The Adoptee, the Body, the Heart, Triggers, and Jesus’s Hands
I’ve been trying to get my heart to open. It’s like trying to get a walnut out of a shell that is slammed shut. My body is so funny. It thinks it has to hold on to everything. It thinks if I relax, my arms and legs and head will fall off. The day I spent with my birth father ended with me holding on to my neck because it had gone through some sort of collapse and my head felt like a melon hanging on a weak branch.
Years of running and forcing a tight body into yoga poses it had no business doing have left me with a spine that is aging more quickly than is good for my well-being, and now if I want to be dancing when I am 80 (or now), I have to change my ways.
Part of being relinquished at birth for me is having a nervous system switched to on pretty much all the time, and this means my muscles and soft tissue are prepared for fight or flight when all that’s happening is a bird is flying by or someone is playing music on his car radio or I’m at a beautiful restaurant having a beautiful meal, fake relaxed because part of me is ready to bolt at the first sign of danger. Yes, I’m loving the company, the food, the kind attention of the waiter, and yes, I’m unconsciously using muscular tension to hold on to my arms, my legs, my head, my sense of safety.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop is not a part-time or even a full-time job. It’s a way of life. It pulses through the day like blood through a body. Waiting for the other shoe to drop leads me to cling to myself. My muscles and my fascia hug the bones of my body so tightly. I’ve saran wrapped myself into I refuse to surrender and I’m okay, I’ve got this.
Every time the chiropractor—and there have been many—tries to adjust my upper back, he or she says versions of this is too tight to move. The upper back, the thoracic spine, is longer than both the cervical and lumbar parts of the spine. It involves the ribs and is part of the bony cage that protects the heart and lungs. There is so much power in this section of the body. I mean, for heaven’s sake, God went to town on Adam, took one of his ribs, and grew a woman!
Real power comes from flexibility, not rigidity. If the back of my heart is supported by tension, I imagine that leads to a more brittle way of being in the world. Gold, a soft metal, doesn’t shatter like the more brittle steel will under a lot of pressure.
When you talk to adopted people, it doesn’t take long for the word trigger to come up in conversation. Triggers are things that make us lose our shit, sometimes literally. When someone says to me that adopted people are lucky because they were chosen, my heart rate accelerates, my thoughts blur into a ball of anger and frustration, and my face and eyes feel angry. I was triggered, and the thought that I am not understood creates a chain of chemicals such as cortisol and adrenalin to pour through my system, leading me to have all sorts of feelings: fury, heartbreak, and maybe depression. I become brittle and feel like I may shatter.
This is not fun.
It is the back of our heart that would sprout wings if this sort of thing were to happen to us. I spend more time thinking about coffee every day than I do about my heart. Coffee gives me false, temporary wings. Coffee is a drug that I spend money to obtain while my heart is the thing that I got for free and that keeps me going even when I am asleep. The other day I imagined that Jesus (my number one crush—hot dude with tanned feet) had my heart in his hands. My heart was still in my body, so Jesus had reached in and had nested my uneasy organ in his carpenter’s hands. I was in heaven.
I’ve started to think of my heart as a child, a baby. When Jesus leaves, I cradle my heart in my mind and I rock it, sing to it. I tell it everything is okay. My heart loves this, and it tells my brain that everything is okay, and my brain listens because my brain adores my heart, and then my body, that amazing thing that follows me everywhere, also listens, and it takes a deep breath and it softens. This is better than sex sometimes because you don’t have to make small talk after. You can just feel good.
I wanted to tell you this because I’m having so much fun, and I want you to have so much fun, too. I feel like I discovered a new toy, and since I know you have one, a wild and beating heart, I thought you might want to play along, too. I’ll even send Jesus over to your house when I am done with him.