It’s 1pm on a blazing hot Tuesday afternoon, and I’m trapped in the corner of a cold, darkened room, sitting on a very flimsy wicker chair (that creaks if I so much as blink), with a little pixie sat between my legs, who has one hand on my chest, and another on my belly; her head is inclined as she keens and whispers softly to herself.
Suffice to say, it’s getting kinda freaky in here…
I can see a thin strip of brilliant sunlight sneaking through a crack in the blind, and can hear the cicadas chirrup, and as I long for a bit of warmth on my skin, a bit more personal space and my €75 back, I wonder for more than once this week what the fuck I’m doing here exactly?
Three days into my yoga retreat, and I’m getting more into the swing of the classes, which are a blessing in themselves, but after over a year of self imposed exile, I’m finding being in the company of a group of rowdy wannabee yogis more than a little exhausting.
I’m not great with groups; I’m very comfortable one to one, or even one to two or three, but beyond that, it’s always been a bit of a strain, especially if said group is comprised of largely attention seeking gobshites. In those instances, I tend to take a step back and observe rather than jockey for position, and when everyone is yelling and talking over one another, I get the irresistible urge to grab a taxi/bus/passing donkey and head off to the airport for a cheap air bus home.
My problem, I know.
Not their fault.
And you know what they say; you never get a second chance to make a good first impression and given that I was sinking into migraine hell on the day I arrived, I wasn’t exactly my usual chipper (ha!) self, so do feel rather peripheral to the group.
Nothing new there.
Speaking of which, even though I’ve played down the brainstorm, and have mentioned nothing about my panic attacks and depression, nor how much it took for me to actually get myself here in the first place, I think they think I’m a bit of a hypochondriac.
And I’m particularly quiet because, whilst I’m trying to joke and bond with some of the group, a few of them are really getting on my nerves. There’s a couple who I catch looking at me as if I’ve grown a turnip for a head or something, and one woman who frankly would laugh if her arse was on fire. She giggles non stop at anything. I know I sound like a miserable old curmudgeon but she’s like a sniggering woodpecker rat-a-tat-tatting on my skull, and I want to grab her, sorry, it by the throat and stuff it into the hot tub.
Anyway I am due to get a deep tissue massage today, but to be honest, if anyone applies pressure to any part of my body today I’ll kneecap ’em, so I have to go and see the retreat manager in order to defer it to a day when I’m feeling less fragile.
She is both lovely and sympathetic.
‘I know!’, she says, ‘why don’t you go and see Inca instead?’
The manager smiles. ‘She’s our Sound Healer! She’s ever so good, and everyone that goes to see her seems to have some kind of life changing experience!’
I remembered then. A couple of the girls had been cooing about this woman who had done all of this nigh on miraculous stuff for them. There were tales of protective bubbles, levitation, sixth sense, messages from the other side, and every seemed to be very excited about her indeed.
What can I tell you? I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff as I’d love to believe someone could help me move forward, and if it’s all a scam, I can milk the experience for anecdotes to entertain my friends when I get home!
I then make the fatal mistake of sharing my plans for the afternoon with the others at breakfast.
The girls in particular are enchanted by the news.
‘Oh Sista, you’re going to love her, she’s just amazing, she’s just….’
I need more than that, however.
‘Is she any good?’
One rather quiet Danish girls pipes up hesitantly, ‘I had her yesterday and well…’ she screws up her face, not wanting to appear different/cynical, ‘I’m not entirely sure what happened….’
Hmm. I wondered if I shovel my muesli down tout suite, I can get to the Managers office before she leaves for the day and cancel this?
Another rather brassy old bird cuts her off mid sentence.
‘Look she’s lovely woman, so full of luv, and has so much to give! And honestly, at the end of the day…’ she looks around her, warming to her theme ‘even if you can’t sense what’s she’s done for you, you’re in that room, she uses all them bowls, and she’s giving you so much luv, you can’t lose! It’s only €75! What more could you ask for?’
Well, lemme think, erm….
Some kind of proof that’s she’s not chatting shit?
Some kind of reading that you recognise as being applicable to you and your life?
Some kind of improvement in health, fortune, and/or spiritual wellbeing?
Contact with a ex parrot, sorry person?
A.K.A. good old fashioned VALUE FOR MONEY?!
What planet is this ditzy bint from?!
Honestly just because you want to be seen as being spiritual, that’s no excuse for blatant stoopidity, and if I want a nice lie down in a roomful of love, I’ll lock myself in my bedroom with the cats when I get back, and will spunk the money away on duty free booze, expensive hand cream and a big box of Toffifee on the way home instead, thank you very much!
I stay silent though. The proof of the pudding and all that….
Inca’s husband comes to pick me up, and introduces himself as Eric. I kind of expected him to be called Ptolemy, Perseus or something like that, so am a bit disappointed.
‘So,’ he says, peering through filthy spectacles and we jack knife around pot holes and rebound violently off boulders (think this car was manufactured before suspension was invented) ‘what is it you want out of today?’
Dude, you honestly think I’m going to tell you? I don’t even trust the men that I know, let alone one I was introduced to five minutes ago!
