Tonight in my Alexander Technique lesson, my teacher (and friend) said she wanted to work on speech patterns with me. We’d never done that before. Previously we had just focused on movement, muscles, bones, and posture. Tonight she had me read a passage from a book to her. In this exercise, and in many of the other exercises we’ve done, I have noticed that my inclination is to hunch over, to draw up, to lean forward, to try to conceal as much as I can of my own body. As if I could hide in plain sight. From the very beginning of our lessons, she’s been working with me on standing or sitting to my full height, and not trying to make myself shorter, not trying to make myself smaller.
The things she pointed out to me tonight about my speech patterns, both the words I use and how I hold my body when in conversation, did not come as much of a surprise to me. She asked me a question she had asked me earlier in the lesson and I answered in a roundabout, defensive way. I heard myself doing it, and yet, I couldn’t seem to stop. She had me answer again, and this time I was direct and made no excuses, no apologies. I felt more powerful, more assured as I spoke the words the second time.
As I think about the lesson, I know that I apologize, make excuses, and talk in a round-about, trying-so-hard-not-to-offend way. I think this comes partly from the feeling that I constantly carry that I am about to get in trouble, that I’ve been doing something wrong and am on the verge of being caught.
And so it makes sense, if I’m feeling unsafe with people, on-edge, it is no wonder that I am so slow to let others in, to let them get close. If getting close to people means having to justify myself all the time, if it means having to guard myself, or be contrite for who I am, it is not worth it.
But if I can somehow hold my ground and let them in, if I can manage both things at once, well, that would be amazing. That would be living.
I think my teacher put it best when she said to me, “The more grounded you are in yourself, the more you stay in touch with yourself, the closer you can get to other people without giving yourself away.”
What I have been fearing is that in letting others into my life, or letting them be closer to me, I will lose myself. Alone may be lonely at times, but at least I am intact.
So now I want to learn what it means to be grounded, to be present in my body, to stay in touch with myself, especially in those times when I feel uncertain or afraid. I want to have my cake, and eat it, too—without apology.