It’s present day. Not where I thought I would begin this piece. Yet here I am, on a writing retreat in Hawaii with a wall of colorful post it notes laying out my writing plan for the week.
I’ve set up my days with bright pink notes labeling the days I will be in retreat. Underneath each pink note is a rainbow of other notes declaring my writing/project goals for the day. It’s beautiful for me to see because for 7 solid days I will be able to work on various writing projects and ideas I have for the rest of the year.
I’ve already been here two days and after I complete one of the notes I move it to the tippy top above the pink note of the day. It’s gorgeous to have this physical movement of a note below-unfinished to a note above-finished.
One large quadrant of multiple colors makes up my path for my work each day. Today is movement day. I call it that mostly because the yellow note below my pink Wednesday says I’m writing this essay of my healing journey. There’s also a blue note under that one letting me know today I’ll be shooting some new videos and plans for a mindfulness movement program I’m creating.
So today is movement day. However, I always imagined I would start this essay with where my healing journey began. Movement is what brought me out of my victim mentality. I was 19 years old and had been through a massive valley of abuse, exploitation, and bullying for a good portion of my life.
While my childhood memories were peppered with small wins and happy moments the bulk of my experience was traumatizing and I wasn’t moving past it or through. Stuck in some sort of abusive loop I landed myself in a relationship with a man 13 years my senior.
Bronco was nice when I met him. He was funny, charismatic, interested in me, and though not adoring or thoughtful he captured my attention. It wasn’t long after we started dating I noticed he would minimize who I was, often saying I couldn’t get something right, or asking what was wrong with me.
In my head I knew everything was wrong with me. In my heart I wanted to believe something different. But history tells the truth.
The first time we arranged to have sex, it was going to be my first time. I’d never had consensual sex in my life. I’d been through years of sexual abuse and I finally felt like I wanted to share my body willingly with someone. With him.
He was going to come over to my apartment after work and I lit candles everywhere. I prepared the bed carefully, I set flowers out on the side table and readied myself for his arrival. I made sure to have some beautiful music playing on my CD recorder- this was all before apps and spotify- I chose Sting’s album Ten Summoner’s Tales- to be playing in the background.
The light coming in from the window was beautiful and I let him into the apartment when he buzzed.
My prep for what would come ended up being the only beautiful thing. Beyond some nice kissing, and laying on the bed touching, he was impervious to my nervousness and concern over having sex for the first time. He referred to my past saying I’d done this “alot” and proceeded to move forward.
I faltered. I loved him. It wasn’t right to refuse him something so many others had taken. And then without asking he put a condom on and pushed me down on the bed.
I cried. Not silent crying. Out loud crying. And I never said stop. And I never said how much he was hurting me. This is what I know and will always know. So I just cried. It was all I could do.
The lushness of Hawaii is fascinating and this retreat has already moved my spirit in ways I could never imagine. I feel so loved and cared for. Certainly after many years of healing work I feel very deserving of all of it.
The leader instructs us to not try to “do anything” and let the magic maker, her helper, and the yoga teacher create an experience, but I notice so many other retreat-ers, who are here with me, struggling with this concept. We’re all women. We all want to DO something to help. We all want to give.
I leave my dishes at the table and walk away. I can appreciate receiving. I experienced years of being on hard receiving ends and now, this feels like my reward. Also, I’ve done an insane amount of healing work at this point. I’m good. I got this. I can receive love. I love myself so hard and all the way. Maybe I’m a little too confident about all of it. Still. I’m not doing dishes.
The yoga teacher is leading our outdoor morning class. The birds are chirping, the air is sticky and warm, just the way I like it. We’re diving into long-held poses to the sweet slur of her accent. Her voice is welcoming and open.
“Droooppp into your hips. Deeply. Listen to your breath. Don’t move from the torso. Move from your pelvis”.
Mine won’t move. Literally it’s stuck and I can’t find trikonasana to save my life. I move my chest forward and she gently pushes my heart back and reaches at my hips to move them forward.
“This is good Lisa, just be patient”.
In my head I feel like saying ‘fuck patience’, but in my body and in my heart I hear it. A small still voice. “Still so much work to do my dear one. Learn to let go of the shame. Let go and allow some space, surrender to enough”. It’s a gentle, healing motion and something so different from where my healing journey began with movement.
Bronco had control. He’d had it since the beginning but now we were two years in and it’d gotten much worse. There were small moments of enjoyment and fun, but it was heavily overshadowed by his incredibly dangerous mood swings that left me with bruises or crying in a corner of his apartment. It was always my fault. I was one of many possibilities; a whore, incompetent, stupid, inconsiderate, rude, or manipulative.
I tried really hard not to be any of those things. I didn’t want him to be angry with me. On the first night of my healing journey (where I actually thought this story would begin) I was walking carefully, tiptoeing, between his moods, guessing whether I could keep him happy or at least stop him from yelling at me. We were going to see a movie and probably grab a bite beforehand. He was on his computer, immersed in whatever it was when I asked him gently,
“Hey do you still wanna grab a bite before the movie?, Cuz’ then we should prolly leave right now.”
“What the fuck, Lisa?! Can you ever give me a minute. You’re driving me nuts”.
So I didn’t ask the right thing and it didn’t matter. He jumped up and grabbed my arm. I cowered, but he pulled me down the stairs into his Bronco truck and shoved me in the passenger seat. Then he angrily walked to the driver side door got in, and slammed his key into the ignition.
I was afraid. I didn’t want to ask where we were going. I stayed quiet.
10 minutes later, after silence in the truck, he pulled up to Woodale Ave. I knew the area. We drove by here often on our way back and forth to his place. It had this really interesting kickboxing studio on the corner and every time we passed it I would say,
“That looks really fun. I wanna try a class sometime.”
He stepped on the brakes and slowed down enough to reach across me and open the door on my side. Then unbuckled my belt and pushed me out.
“I need a fucking break from you. keep crying or go in and take a class I could care less.”
Then he drove off.
I sat down on the curb and cried.
At the end of this intense (for me at least) yoga class is a long savasana. The yoga teacher places a beautifully cold lemongrass infused towel on my eyes and gently pushes it down. I feel waves of emotions come up. It’s mostly joy now. I’ve come so far. I may not have been patient through most of my journey and yet, here I am. Soaking in a beautiful class with beautiful people in a beautiful space. I stay there a bit longer and can’t hold back a wave of emotion. I shake and cry. It really is a joy. There’s so much of that now. I’m so grateful.
That day with Bronco though I sat on the curb and cried with pain and suffering. Would I never be free of being a victim? Was this my destiny?
You know those moments, I mean I want you to have had one, those life changing ones that take you down a completely different path because you made one choice you could have easily not made, but decided to anyway, mostly because the Universe was guiding you to follow it and you did so blindly, hoping beyond hope that there was something different on the horizon for you.
Some fluttery thing that flys into the smallest opening in your closeted heart and flutters up to a part of your brain you thought would be dark forever but suddenly lights it up? Yeah. That’s hope.
And I had it. A moment of hope. I stood up from the curb and stepped inside the studio to take a class. Everything changed and I began my healing journey.
It began with movement.
Movement would anchor my healing journey. Starting with punching and kicking stuff as hard as I could in a kickboxing class.
And ending where?
That I’m not sure, I’m still discovering how much movement has been the guiding piece throughout my healing journey. So more will come…