Olly Olly Oxen Free

You know the bittersweet feeling that comes from being an Awesome Hider? You’ve found this great spot and you fit inside perfectly and you’re concealed so well you may as well be invisible. You can hear your It-friend walking by and they don’t even get a whiff of your presence. You feel so proud because you’ve found a Great Hiding Spot.

After a while, you can hear more, and then all of your friends running back and forth, yelling for you, but they can’t find you. And you get a thrill down your spine because you’ve actually found The Best Hiding Spot. You want to see how long it takes them to find you. So you stay put and breath through your mouth, and don’t dare to move.an.inch.

And then it gets really quiet. You can’t hear your friends anymore. And you wonder where they’ve gone. They wouldn’t stop looking without telling you…would they?

And the longer you sit there, pondering this turn of events, the stranger it feels. Maybe you start to wonder whether you CAN be found. Maybe you disappeared. Maybe you aren’t real anymore. You realize that no one is going to find you here.

I’ve been hiding all my life. From monsters both real and imagined. From disappointment and failure. From other people’s emotional outbursts, manipulations, and fits. From pain and grief. I’ve created an internal life that’s perfectly suited to all my patterns and preferences. I’m well adapted to living inside my head. All. By. My. Self.

When I was 4 and then 14 and then 24 (and then 34), suffering through growing up, hating people for dozens of reasons, living inside my mind seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I learned how to perform normalcy, a semblance of happiness. But now I’m 44 and in a relationship with someone whose trying desperately to See Me. He wants to connect with me. Has wanted to do so for the eight years we’ve been together.

And I’ve come to realize that my perfect hiding spot is actually a prison. A prison that’s exactly the same size as my body. A Christina-shaped prison. I can’t move in here. It’s hard to take a full, deep breath. My solar plexus trembles when I do. I’m 500 feet down inside a cold, dark well and I can’t hear my friend’s voices anymore.

The more I use somatic, breathing meditations to grow my awareness, the more this becomes clear. My breath is forcing me to bump up against the walls of my prison. And it hurts. It hurts being this alone. Alone in the dark with my breath and my shame.

Because it’s shame that keeps me here. Shame who tells me it’s better to be “safe.” Better to remain hidden. Better not to try. Better not to breathe fully or lean into creativity. Better not to risk being seen. Don’t call attention to yourself. Don’t let them see you. They’ll eat you, rape you, kill you, hate you. The monster will find you.

Shame is the monster. And while I didn’t put it here, inside my body, down deep in the crevices of my chest and pelvis and heart; it’s my monster to battle. I’m the only one here. The only one who can climb up and out of this well.

I have to give up this hiding place. It isn’t actually safe here, isn’t healthy. I’m suffocating, smothered by my shame.

I found me. I’m right here, breathing. And I’m coming out.

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