“Your performances are nothing but that of a glorified stripper.”
Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators recently passed away. My old band covered a few of his songs. Above is a recording for an album we never finished – basic tracks.
I’m making music again – after 14 years of silence. I am so happy to be making music – and also have mixed feelings about those dark years when I let music go. I married a narcissist who undermined me from just about every angle. Eventually I gave up music in an attempt to “be an adult,” to be a “responsible wife,” to “prove” that I loved him. That wasn’t enough. It turned into us moving to a neighborhood far away from my friends, him not wanting me to go for walks by myself, or go outside or leave the city – he basically wanted me nearby to control me.
I knew the situation was messed up, but I was already ashamed for letting it go as far as it did. I tried to find happiness in a life with choices that felt like they were rapidly shrinking. I stayed stuck – until my body said “no more.” I developed debilitating diverticulitis by my mid-thirties, and after my second trip to the ER, I knew if I didn’t leave the marriage, the illness would develop into cancer.
The abuse didn’t begin with my marriage – I was a master at dissociation long before I met my ex-husband. I would argue that most of us in the western world experience some form of it, programming and advertising are mostly based in fear and not being “good enough” for . . . (you name it: love, the job, the promotion). The message of danger and worthlessness are constant and clear. Nevertheless, some of us have more severe experiences than others, and our dissociative capabilities can be quite advanced.
When I was child, I intuitively knew that diving into my art, spending time in the woods, and moving my body were good for me. Music and art were ways for me to express myself without danger – writing a story I could say what I wanted because it was the character’s point of view – not necessarily my own, performing on stage I had a personae, I could be so good at drawing that no matter how much my sisters would humiliate me or beat me up, they couldn’t touch my talent. Climbing trees I could hide high up and see where danger might be. Riding my bike I could get away and feel powerful in my body. I thought becoming an adult would mean I would be safe, I didn’t know I would have to continue to take care of my child-self as well.
The more I understand dissociation, the more I understand how important my somatic work is. (see Why the Body?) Yoga, working with the chakras, writing, mindfulness and meditation, singing, dancing, noticing the body and breath, riding my bicycle – all of these modalities feel intuitively right and healing to me. I love teaching techniques for creativity and presence because I am thrilled to see people light up when they are safe to be fully present in their bodies. And then, oh, the empowered imagination, and sometimes the tears, that come through – it’s wonderful.
To this day, I am sorting through the stories of my childhood where dissociation began. I suppose I will be sorting through the stories for my lifetime – as one event or memory becomes clear to me, another pops up. I get the chance to reclaim those parts of myself that have been put off to the side – and the more I reclaim, the stronger my self-worth, and the less inclined I am to put up with bullshit. At the same time, my capacity for compassion, connection, gratitude, and forgiveness is deep and expansive.
The most beautiful side-effect of personal reclamation? True, stable, free, unconditional Love.
I firmly believe that fun is essential for our survival and evolution! Here is an excerpt of my band performing Slip Inside this House live at a dive bar called The Fun House in Bethlehem, PA: