A woman’s heart grows larger and stronger during pregnancy. Biologically this is to circulate all the new blood her body has made to sustain the pregnancy and nourish the babe. Metaphorically, well, this should need no explanation.I wonder about it from time to time though. What happens to my heart in the months after the baby is born? It grows smaller, obviously, and just when its needed the most. Other parts of me that I’d really like to shrink remain resolutely stretched, sagging and disappointed. Again, metaphors for motherhood that don’t need interpretation as much as acceptance on my part as I strive to firm up and feel differently.
I’ve noticed how the body’s message is either ignored or considered wrong. ‘In symptom is soul’ James Hillman teaches us, in the footsteps of Jung who said the gods are in our diseases (for want of a higher place in our lives). Our own physiology (and our pathologising) tells us about psyche – about where life settles upon us, our dis-ease with the world; our stories of who we are and how we change and grow.We don’t need to look further than the mirror or the diagnosis to see our souls. Do we though?
If we’re sick we want to be healed and we go about this by fighting the sickness rather than by loving it or paying attention to what it may mean. We think of sickness and symptom as being from outside of ourselves; a foreign invader, an enemy. We have ’bouts’ of illness; our hearts attack and we track the white and red armies in our blood.
Likewise if our healthy bodies are less than aesthetically perfect we might not be forgiving of those flaws. Then we diet, work out, burn fat, restrict and punish – tell ourselves no pain, no gain. We try to tweeze and wax and squeeze and scrub away our hairy, dry, clogged surfaces. So brutal. Its as if our flesh isn’t our own, as if we are not in fact alive inside our skins, our cells, but trapped by them like POWs.
Some of us might give up without grace or grateful surrender to what is but with resentment, shame and loathing. We may hide ourselves under layers, behind smokescreens; stuffed down with milky, creamy sweet ‘treats’ telling ourselves and anyone who’ll listen ‘I wasn’t like this until I had babies’.
Strangely enough its our children who most often want to speak up for our souls, our symptoms. My seven year old daughter is fond of rubbing my wounded belly like a magic lamp, murmuring ‘beautiful soft Mama’.
What I want to say here in this second part of the series – after touching on surrendering to how things are and being still enough to allow our children to live according to their own natures – and I am really saying the same thing in different ways – is simply this:
3. Listen. Pay attention to what is being said and what you’re being shown. What do your symptoms tell you? What are your children’s symptoms saying? Take all those things you might otherwise consider wrong or sick and be willing to understand them in a new way. These things are your soul’s language.
I’ll be back with more on this.