By Patricia Buck

Reposted With Permission From Sheila Kelley S Factor


There are times when to be a women can feel restrictive, oppressive: don’t wear that, don’t say that, don’t be provocative, don’t be flirtatious, don’t be too loud, don’t be too powerful, don’t be too free, don’t be too emotional, don’t be too liberated.  In short: don’t lay unapologetic claim to all that you are.  Where are the voices of encouragement, of support?  Where is the space that says there is no such thing as too much emotion?  Where is the place that says give me the worst; I can take it, I can hold it, I can reflect it back and reveal that even your darkness is infinitely beautiful and glorious?

When I walked into S Factor five years ago, I was lost, bereft and seeking.  I’d just come out a controlling and somewhat verbally abusive relationship with a man who said he wanted to marry me.  He had written a Jane Austin style letter to my father expressing his intentions.  It felt wildly romantic to me.  So romantic, that I turned a blind eye to everything that was wrong in the relationship.  When he ended the relationship it felt as if I was losing my last chance at marriage and children.   I was approaching forty and could feel my uterus exploding, expiring, imploding.  It was in fact this belief in scarcity that kept me in such an unhealthy situation—I didn’t believe I had any other options.  This was my last shot.  It is a singularly isolating experience to be single and childless and constantly confronted by the marriages and subsequent pregnancies of all of your friends and colleagues.  You become very intimate friends with envy.

And so, I went to an intro class with a friend. Mostly I was seeking a connection with my own sensuality.  I didn’t feel attractive or sexy.  I didn’t feel worthy.  I wanted to find that feeling and self-confidence.  I wanted to reconnect. With myself.  In the early days I remember the awkwardness and self-consciousness of not wanting to touch my own stomach.  I hate my stomach.  And then I realized, if I hate my stomach and I can’t touch my stomach why would anyone else want to?  I had to learn to love my body.

That’s when the journey really begins.

I’ve had so many profound experiences of being seen, held, and supported by this community of women.  It’s quite a transcendent experience to wordlessly lay yourself bare. To wordlessly say: I am deeply sad, I have unspeakable shame, I am angry, I am confused, I am losing faith, I’m not comfortable in my own body.

You communicate without words and yet you are heard.

And the resonance of feeling and experience reverberates.  And you are not alone.  It is magical, mystical and holy.

The women who bear witness to your story, your journey come to know the most intimate, vulnerable, and authentic you.  How often do we tell the people in our lives that we are fine, when we are far from fine?  The sacredness of this experience is the permission to remove that wall of politeness and conformity to social norms. This has been particularly liberating for me as I have a tendency to economize my speech—saying as little as possible lest I give away some awful truth: the awful weakness of admitting I am not fine.  I don’t have it all together.  Some days I’m just hanging by a thread.

I’ve been in traditional therapy, and movement therapy feels like a whole other level of truth.  It feels like you can’t hide.  What you might omit or gloss over in talk therapy cannot be done in movement therapy. Your body doesn’t lie.  I once had a teacher say to me, “You say you want to be seen, you say you feel invisible, but you’re always dancing in corner.  Get out of the corner.”  What I’ve been privileged to experience through this work is a deeper knowledge of self.  What an amazing gift that is.

As I continue to grow and evolve in this movement I sometimes cast back to the woman I was at the beginning of this journey.  I am not where I would like to be; but, I am moving, I am striving, I am reaching.  The teacher who told me to get out of the corner recently told me to focus on my breastbone.  “Your heart is opening,” she said.