This teacher - I’ll call him Bill - was a longhaired, short of stature hippy with hairy knuckles, tight revealing spandex and a penchant for touching as he talked. Bill would draw out each word, each syllable as he spoke until a simple sentence became longer than a soliloquy in Shakespeare prose. He preached vegetarianism but ate a bacon cheeseburger whenever his body “told him to.” Rumor was his tall pretty Asian wife had been a student and that he smoked more greens than he ate. I thought he was hokey, and stupid and filled with the old Mary Jane more often than not.
I didn’t listen to my body. Why should I? I had moved to New York to be an AcTOR. I was going to change the face of theatre. I wasn’t a dancer and so I didn’t need a dance teacher. I didn’t need to be told to listen to my body. I was smart and talented and I was going places. And Bill was washed up, and clichéd and stupid.
Turns out he was the smartest man in the room.
My body was a confused mess of muscles and memories. I may have thought it had it all together, my mind may have been on top of it, but my body was in disarray. Sure, it did, for the most part what I told it to. I was young and that youth permitted a carelessness and a stupidity that time cannot easily heal. That flexibility, that total disregard for well-being, was something I didn’t think about, didn’t need to consider.
What I didn’t see was that the memories of falling off stages, handsy half brothers, standing as silent witness to flying fists, overbearing Aunties with burning hot water and well-intentioned love was imprinted in everything my body said and did. That each memory did more than just tighten a ligament or tear a muscle but that they left me stiff and frozen. I didn’t see that. I thought I was secure in my self, my heart kept safe inside its shell, my body just a vessel for my fears, my overbearing feelings. As hugging became the cliché to every good-bye and my abstinence from that casual touch became a punch line in a joke, I listened to my head. I did not listen to Bill.
Mother nature threw a fit the night my mother left and then again last night. The skies lit up the room, making it a kind of daylight hours after I’d gone to bed. My plans of playing in the yard literally soggy as the yard became nothing more than a mud pie. My body, still not healed from the flu, still aching from the years of neglect, had no choice to sit on a couch and reflect. For some reason, Bill’s voice and all his smoky wisdom came popping into my mind, flitting through my memories as slowly as he spoke. “Listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.”
Smartest man in the room.