By Magaly Arredondo Lopez (she/her/ella)
One of my favorite short stories is one called “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros. This story so beautifully describes the concept that we, as humans, are more than what we currently appear to be. This is to say that even though I am 25 years old, I am more than where I am in this year of life: in a partnership, living with my partner, out of college, working at allgo, etc. I am a culmination of everything I have ever been. I am 25 years old, but I am also 24, 23, 22, 21, and so on.
In Eleven, the protagonist describes waking up on their 11th birthday to not fully feel 11 years old. They say:
And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.“Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros
I love and appreciate the tenderness in this short story. If we were to see ourselves as a culmination of everything that makes us who we are, then maybe we would be more willing to be gentle with ourselves and others. Maybe we would recognize that, although we are older or “more experienced” or have been around longer, we are still carrying our younger selves with us and we need to tend to them.
My Body and All That I Hold
Recently, I was in a training where we filled out something called a Body Map. The training facilitators mailed each trainee a big printout of a gender-neutral body outline. Before we even began the training, the trainers wanted each of us to really sink into our bodies and ground in what we are feeling. On one side of the body outline, we were told to write down some of the challenging things we have experienced in life. The circumstances that have wounded or hurt us. On the other side of the body outline, we were then told to write down some of the people or things that have given us strength and kept us going despite the challenges we have faced.
Afterwards, we were instructed to draw how the memories or challenges that have wounded us show up in our body. We were also instructed to draw the people or things that give us strength. Afterwards, we were paired with someone and spoke about what it brought up for us. I shared with my partner that it was heavy to think about that particular morning and that I was feeling rather emotional about it. My partner shared the sentiment.
Illustrating what my experiences look like on my body was both healing and emotional for me. Seeing myself that way was a testament to my strength, resilience, and all the ways in which I have survived. It also reminded me that I am being protected by my ancestors and they are walking alongside me. I showed this on my body map by drawing roots growing out of my feet and hands and keeping me grounded within myself and connected with all those who came before me. This imagery reminded me that regardless of the circumstances I face, I am not alone.
My Body Holds Pain
My body holds many things. It holds not only what I have experienced in my lifetime, but what came before me in the time I was in my mother’s womb, in the time my mom was in her mother’s womb, and on and on.
I think about this a lot lately. About how I am not alone in facing the human condition of suffering, loss, grief, etc. I have thought a lot about how those that came before me, my beautiful ancestors, also experienced pain and trauma. As I hope and pray that I tap into healing in my lifetime, I also hope that I might heal some of the pain that I inherited from my parents and ancestors. Every time I find myself an inch closer to liberation and healing, I know I am not experiencing it alone. I am healing the wounds I inherited, as well. I relish the idea that those who came before me may find true peace and freedom in the afterlife through the work I do in my life to heal. I find comfort in that.
Is your healing journey unfolding for you and your ancestors, as well? Where is pain sitting in your body? If you were to close your eyes and breathe slowly, where do the sadness, anxiety, anger, or pain land in your body? Pay attention. Notice. Honor what is coming up.
My Body Holds Healing
My body and vessel not only holds the pain I have experienced, but also the love, care, and energy I need in order to heal. I have seen two energy healers in my life and have been to various healing workshops. In all of these, I am reminded that my body also holds the key to what can help me heal. My body sends me messages about what it needs (movement, food, water, connection, etc.) and feels relief once those needs are met. My body is a vessel for healing, light, and positivity as much as it is vulnerable to harm and pain.
In my therapy practice, my therapist reminds me to come back to my body. As I close my eyes, she asks that I pay attention to what my body is feeling. Where, in my body, are my feelings manifesting? As I process out loud and inside of my own head, I can feel the tightness, anxiety, and tension ease up in my shoulders, stomach, throat, and chest. This is a practice we come back to often. The practice of tuning in to what the body is saying, listening, offering compassion, and letting go.
Our Bodies Are Powerful
Growing up, I often thought I could only go to others for healing. I thought I had to access external resources in order to feel better internally. It is powerful to realize we are able to access healing and medicine through others and on our own, too. Imagine all of the wisdom we inherited in our own bodies!
What healing practices did you inherit? Were you taught to become in tune with your body and breath in order to help your body heal? What movements, breathing techniques, or ways of being in your body allow you to feel better?
I hope and pray that you might access healing inside of your own body, whether on your own or through the guidance of others. May you be well. May you feel peace.