Have you ever done a cleanse? You know, the kind where you eat only veggies or juices or some healthy concoction for several days, perhaps supplemented by herbs for detoxing? I’ve done it many times and the bummer is, somewhere around the 3rd day all the crap in your system that’s been trapped in your fat and other mysterious places begins to emerge to create havoc in your body. Intense food cravings, headaches, digestive trouble…your skin might even turn an interesting color as your liver dumps bile. It’s not a particularly fun experience but you hang in there because you know what’s on the other side: clarity, renewed vigor and a healthier immune system.
I had a similar experience today but the detox was emotional rather than physical. All the feelings and thoughts I’d been (unconsciously) running away from by keeping myself busy are now showing themselves because I’m no longer distracted by multitasking and constant information seeking.
I was feeling a little unsteady all day yet I didn’t really dive into what was happening because I was absorbed in finishing next week’s Christmas show for my radio program. Then I went to the gym. I could feel the tension in my neck and shoulders so I asked if they had an opening for a massage. No dice. Then I decided to head to the steam room. Out of service. I thought I was going to lose it. But I opted for the dry sauna instead, where I met a woman who was commiserating about the steam room being down. “Yes,” I said, “I was really looking forward to it because I’m feeling a little stressed.” “You wouldn’t believe what happened to me,” she said. “When I walked in tonight I found out it was Wednesday. Now, that’s a problem, because I am supposed to be at a business meeting right now but for some reason I thought today was Tuesday. The meeting is an hour away. I could never have made it so I just came in here. I can’t believe it. I never do anything like this. I’ve been beating myself up ever since I got here.” “Have some compassion for yourself,” I heard my voice saying. “Nobody’s perfect.” Hmmmmmm…..now who really needs to hear that one?
I went up to the cardio room and got on the eliptical machine. My iPod went into shuffle mode and I heard the voice of David Whyte, one of my favorite poets, teaching on self compassion. I’m paraphrasing here, but essentially he said, “make a feast for all the parts of who you are. Welcome those pieces that have had their noses pressed to the window, and even the ones who never made it to the house at all. Don’t say to them, ‘you’re not welcome,’ or, ‘we’re only having rice today.’ Feast them. Feast them all.”
Whyte read a poem by Derek Walcott, Love after Love:
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the others welcome,
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Next track: Sinead O’Conner singing Gregorian Chant with some Irish monks. I feel myself deepening, breathing again. Really breathing.
Shuffle to the next track, which hits me like a tidal wave: Johnny Mathis singing O Holy Night, my Dad’s favorite Christmas song. I can hear Dad singing with Johnny in his clear, Irish tenor voice. He’s been gone for 17 months, and yet he is there in my head, pure and strong as if he were sitting beside me.
The tears come. Right in the middle of the gym, people all around me, music blasting, bright lights shining. And me, falling apart on the eliptical. It’s about time. Maybe now I’ll be broken open enough for some real Christmas to get in.