‘Erm, not sure, I’m just gonna go with the flow, I suppose….’
‘Right. Great. Anyway, we’re here now.’
We’ve stopped outside a beautiful farm, and my heart lifts a little. Hell if she can afford this, she must be doing something right.
Unfortunately we head in the opposite direction to a concrete hut that looks tailor made for kidnappers or hostage takers, not exactly the ideal venue for some psychic hippy chick’s HQ.
The door to the cell, sorry, room suddenly opens and this dinky little elf of a woman comes out beaming, and takes both of my hands into hers.
‘Sista!’ she sighs beatifically, drinking me in, as if I was Dominos pizza after a fast day, ‘Let’s get you inside!’
Must we? Can’t we go next door? I smile apprehensively and follow her into her lair.
Actually it all looks quite cosy.
Shame it’s as cold as a witch’s tit.
Inca sits me in the deceptively precarious, Poundland wicker seat and asks me what I’m here for.
Am I being unreasonable for expecting her to know the answer to that?
Yes. I probably am. Stop being a bitch Sista, and give the poor cow and yourself a break and point her in the right direction at least.
‘I’m erm, kind of transitioning from one way of life to another and finding it a little difficult to know which way to go…,’ I venture.
‘Yes, right, I can see that,’ Inca bites her lip, ‘Do you mind if I touch you?’
I thought you already were?
‘No, that’s fine.’
She then plants a very firm hand on my left boob, and another on my swiftly retracting belly.
It feels horribly intrusive. I press back further into the corner. The wicker chair creaks protestingly.
‘I’m trying to get in but,’ she sighs, ‘there’s a huge barrier that you’ve erected to protect yourself, and I need to get you to a place were you feel safe enough to let it down.’
That’s true enough. But did she get that from inside ‘me’ or from my rather obvious body language?
Shut up, negative voices, purlease!
She shifts and presses harder on my tit.
‘You need to help me here. Tell me about your parents and your upbringing.’
Oh come on! Do I have to do ALL the work around here?!
Whatever. What have I got to lose?
I give her a potted history, which I won’t bore you with, and Tinkerbell smiles, nods sagely, and asks me more about the females, a.k.a. my Mum and Nana, swiftly establishing that shit parenting that was passed down from the generation to generation culminating in what happened to me as a result of this. Her eyes are closed and her face flickers as she nods and ticks.
‘I’ve got them here my love, well your Mum’s here at least.’
That’d be right. My Nan was a formidable old harridan who would have no truck with this airy fairy nonsense and I could picture her jeeringly making mincemeat of this little sprite, given half the chance.
‘Can you remember a time when you finally realised that there was no hope, and you just gave up trying to get her to love you the way you needed and deserved?’
Ridiculously, I feel my throat close and my eyes well up with tears, which I furiously push back down. I’m not fucking crying here in ‘Cell Block H’ if I can possibly help it.
‘No’, I manage to croak in a relatively ordinary voice.
Inca frowns. ‘She’s saying “I soon knocked it out of her” and I can see something shoot out of you like a comet’ Her arms extends into the air like Usain Bolt’s.
I look perplexed.
‘You honestly can’t remember?’
Nope. It was all equally miserable as far as I can remember.
‘She’s sorry my love, she really is,’ Inca nods as if listening to Mum over the astral plane, ‘she wasn’t loved herself, so she didn’t have it to give to you.’
I fight the flicker of impatience that ripples through me. I KNOW! I’ve been in therapy for decades, as that all you have for me?
Then something comes back to me and I see them in my minds eye.
The prettiest, loveliest, most beautiful things I’d ever seen.
The pressure increases on my belly.
‘Erm, I think I remember something….’
Her eyes snap open and they stare directly into mine. I break the gaze and clear my throat.
‘When I was little, my Auntie always used to tell me I should be a dancer. She said even when I was just born I had really long legs, and when I used to prance around to the Top 40 on a Sunday night, all the family used to joke about me ending up on Sunday Night at the London Palladium one day….’
Inca nods encouragingly.
‘…so, when I was about eight, she went out bought me a pair of tap shoes.’
I pause, swallow, and continue.
‘I’m from a pretty poor family, and those shoes must have cost her a fortune. I remember how pretty they looked in the box, like something you’d wear for a wedding. “There you go!” she said to my Mum, “I know you couldn’t afford any, so you just have to pay for the lessons now!”’
‘My Mum gave her a pained smile and before I could get them out of the box, gently pulled it out of my protesting hands. “Come on Sista, you don’t want to get them dirty, do you?” she said with false jollity, so I nodded, knowing that I had no choice, acquiesced and held that image in my heart, waiting for the day when I could put them on and dance.’
I could feel Inca’s eyes blazed into me.
I meet them.
‘I never saw them again’ I said dully, ‘I asked for them time and time again, I begged, I cried, I whined, and she would shout at me for pestering her and walk away. As the weeks went by, I knew something was very wrong. Eventually she admitted that she had sold them because she couldn’t afford to buy me lessons.’
I could feel my mouth harden into a thin line, remembering my outrage at the sheer injustice of this act. She didn’t even buy me a replacement gift with MY money.
