i've thought a lot about the prospect of removing my parents from my life, of really & truly prioritizing this more real chosen family here in northampton. which means i've thought a lot about what it would mean to NOT do it, to take the easier(?) route of continuing with the self-sacrificial peacekeeping of the family, to continue caretaking my parents and the rest of the immediate family.
and the knot has re-emerged. with a vengeance.

keeping it quiet, squelching it, smothering it beneath this happy-family pillow of so-called "protection" and "peacekeeping" is painful. actually causes pain.
the process of starting to compose letters of separation to my parents, of facing and writing and really acknowledging the truth of my life was heartbreaking...but it was a welcome soreness.

to analogize:
sports aren't always apt metaphors, because the athlete culture is usually one of self-sacrifice, but in this case, i think it's appropriate:
when you pull a muscle, it fuckin' hurts. i pulled my groin last fall playing soccer. i tried to play a full game when i hadn't taken the time to get back into soccer-playing shape. bad idea. i rocked that game, sure, but i could barely walk the next day. i spent most of the day sitting on a chair in my kitchen, rotating between bags of frozen corn & frozen peas. i only got to play one or two more games for the rest of the season, at half-speed it seemed, because i'd pulled my muscle. i'd actually hurt myself.
when you wake up the day after going for a long, intense run, your muscles are sore. even if you've spent the time to cool down, to stretch before bed, to get that acid out of your muscles, there's going to be a little soreness. but it feels good. so good. it hurts, but not in a painful way. it hurts in an accomplished, satisfying way.

i don't want to be out of commission for weeks like i was when i pulled my groin muscle. i don't want to suppress my own truth to the point that i seriously hurt myself and have to take months of extra time to get back to a place where i can start to even think about my truths again. the heart-soreness that i felt at rowe hurt, sure, but in that same really good way that my calves and quads feel the day after a long run. i want more of that. i want more people to feel more of that. i think our culture would be a much more welcoming one if people weren't so incapacitated by their refusal to tell/face their truths, if people felt the growing/muscle-building pains of what it meant to tell/face their truths more often.

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