by Courtney Anne Holcomb
I want to feel healthy again. Over the past nine months I’ve let myself slip into sickness. And I’ve been very successful at it because I’ve been practicing sickness. My existence: nausea, pit in my belly, icepick headaches, lack of motivation, low energy, apathy towards others and self, sloth, anxiety, fear, fatigue, and the desire to do nothing while simultaneously feeling bored. I feel the feels...I dwell. The physical symptoms continue to manifest: practice, practice, practice. I am good at practicing and my mind fixates. This is who I am now. I assign value judgments to these sensations. They are negative, bad, undesirable, and unpleasant. And then, I feel them, again and again and again. I tell myself I don’t enjoy feeling this way, but upon further investigation I must to some extent, because I constantly invite its return. I sit and anticipate its arrival. When it shows up, I practice the sensation, I feel comforted by its familiarity, and I identify myself with the feelings. I am sick, something is wrong with me. I willingly usher it in. This must be my ‘new normal’. I convince myself, I shape my reality around it, around these feelings, and I tell myself life is so unpleasant now and I am physically sick.
Then I find myself out in public and I start my performance. I can’t let people think I’m not feeling okay. I swear I’m doing great. I lie through my eyes, my words, and my body language. I desire to feel my best, share my best, but that me is not present. Or is that me just not present in the way that I would want to be seen? So I hide. I hide myself. And the more I stay hidden and privately sit with my thoughts and sensations, the more the sickness ruminates. This must be me. This is who I now am. So I sit, and I hide, and I practice. I practice feeling sick. I again assign a value judgment to the feelings. They are negative, not okay, unacceptable, wrong. Is there something wrong with me? There must be something wrong with me...
Faced with the reality of more available time over the past nine months has forced me examine my humanness. We are, after all, human beings not human doings. I often enjoy hiding in the doing, ignoring the uncomfortable, building up a wall of busyness and productivity to keep me warm at night. When my “doings” went away, more feelings came to play. An emptying of the many things I practiceddefining myself by for years and years. And this stripping of self, emptying of perceived identity of self, left an uncomfortable vacancy that I quickly occupied with a physical sense of sickness. Being a dancer I’ve always existed in the world in a highly physical way. Feeling control over my body is something I depended on for comfort. Why were these physical symptoms showing up? Do I have control over them? They came to fill the void. I created an illusion of control, if I can feel it, it must be reality. My emotions, my feels, had physically manifested: on display for me to face, experience, and judge. I’m found myself to be very good at the judging.
Why can’t I just accept that whatever state of being, feeling, I’m experiencing, is just present? It is, what it is. And most importantly, as proven every time, it’s fleeting. Just like a dance performance it’s ephemeral. It happens, and it passes. This has proven to be true every time. And what’s left after each moment is another blank slate, to experience the new feelings, with no assigned value judgment. It’s just my being that remains, in its raw state. And I face it.
So this is my new practice. Though the feelings aren’t gone and the physical symptoms still visit, as I’ve practiced letting go of assigning a negative value judgment, I’ve been able to honor my being. This year I’ve had more time than ever to feel, to reflect, to ruminate, to fester, on my being. It has been uncomfortable, but can be practiced. I need more practice. I need to practice my existence, without conditions. I do not want conditional living. It must be this way, feel this way, look this way. No thank you. I am moving towards gentleness and grace. Honoring my being has played a huge role in the beginning of my physical healing. Freeing my mind of judgment to help heal my body.
Each feeling is simply that, a feeling, and a part of the human condition. Say goodbye to value judgment. That feeling, it just is. It’s not wrong, it’s not negative, and it’s not undesirable. Certain feelings are not failings, they just are. It is only seen that way if we assign them that value. What that feeling is, is just present. And if we live in the art of being present for each moment, we can practice letting thefeeling simply flee when we are ready to let it go. Or, we can invite it to sit with us for a while—whatever feels most helpful. No judgment.
**The below dance for camera piece was created by me this autumn, in true isolation fashion. No crew or other dancers, just me. My husband synthesized the music for the piece. All the video footage was self-shot using my iPhone, and the video clips edited and composed at home with iMovie. The setting, my community garden plot in Neenah, WI. The sunflowers, vegetables, plants, all grown and tended by my hands. A true, homemade project, that just is.
To view the full dance for camera piece, resisting phototropism, visit: https://vimeo.com/476344578