Sunday, November 1, 2015

Underbelly

I have a scar on my belly.

It is from the feeding tube I had, at the worst of the cancer treatments, when my throat was so ravaged by radiation even swallowing water was painful.

It's a small, round hole, about four inches above my belly button. It looks like a bullet wound.

Three years ago this hole was punched into my stomach.  It was made to sustain me, to give me life-giving nutrients. Without it the treatment would have been too much for my body to bear.  I hated it then, and I have avoided looking at it ever since.

It's on my soft white underbelly, and it makes me feel exposed, fragile and barely tethered to the world.

So, I ignored it. I filed it away in the mental morass where all the messages my body sends me go, into a dusty, overlooked and overstuffed file cabinet full of uncomfortable truths and feelings.

I prefer to live from the neck up.  I squeeze all experiences through the filter of thought. Emotions - especially the uncomfortable ones - are carefully strained, compared, analyzed and then meticulously explained.

I like my mind. I'm comfortable there. It makes me feel in control.

There are sound reasons to ignore my body. It makes me uncomfortable, what with all its imperfections, cumbersome functions and tendency to betray my carefully constructed illusion of control.

It screams at me to pay attention, particularly my gut. That's where I carry all the really uncomfortable shit: fear, conflict, anxiety, grief and sadness.  My insides curl into a tight, painful ball whenever I experience anything unwanted or uncomfortable, and my brain swoops in and madly begins explaining away.

Turning my focus from the ticker-tape of my mind to my body makes me squirm.

Another uncomfortable truth: the things that make me squirm are the most deserving of attention. My poor, overlooked, ignored body has carried my hardest truths, and it is the gatekeeper to my most vulnerable, authentic self.

And so, with as much compassion as I can muster, I practice turning my attention to the sacred messages it contains.

We are hardwired to protect our soft white underbelly. Exposing it triggers an ancient danger message, which in turn triggers the freeze, fight or flight response.

We aren't running from saber-toothed tigers or woolly mammoths anymore, but our brain doesn't know that, nor does it particularly care.  It responds to any perceived threat like it always has: avoid at all costs.

Addiction, and all forms of escape, are coded into that avoidance message.  There are so many ways to avoid: workaholism, perfectionism, the internet and the numbing effects of alcohol or drugs are but a few of the most beloved ways to hide.

In recovery I can't afford to ignore the woolly mammoths that come lumbering out of the morass. And so, I turn towards instead of away.

In the past, I have turned towards pain with my mind, but not with my body. Facing pain feels a lot safer as a mental exercise.  When I feel the vibrations of hoof beats thundering down the path, the last thing I want to do is unfurl, lie down and feel them come.  I would much, much rather just think about it.

My cancer lived in my body, and the deep fear this experience instilled in me lives there, too. I have written and talked about my cancer experience, but I haven't felt it.  My relapse taught me that what I avoid will, eventually, bring me down.

And so, I place my hand over the scar on my belly. I feel the softness, the vulnerability it contains. I listen to its message.

I feel the truths wash over me: you are deeply, primordially scared, Ellie. You are traumatized by your cancer experience; it plunked your mortality right into your lap, and this made returning to the land of the quotidian very, very hard.  You relapsed over it. You turned and you ran, as hard and as fast as you could.  

And then, this:   You are flawed and imperfect and wondrously alive. This tissue thin skin reminds you of the tenuousness of life, which is a truth whether you had cancer or not. 

I feel a loosening deep inside, a forgiveness, a compassion. I honor what the scar represents, which is another chance, a second umbilical cord that tethers me back to life, instead of away from it.

With one hand over my scar, and one hand on my heart, I feel my strong, steady heartbeat and I let the fear come.  I slip out of the world of the mind, and into my body. Cancer made me feel my body had betrayed me, when in fact the opposite is true. My mind is the only organ capable of betrayal.

That scar? It's not a wound. It's a doorway.











19 comments:

  1. So. Powerful. The healing continues - where it counts the most. Brava, Ellie. This is courageous stuff, truly courageous. Courage pushes past the fear and does the next right thing - and right now that is pushing that doorway open and letting grace and love wash over your panic. It might take time - but it is time well spent. :)

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  2. "That scar? It's not a wound, it's a doorway."
    Wow - So perfectly stated and profound!!

    Thank you - I will never look at that "bullet wound" from the feeding tube I had the same again.

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    Replies
    1. My husband left me and our daughter two weeks ago and is already dating a girl he met three months ago and has only been hanging out with her for the two weeks he has been gone. She is also married with two kids of her own. They claim to be moving in together but she basically spend every night with him at his motel he is staying at till they can get their own place. My husband has no license and therefore I have to give him a ride to and from work everyday Because his new "gf" still gives her husband a ride and they all work together. When he is around me he acts like there is no problem and we should just talk like nothing is going on. He completely ignores me any time I say anything about our marriage, never really gives me a straight answer other than its been over for a long time yet we hardly ever fault, we were still very much having sex at least two to three times every 2 weeks. We got in to a fight one night and the next he left and moved in to a hotel and then instantly this married woman was there with him every night and they basically only been talking on the phone through fb for like a month. Out of jealousy and so much pain inside of me I had to go on a personal research how i can get him back into our marriage again. But i was recommended to a genius real spell man Muna is his name http://marvelspelltemple.webs.com/ marvelspelltemple@gmail.com This man told me everything i need to know and everything i need to do. I attended to them and right now my husband is back home and we just had a romantic sex and he keep saying i love you to me and never to let go of me again

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