My Protector

     i was working with my voice coach and he wanted to focus on releasing my jaw. i bowed my head down and said, "i know, i know ~ i have such a tight jaw, i always have. i have a hard time letting go of it." he reached over to do an exercise in which i release my jaw completely and he is able to move my lower jaw at will. as soon as he tried to move it, a surge of energy or emotion or something moved from my pelvic floor and rushed up through my body and my throat with speed and force and clamped my jaw down even tighter. my eyes welled up with tears and i felt like my head would explode. i took a deep breath and tried to release the surge and also my jaw. it was a pretty unsuccessful attempt. we then tried to move into it a little slower by letting me try to massage my own jaw and move it around without his help. but this force could not be denied and the emotion that swelled up was completely unexpected and intense. i managed to make it through the lesson without falling apart, but i got in my car and bawled.

 

    now i know i have a tight jaw, always have. i am a clencher. i often wake up in the morning with a headache or sore jaw muscles because i have been clenching my teeth while i sleep. then a couple of years ago, i noticed that i also clench my jaw during most waking hours. i will inhale and release it and the next time i bring my focus to my jaw ~ it is tight again! i just figured it was an area of tension. i have worked with my personal awareness to mindfully let go of the tension there. i thought i was doing pretty good, until my voice teacher inadvertanly showed me otherwise.

 

    upon my reflection and working through it all i have come to realize ~ my jaw is my protector! 

 

    you see, partly i desparately wanted people to like me and give me attention. if i spoke out, they might not like me. if i said something they disagreed with, they might not like me. so i would wait until they voiced their opinion. if i agreed, no problem, i would tell them so and we would go merrily along. however, if i disagreed with what they said, often times i would just clench that jaw tighter so nothing slipped out that would make them dislike me. 

 

    i have also spent a majority of my life acting as if everything is okay. i so dislike showing weakness. i was also raised in that  typical midwest fashion of not letting on if things aren't okay at work or at the house. "put on a good face!" but in keeping everything bottled up inside ~ my poor little jaw would just grow tighter. the worse something was, the more it would tighten. i also feel things very deeply. i cry about a lot of things and this has always made me feel weak so i fight against it like crazy. now i notice that when i get upset and am about to cry, the first thing i do is tighten my jaw to keep it in.

 

    it's as if my jaw held all of my strength. it protected me from the outside world. one of the main initiators of the jaw tightening was at home. i had a stepfather who was abusive with his punishments. when he would approach me on a rampage, i would begin to round inward and tighten my jaw in order to stabilize myself and get ready for the blows that were about to come. but what i realize now is that much more than that ~ it "protected" my inside world from coming out. i would try not to cry, because it would make him more upset and i didn't want to do that. i would do my best to not let out any cries or yells. my jaw helped me do that. add to that that at many times i wanted to ask my mother why..., but i knew i couldn't at that time because you just don't speak these things. you are suppose to act as though they don't happen. so tighten your jaw anytime it almost slips out, put your chin up and keep trudging along.

 

    well i have grown. A LOT! i spent much of my childhood keeping things inside me. now i realize how holding all of this stuff in poisons me. it manifests in behaviors, in sickness, in unhappiness. and i don't want any of those things for myself anymore. i have spent the past 4 years working intensely on moving through it (notice i did not say "past" it). and the funny thing is that i thought i was doing spendidly... and then my teacher tried to grab my jaw. i have honestly not had emotion shoot up through me like that in a long time. it was this trigger that reminded me i still have a ways to go on this journey. i have to remember to be patient with myself as well. because there was a time when i wouldn't have realized what it meant. or maybe i would have just pulled away not wanting to deal with what arose. but this time, i accepted the journey.

 

    i went on a wild emotional ride for the few days following the event, openly admitting to myself and the world around me that i was abused. that it wasn't my fault. that i can speak about it now. that my jaw can let go now. it's done a great job, but i don't need it to protect me any more.

 

    and as i about to hit "send" ~ i feel my jaw begin to grip again. it wants to take over. and so i say, "thank you beautiful jaw. but i'm okay these days and now it's time for me to protect you!"

 

    to my readers, just remember that whatever your trials are/were ~ in speaking about them we not only begin to heal ourselves, but allow others to see they are not alone. 

 

food for thought:

 

"some stories are told so that they can be remembered; others are told so that they may never happen again." 

playwright andrea james