if i slip, i think i will continue – i will find myself at the back of a giant tongue, heading down the slide, past the uvula, down the back of the throat – sliding, sliding, sliding.
i will slide past words i have forgotten how to say, past the memory of tastes i have stowed away, past kisses forgotten and remembered, past loose molecules from last night’s frozen pizza and even an atom or two from some sweet mash of baby food. everything is there to be seen, between the teeth and the length of the throat.
a couple of nights ago i dreamt a dream i have had before – lock jaw. an inability to open the mouth, or an inability to close it once it is open. no speech. inability to vocalize. this is the terrifying dream of wordlessness, squeezed tightly between the parenthesis of physical pain i cannot overcome myself.
i don’t know how many times in my life i’ve had this dream, but the first time i have a memory of it, it’s 2005 and i’m living in the mint-colored room in a building other dwellers at the retreat center where i am working refer to as the nunnery.
around the same time as the lock jaw dream appears, i go to see a massage therapist to contend with several episodes of being woken by a cramp so intense in my foot that i struggle, wake up writhing and gasping, tears running down my face. in conversation with the masseuse, she discovers this lock jaw dream i’ve been having & suggests a connection: fear. a fear of the loss of my ability to self-express, one of the few things i have a real sense of confidence about, a skill i even draw a sense of identity from. and then there is the fear of pain itself.
“what would happen if you let yourself experience the pain, instead of struggling against it?” the masseuse asks me.
i think, for a moment. not struggle against pain? it’s too big – my body moves before i think. but you see, when you writhe through a cramp, the cramp worsens without end. however, if you go to sleep knowing what you must know, when the cramp fires you into consciousness, somehow your body allows you to give it a new signal: don’t fight. get calm.
so what happens if you believe you cannot maneuver your jaw to speak? maybe you’ve just convinced yourself that your body’s natural reaction to feeling inarticulate is to struggle – not to feel the pain and, somehow, miraculously, trust that somewhere inside of it, the elasticity of unguarded articulation lives.