I'm lying on my stomach, an arcane configuration of needles in my back. The room is just-right warm, soft-music quiet, clean-energy peaceful. Susan has just left, her parting words lingering in the air like the hint of lavender that permeates everything.
"You need to set your intention to release aggression."
We've been talking about things that keep me from sleeping well. I've shared a bit of my story with her, including the cult experience and my challenges finding my spiritual footing since. She shared last time about how there is a stickiness to spiritual beliefs that can travel through generations. I've talked about my struggles with a path that doesn't seem to fit clearly with any established belief system. I've also talked about how trusting still challenges me, how being vulnerable scares me. One of the reasons I have such a hard time falling asleep is my huge discomfort with that gap of time between awake and asleep.
From all of that, she has decided to focus on my heart, my lungs (grieving, she tells me) and my liver (which might be anger or irritability) for today.
When she says grieving, I feel a lump rise in my throat in response - with nothing concrete attached except that earlier in our conversation when she mentioned she wants to work with women with fertility issues I felt a surprising stab of sadness. Which I instantly dismissed.
I'm still not understanding what any of this has to do with aggression, but I do trust Susan and this process, so I do as she asks.
It's also the second time in two days that this topic has come up, so I'm thinking the great Someone is trying to get my attention again. Just yesterday Pat shared with me an excerpt from a book review in the April "O". The book being reviewed is How God Changes Your Brain. The words she read to me are, "Thinking of a loving being causes the compassion centers to light up, whereas belief in an authoritarian spirit stimulates regions that prime the brain for fighting."
Fighting. Aggression. Compassion. Vulnerability.
I focus on releasing aggression. Letting go of the fight. Opening my heart. Allowing the grief to surface.
And it does. And it's not what I expected. All I can receive on Susan's table is how sad I feel knowing she wants to help women get pregnant. Which makes no sense - I'm 57 and have done so much work around my unconventional parenting path that surely there is nothing left to grieve. Except the lump in my throat has other ideas.
It's not until two days later as I sit alone in my morning quiet that the underlying truth emerges.
I have spent my life fighting my own femininity, and the vulnerability that is central to being a woman. And because I gave up the only daughter I gave birth to, was denied the daughter offered in adoption, and ran out of time (and even more deeply true, lost heart) to try again - because of all of that it was easier to decide I didn't want a child that bad. It was easier to be tough, and strong and to fight for everything and against anything, so I didn't have to feel the pain of that loss.
And here's the core of this latest layer of grief: In three short months I will leave a job that has allowed me to experience and love children in a safe and partially distant way. It's time to let go of that safe place and to move on. But that means finally knowing, without protection, what the loss of the deepest expression of my womanhood feels like.
My heart cannot open completely. I won't be able to breathe deeply. I will always need the false power of the fight. Until I grieve.
image from Flickr