It has only taken 31 years. But I am doing it. Finally.
I am reading The Body Keeps the Score.
Laugh if you will, I too have seen the memes. And yes, I fit the stereotype of the girl in the smoking area who corners you with a 90-minute monologue on the matter as you attempt to reach the bar before last orders. Yes, I am now her. But pause a minute. There’s a reason this book has been a major success.
For any readers who are not aware of Bessel van der Kolk’s best-selling oeuvre, the book explores the mind, brain, body connection of traumatic stress and the legacy trauma imparts upon a body.
The man who, during my work as a care assistant, cut his wife’s toast into a heart shape each morning although she was not cognisant of the act
Life is a patchwork of moments that stitch together to form the clothes with which we present and protect ourselves to and from this world. The body keeps the score in a mosaic of moments of aridity and potency, the moments of intensity and the dull chronicity of time.
Now, before you shut the tab, or turn the page, take a breath. This column is not an analysis or a critique of van der Kolk’s work. Many have done that before. Better than I can or will do.
This column is rather an exploration of the moments that live within this writer’s body.
The long childhood afternoons I spent with my dad and brother on the Hole in Wall beach. The wet feel of my foot sinking through marshy sand. Ham and sand sandwiches.
[ An ‘Enthusiastic Aunt’ is the panacea to the noxious ‘Reply Guy’ ]
Evenings tucked into the corner of the couch reading beneath the golden light of my mom’s handmade beaded lamp.
The snug safety of my head tucked upon my dad’s lap.
The first time I saw my brother cry. His dislocated thumb arched like a drooping tulip.
The relief of cold bathroom tiles against my cheek during my first migraine. The fear of rising from the bathroom tiles during my first migraine.
The sweet taste of corpulent Spanish tomatoes shared with my dad on holidays. The Instagram post I shared with the caption “Y’all busy falling in love. I’m on a road-trip with my dad”. The exuberance of our adventure.
The hyper feeling of celebrity I felt when I returned to school after my mom died.
The raw wind piercing through my black velour outfit when I stood at her grave for the first time.
The day my younger brother and I made a daisy chain the length of our driveway and entered it into the Guinness Book of World Records with assured childish certainty.
The energy of kissing a friend on stage. The energy of slapping a friend on stage. The energy of being on stage.
The smell of diarrhoea on the upstairs landing during my mom’s illness.
The smell of diarrhoea during my work as a care assistant.
The man who, during my work as a care assistant, cut his wife’s toast into a heart shape each morning although she was not cognisant of the act. An understanding of the simple acts of enduring love.
The day I picked my niece up from creche and she rushed her tiny body into my arms.
My first kiss. Him spitting his chewing gum on the ground before twisting his minty tongue around my mouth.
My second kiss. Him asking me if I wanted him to keep or spit the chewing gum before kissing.
The woody taste of whiskey kisses and coffee kisses and cigarette kisses.
The wet taste of shower kisses.
The smell of garlic frying in butter.
The metallic taste of biting my tongue.
The day my friend and I went bra shopping and were inappropriately measured two cup sizes bigger. The confidence.
The broiling feel of hot wax the night I attempted to depilate my thigh for the first time in a friend’s house. Her mom’s face.
Dancing on a chair in that same house years later dressed as a jungle animal. The exhilaration.
[ I used poetry to understand so much, including love and broken hearts, and to come to terms with my illness ]
The day I ran into my dad’s office with a sore head and a broken heart and he told me: “Brigid, I can never understand the pain in your head but I know the pain of matters of the heart.”
The salty taste of tears.
My dad in his navy dressing gown and bockety glasses.
My sister cautiously shaving my armpits for the first time.
The gravelly sound of my boyfriend rubbing his stubble.
The night I smoked a joint and thought my ear was trapped in my friend’s stomach.
The envy I felt when I joined a new primary school and watched a group of girls paying crazy horses. How I wanted to be their friends. How I became their friends. How they are still my best friends.
The comfort of a hot water bottle against my belly.
The comfort of a hand against my belly.
The limit of an 800-word count.