I can't recall the question, or the exact words that triggered it. And I'm not sure why this pile of old tractor tires was the place where my body paused and invited me inward. Most of us pass by many opportunities a day to go inside, feel and process, often too busy or distracted to notice the invitation. But if we pause just long enough, we can practice tuning in and holding space for ourselves. We can learn to honestly sense what's there, acknowledge the rub, soothe the pain and integrate the experience in such a way that it changes our relationship to it.
Before I share this story, it feels important for me to state upfront;
~ As someone who creates containers of support for others, I don't always remember to do this for myself (life's busy after all).
~ I had a privileged childhood in many ways, despite some significant losses, and twists and turns in our family story.
~I'm grateful for everything my parents and extended family did for me and my siblings as we grew up. I'm truly blessed.
~ My memories and beliefs are based on my unique perceptions, and thus, none of this will be true to anyone else, but me.
I was listening to an interview of Kris Britton on 'The Sovereign Women's Summit' about the different ways masculine and feminine energies show up in our relationships and our businesses. The conversation left me reflecting about my own tendency to value my masculine qualities over my feminine ones in my relationships and in how I run my business. Boy, could I relate. One of the reasons Matt and I have never signed up for couple's dance lessons in our 22 years of marriage is we both know I'd have a hard time letting him take the lead. And just ask any friend who's been on a road trip with me, and they will confirm that I prefer to both navigate and drive. As the interview wrapped up, I closed my laptop, and suited up for a walk around our rural property in hopes of some exercise and fresh air.
After a trudge around the perimeter of our snowy acerage, I arrived at this pile of old tractor tires. For context, my husband and I purchased my late Uncle Bob's property just over a year ago, and between the house renos, the enormous amount of yard and garden work, hauling the tire pile away was still on our 'to do' list. I found myself standing there, looking at the snow-covered scene, not really knowing why. I just sensed the invitation to pause, and knew there was some stuff lingering beneath the surface.
That conversation triggered something. With curiosity, I asked myself, 'What is it about these old tractor tires right now?' And then actually gave myself some space for the answer to slowly arise.
Something about those old tires reminded me of my late uncle's masculine presence in my life. Uncle Bob was what my Korean Taekwondo Grand Master referred to as 'one of the few real men in Canada' (I know right?! It was the 80s!). Uncle Bob made decisions, was critical, and never seemed to get rattled. As a farmer, he could drive and fix anything. He restored 20 antique tractors in his retirement while battling lymphoma and kidney failure. He knew how to fly an airplane and operate a backhoe. He seemed to know everything about war history, our family tree, and had an opinion about most things. He hunted and fished. He didn't seem to care what anyone thought of him. I always felt really safe in his presence and his home. He could always handle things, including his own mortality when it arrived.
I sensed a big void as I sat there, missing him and his certainty. I felt a longing for that strong, protective masculine presence in my life. I sat down on a giant old tractor tire and grieved. Something about those tires and that farmyard reminded me, not only of Uncle Bob, but of my dad as well. I realized there was a kid-part in me that missed her dad.
I followed the invitation to rest my head onto the giant tire beside me. It felt just like resting my head on broad shoulders, where I could take a load off mine. I realized how much I missed both of them this past couple of years. One of them had passed away, and was buried just down the road, and the other was just sorta hard to find the connection with lately.
The Aha Moment
So there I sat, a grown up (according to the majority of the evidence) leaning on a tractor tire, longing for the safe, masculine presence that my 13-year old self was missing.
These thoughts reminded me of some other things I already knew: that as a kid, I perceived love and approval (particularly from my dad's side of the family), were conditional. I recall;
Receiving comments about my weight from various uncles at a young age.
Worrying about and missing my dad. As a kid, he worked in the mining industry during the winter months to supplement the farm income, and I recall him being away a lot.
Wanting more quality time with my dad when I needed as a teenager. After my parents divorced, he lived far away so visits only happened a couple times a year.
Perceiving that being assertive, athletic, and making the honor roll made my dad proud and were the keys to gain the approval (and ultimately, the sense of safety), I was unconsciously seeking.
But here's the great thing. What can offer ourselves the things we perceived we missed out on in our youth. As adults, we can re-parent ourselves in these honest and vulnerable moments.
As a somatic guide, I witness these types of experiences surface for my clients often. I coach people how to acknowledge their experiences, and I co-regulate with them as they process emotions that surface. I hold space for them as they unpack some of the big stuff that's been stored in their bodies and subconscious for decades. And I guide them to self-soothe, in a similar way that I did for myself at the tire pile;
I offered myself comfort with a hug and rocking as the tears flowed,
I continuing to give myself permission to feel the stuff that was coming up, without judgement,
I held my face in my own hands, affirming out loud, 'I love you no matter what, no conditions'. I let my body sob like a kid,
Without thinking about it, my body began to find a 3-part inhale, a long exhale, and a pause. My breath slowed down and I felt very calm,
I intuitively started tapping my breastbone and offering myself positive affirmations. Just because I perceived these conditions as a child, didn't mean I needed to hang onto them any longer,
And then I just rested there, soaking up the sunshine and appreciating the sounds of the breeze in the willows. I gave myself some time to digest what I'd just experienced and regulate my nervous system.
I reflected on how my late Uncle Bob filled some of the masculine gaps in my life growing up that my dad wasn't able to be there for. I recalled my Tomboy qualities in my early and middle years, aggressively playing soccer and baseball. And how I'd come to rely on my own masculine qualities like strength and decisiveness to gain approval and create my own sense of safety in my life. I noted that I'd picked up assertive qualities from the strong female role models in my life as well: My fierce grandmother, my tough-as-nails aunt (who happened to also be my martial arts teacher), and my mom, who was resourceful and resilient.
I reflected on how my masculine qualities were currently showing up in my marriage, creating some imbalances lately.
I could see possibilities for my work to be even more easeful if I allowed my feminine aspects (i.e. patience, allowing, being instead of doing) to have some space.
It felt really good to have peeled back another layer of self understanding related to unconditional self-love.
Given I had the power to perceive conditions, I also had the power to release them.
And most importantly, the experience was a great opportunity to practice holding space for myself for a change.
I hope that sharing my personal story of holding space for myself inspires you to do the same for yourself sometime soon. I hope the next time you feel the invitation, you can respond with a pause and turn inward with curiosity, honesty and self-kindness. You really are worth it.
With warm regards,
Are you someone who regularly creates containers of support for others and seeking tools and self-awareness to avoid burnout? Do you need to pause and practice taking deep care of yourself more often? Interested in exploring the intersection between holding space, nervous system literacy, and somatics? Join Joy and co-host Emily Gillies, Master Practitioner at the Centre for Holding Space for a unique retreat in Southern Manitoba in Jan 2023, 'Connection & Containers of Support'.
Joy Onyschak has been guiding adults from from overwhelm to ease for over 13 years. As a Somatic Guide, she incorporates Conscious Connected Breathwork, somatic movement and inquiry to help her clients find the wholeness they seek. She works with clients worldwide online or in-person (Winnipeg, Canada) and hosts intimate retreats and events. Explore her work at www.joysomatics.ca , and connect with her through Instagram , Facebook or email email@example.com