‘‘I knew we were poor and I knew it might have been a bit of a struggle as my Dad spent every night in the pub boozing away half his wages, but if she’d have asked him for more money, if she’d have pushed, cared enough about me to fight my corner….’
I’m staring into my lap now as I cannot bear to see the pity in Inca’s eyes but she’s closed them and is now nodding and frowning and making little singing noises.
Then, she suddenly makes an ‘Ooo!’ noise.
‘She’s got the shoes! She’s brought back the shoes! She’s saying “Here, sorry, I didn’t mean it!”’
The lightning rod of anger that surges through me almost lifts me off the seat.
<‘Oh really? Super! I’ll just book myself on the next Tardis to 1970 and see if “Miss Amy’s School of Dance” has any slots available!’ I snarl, ‘Tell her from me she can stick them up her arse, heels first and don’t forget the laces!’>
Actually I don’t say that out loud. But the Absinthe Fairy seems to be picking up the gist of it anyway.
I continue with the dialogue in my head.
<‘Everyone thought my Mum was such a lovely lady, but she was just a spiteful, vindictive, resentful old cow who did everything she could to extinguish my light!’>
Inca’s hands are holding mine again, and she’s nodding furiously.
Surely she’s not picking all of this up?
<‘And you know what? I reckon she didn’t want me to have that opportunity. No one had done it for her so why should things be any better for me?’>
Our eyes meet.
I speak again, out loud this time.
‘Oh, I forgot to say, I keep dreaming about my rancid ex boss, and don’t understand why he’s not out of my system, it’s so frustrating!’
She sighs. ‘It’s because you haven’t forgiven him!’
Wow. There’s no mistaking that bit of synchronicity.
‘Or your Mum, or your Dad, and who else? These people are riding you and you need to exorcise them out of your system, and only then will you be able to take the reins of your own life!’
‘But I’ve still got so much anger in my heart!’
‘And I don’t know what I’m going to do or where I’m going!’ I blurt out randomly.
‘Of course you don’t, how could you? That’s because you don’t know yourself! You haven’t had the love and grounding you need, so how can you know who you are or what you really want?
I don’t know myself?
I. DON’T. KNOW. MYSELF?
No one has done more soul searching, more seeking, more questioning, more bloody navel gazing than I have.
So how can that be?
‘You have to meditate, go within to get it. But you can’t do it, can you?’
Fuck. How does she know that?
‘Have you ever really been loved?’
I shift uncomfortably.
She fumbles around for something. ‘You’re not going to be able to do it on your own. Your chakras are so….flat. You’re going to need some help. Where do you live again?’
I momentarily feel panicked. Please no. For the love of God, please don’t refer me to bloody Ulrika Seahorse https://sistasertraline.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/the-new-moon-commune or any of that shower….please?
Thankfully she frowns and can’t seem to find anyone to recommend me, but begs me to seek help when I get home.
I am then told told to lie on her couch, where she covers me with blankets, props me up with pillows, strokes my brow a few times, then sets these bowl things bonging and lights some candles.
It’s all rather relaxing, but I remain on edge, perhaps because I’m still jumpy after that blood curdling screaming fit I witness at that New Moon Hippy thingy. She doesn’t pop back in and howl in my ear for a laugh, thankfully, but for some reason I start getting palpatations and can’t settle into it.
After a while, she silently enters the room, gives me some kind of flowery water to drink and stares at me with sad, sad eyes. She again asks me to seek help when I get home. I agree, oblige her when she asks for a hug, and shoot thankfully through the door into the bright, bright sunshine.
What the hell was that?
Eric, thank the Lord for small mercies, refrains from making small talk and I return to the retreat feeling much better, mainly because in the 15 minute bounce home (where I narrowly avoid biting off my own tongue), I’ve convinced myself that it was all bollocks and that I should chill the hell out already.
I immediately bump into a couple of the girls who are agog with antipation of my tale of wondrous happenings.
‘What happened? What did she tell you? Did you feel anything?’
‘Erm, it was alright. I’m not sure anything happened, but she seemed nice enough.’
The atmosphere changes a little, with a perceptible chill cutting through the heat of the afternoon.
‘Did you get any messages?’
‘Did you cry?’
<‘Somehow, I managed not to.’>
Their expressions are now bordering on hostile. Miserable cow, they appear to think, not one of us. Not fun, or warm, not a believer.
Not special like us.
If only they knew.
But I’m done showing the whites of my eyes to all and sundry anymore. That would require trust. The four inch thick steel door slides smoothly back into place as I smile, shrug and head for a hammock with palpable relief for a nice kip.
But everytime I close my eyes, I see that box, I hear the rustle of thick cream tissue paper, and feel the silken, ribbon ties between my fingers and my stomach twists with anguish as the thwarted dancer within lets out a silent scream of rage and despair.
‘You’d better get it into your head young lady, these things aren’t for the likes of us. What do you think we are, millionaires? You a dancer?! Who do you think you are? What’s so special about you? Only thinking of yourself as usual, stuck up little madam, when I was a child we made our own entertainment…..’
Thanks for bringing back the shoes Mum, but I honestly doubt they’d fit me anymore.
Too little, too late.