projects and writings of T.A. Burkholder
In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’ve never done before then writing about it. This is week 23.
I grew up as neither a lover nor a fighter. I was a hider. I mostly wanted to be left alone and if not alone, then moving peacefully, peacefully, peacefully through the dynamics of friends and family. As a little kid I would fight with my older sister about what tv show to watch and other such trivialities, but it was rare that it came to any kind of physical tanglings. Swimming and skiing were the only sports I liked because they didn’t involve aggression or group interactions. I even swam slowly and skied slowly, speed itself seeming too dangerous and threatening. Getting in trouble was one of my greatest fears, so I stayed as small and quiet as possible. Even the rebellion of my teenage years was mostly about being cynical, wearing lots of black and hiding in my room. I never went to parties. I rarely lashed out at my parents except in frustrated scribblings in my journals.
That impulse I hear about? The one that makes people so mad they want to punch or smash or scream? I’ve never felt that. Not a lick. Sure, I’ve gotten in a few arguments over the years. Said some insensitive things in too loud a voice. But we’re talking maybe four or five fights in the course of almost thirty years and none of them were very aggressive, only tearful. Add to this, the fact that I work as a massage therapist and have spent most of my time over the last twenty years soothing bodies to the sounds of soft music.
I don’t know how much of this is in my DNA and how much of it slipped in afterwards. Certainly the world likes to tell girls to be congenial peacemakers, to retreat rather than fight. Aggressiveness, even confidence could be seen as ugly and held against you. I had plenty of examples to the contrary, however, and I often admired my mother’s tenaciousness and my professor’s bravado and the fearlessness of some of my friends. But being tenacious, brave and fearless was never easy for me.
So what about all this? I don’t feel any pent-up aggression needing to make its way out. My slowness to anger and an interest in seeking resolution rather than drama has served me well. My body still likes slowness: swimming and walking and bending into long-held shapes. But if these blog projects have taught me anything, it’s that finding where I’m comfortable is the starting point, not the end point. Too much comfort can be a bad thing.
If I’m going to swim long, slow laps and do lying-down meditations and calmly press my hands into people’s backs, then I also need to sweat. Luckily my partner, Sean, has been studying martial arts for most of his life and is more than willing to help me with this. So yesterday, he put some gloves on me and let me practice punching until I broke a sweat. And then, because he’s currently studying jujitsu and because rolling around over and under my partner sounded way more fun than learning kung fu forms, he showed me some wrestling moves. Admittedly, there was no “umph” to my punches and the motions themselves stirred only the briefest flash of bright energy. The jujitsu was fun and I can see how if I ever learn enough of it, the contorted, body-to-body puzzle of it will be appealing.
The hard part will be sticking with it. If I can stay in it and dig deeper, maybe I’ll find there’s something hiding under all my langour. Maybe I’ll find balance (over and over and over) rather than simply sitting in ease.