Old Scars

February 7, 2008 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

During the past year I have visited a few cities and places in my mind where I had spent some time 25 years ago, while I was still in the throes of bulimia. It was quite unexpected, but each time there was an awareness of having been there, having been ill, and having harbored images of how I would like my life to be. At that time, I was not able to realize my dreams, because I was repeatedly distracted by binges and wasted money. The bingeing and vomiting exhausted me and my resources, so there was often not enough money to do something nice – like going to a museum or to the movies.

Each recent visit to a city was connected by a common event: Patti Smith was playing a concert there. I have worshipped her since I was 16 years old. Last spring I saw her play in Munich and Zurich. I arranged to arrive in Zurich late in the morning and spend the night at a hotel. That gave me most of the afternoon to wander around the city, which I did. What happiness it brought to discover the city on foot, to go to a museum, to walk through the pedestrian zone and then stop to have a bite to eat! During the day, images returned from the time 25 years ago when I had been there for a few weeks, doing some work at a branch of our main office in New York. Back then I also walked around, but my main memory is a blur of food and the lack of energy or interest to enjoy the city.

This past Christmas I was in Manhattan. I travelled alone, leaving my husband at home with our two teenagers. My sister-in-law let me stay at her apartment in exchange for cat-sitting. So there I was, back in Greenwich Village for one week, left to my own de/vices. How delightful it was to walk around, to rediscover places I had been 25 years ago. How nice that so many of them are still there! Although I spent some time visiting with friends and family, a lot of time was spent alone, simply being. (Of course, I also spent a considerable amount of time with the cat!) Since I once lived in Manhattan, this week was really like going back to the past and getting a second chance. I spent the week living how I would have liked to do back then. I went out for breakfast, went to cafés, walked around, went to the movies, spent hours at book stores, and stayed home and read. Oh, and I saw Patti Smith live three nights in a row!!!

It wasn’t until some time after I returned home that I recognized the healing aspect of these trips. Old wounds and disappointments were closing, despite a hint of yearning to stay longer and truly live there. That longing will be dealt with when the time is right.

I also noticed that I wasn’t quite as worshipping as I used to be. At the concerts, I didn’t hang on her every word, nor did I need to be in the front row. The first night, my mother fainted near the end of the show. The next night, we decided to go later, so that she wouldn’t have to stand for so long. That meant that we would have to stand further back from the stage, which didn’t really bother me. The concert took on the air of a big party (it was Patti’s birthday), rather than the religious experience it usually was for me. The third night we also got there later – just as she came on stage. It was fun and I was elated, but calm. 

Later on, I thought back to the two times I’d seen her at that same venue nine years earlier. The first night I had tears in my eyes, as it had been 18 years since I’d last seen her. The following week, I saw her in Vienna and in Salzburg, and I asked myself: Why am I so obsessed with this woman? Why am I willing to go to such lengths to see her? An answer came: Because she is living my dream. I wanted to sing and play rock and roll. At that time, I was just about to turn 36, but I decided to salvage what I could of that dream. I learned a few chords on the guitar and started writing songs. Since then I have given a dozen concerts, have a small but faithful group of fans, have recorded a CD, and will soon record another one. It’s more folky than rock and roll, but it sounds like me.

After the recent Patti Smith concerts, I asked myself: Why am I not so obsessed by her anymore? An answer came: Because I am living my dream! I no longer need to live vicariously through her. I am who I am, doing what I need to do, and I am authentic. I am not copying her or trying to be her. So the circle has closed. I appreciate and admire her as I always have, but I have my own life as well. I am grateful for that.

Yesterday I went to see a physiotherapist. Ever since an accident 4 years ago, I have had chronic neck pain in my right neck and shoulder. The pain has worsened over the past few months. This physiotherapist is also a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor. She listened to my self-diagnosis and explanation, then she asked me a few questions which included operations and scars. To my surprise, she focussed on the scars from the removal of my appendix (18 years ago) and an ovarian cyst (11 years ago). After a few mystical gestures, she rubbed a scar cream over the two areas, explaining to me that scars interrupt the flow of energy in the body. Then she poked around on my left shoulder, where I have no pain. That was it. To my great surprise, the pain had subsided and I could move my head quite freely. This improved during the course of the afternoon.

I came home exhausted and would have gone to bed at 7 pm, but my children weren’t home yet, so I had to wait. That gave me a chance to reflect. I wondered about the significance of the scars. It seemed so absurd. Then it didn’t seem absurd at all. Just as the past year has been about the intense healing of old, long-buried emotional scars, the physical scars take on a certain symbolic meaning. Perhaps the emotional scars joined together with the pain in my neck and right shoulder, causing it to increase to an unbearable degree. Although some emotional scars have healed during the past year, I have become aware that there is more to be dealt with than I knew.

Two weeks ago in therapy we looked at me as a young girl. It was my second individual session with this therapist. Originally I contacted her because I was having difficulties with one of my teenagers. Those became manageable to a large extent after a few sessions. Then I realized that I want support for myself. There are changes to be made in my life, and I feel overwhelmed at the prospect of introducing them all by myself.

With the help of some simple wooden figures, I arranged the members of my family of origin, including myself as a young girl. I cried and laughed, explaining that I thought I had dealt with accepting and loving that little girl in therapy 20 years ago. I thought I was finished with all of that! Surprise, surprise! We realized that I had given up on life before the bulimia began. I resigned myself to fate, and gave myself up.

The concept was interesting, but I wasn’t totally convinced. Afterwards, more reflection brought me to the insight that it was indeed true. So many of the “wrong” decisions I have made over the years stem from that sense of hopelessness. I often chose what I considered the “right” thing, even when it opposed my heart and intuition, and suffered bitterly as a result. Or I would make a decision, with the underlying tone being that it really didn’t matter one way or the other anyway. I felt I was destined to suffer.

 This revelation has caused an avalanche of new awareness. It has brought me to the resolution that I will follow my intuition. I have taken on myself – my life – as a worthy cause. Challenges will be accepted and dealt with. I refuse to give up and feel helpless any longer. What a difference! Although these changes and insights are exhausting at times, my general energy level has increased. I am more cheerful and enthusiastic than I have been for a long time!

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Entry filed under: Coping, life, Old Scars, singing, strong women. Tags: , .

What is Recovered Bulimic about?

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