Friday, January 11, 2013

The Body Remembers What the Mind Forgets

The body remembers what the mind forgets.

Never has this statement meant more to me than in this year of griefwalking after my mother's death. I know the concept of muscle memory--I can still ride a bike (I think!) and intellectually I understand that somehow the cells of the body store "memories" of emotionally intense events.

It's why, for instance, the scent of lilacs takes me back to my childhood in Montana or the song "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" propels me to the days of my first love. And it's why at certain points in my griefwalk I've been blindsided by physical sensations that have caught me off guard.

During the past twelve months (has it really been that long?), I have had days when I felt panicky, apprehensive, irritable or just plain "off." When I would stop to examine my feelings, generally I would recognize that I was approaching some significant anniversary or holiday, like Easter or a birthday or even the day my mother first went into hospice.  Even when I wasn't consciously aware of the date, my body would somehow remember it...and let me know somatically.

Now I'm coming up on the one year anniversary of her death and if I weren't consciously aware of it, I would certainly be bodily aware. My heart races for no good reason, I get a niggling headache, I feel slightly nauseated and I am tired, so tired that even my bones are weary.

This is the last milestone that I have to mark.  I've passed once through all the holidays, personal days, significant seasons. There are just two more days that I must traverse--the day of her death and the day of her funeral.  If the rest of the year has been any indication, the actual days will pass with little or no trauma. It's the time leading up to them that will be hard. It's as if my body is anticipating the memory, bracing and preparing itself. Then, when the moment finally arrives, it exhales and what's left is not the body's memory, but the mind's.

And the mind's memory is easier to deal with than the body.  I think that's because the mind pushes the memories front and center and insists that they be examined and processed. The body is more covert. It nudges the memory, allowing it to be expressed in odd symptoms and unexplained aches, pains, fears and worries. It's only when I am able to bring the memory out of the body and into the mind that the feelings begin to subside.

So I tell myself to breathe. For I've learned that healing comes one breath at a time.

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