On Being Present

I’ve been working more this year on being present in my body. I think I largely tend to operate in a manner where my body is secondary to everything else, a means to an end. I think I blame my body for a lot of what’s happened to me, and I seek to rectify that. I want to get back in touch with it, remind myself that I am strong and powerful and badass, and that I survived a lot of shit.

How do I plan to do that, you ask? Well…I’ve gone to a couple pole dancing classes. It’s not what it sounds like. I’m not sure why I signed up initially. It sounded fun? I was curious? I had a lot of misconceptions prior to actually going, but the focus is very much on being present and aware of your body. Arm up, shoulder down, toes pointed, do something with that spare arm. It’s a lot of instruction and a lot of information. But it’s using my body in a way I’ve never let myself. I’m not used to using my body for ME. I’m used to it being used for other people. I’m used to catering the way I present myself to accommodate their needs and expectations.

The first class was not easy. I was frustrated within minutes because I couldn’t follow the warm up precisely and I like to do everything perfectly the first time without help. And I needed so much help. The instructors kept coming over to spot me, and the first time that happened I jumped away. I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t control my body, couldn’t do it on my own. But by class two, I began to understand the mechanics a little more, how my body could operate for ME rather than how to mirror what I saw the instructor do in the mirror. I got better. Not great, by any means. But better. I felt myself connect to my body more in that second class, but it also scared me a bit.

I’m afraid of sex. I can say that solidly, I think. I’m afraid of the word sexy, of anything related to sexy, of using my body in a way that could be construed as sexy. My therapist tells me that I hear the words sexy pushups (because that is what they are called in pole class) and I panic because I don’t think I’m sexy. She says I am scared because I think that ability has been taken from me by my trauma, that my ability to connect in that way and present myself as sexy and not be ashamed is impacted by the person I have allowed my trauma to shape me as. She told me that I survived being raped and I survived having my body ravaged and I survived a lot of bullshit, but my body is mine now to do with what I please. She told me that I need to give myself permission to rediscover it now, that it’s been long enough and that I can do that.

So I will keep going to these classes, for now. Maybe not forever. But for now. And I will work on being present in my body, being grateful for how strong it is, for how it allowed me to survive. For the idea that it can be sexy, when I am ready for that, and for the idea that I someday may be ready.

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One thought on “On Being Present

  1. You hit the nail on the head: What sexual assault robs us of most of all is the ability to inhabit our own bodies, feel our sensations, experience our feelings. I’m also trying movement, yoga and dance, to help me learn to feel safe and even enjoy being in my body. Novel concepts but essential.

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