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Healing My Body

Healing My Body

Dad was exceedingly brutal on my body, man. Sometimes the beatings were spread out, sometimes bundled in a week. He’d hoist my tiny body to the air and throw me to the wall, like a ball. Only I couldn’t bounce back.

He’d stomp his feet on my head like he was eliminating a snake.

He’d say I’m sleeping hungry as punishment for a mistake.

And yes, I mean, children blunder. I’d steal 5/- coins for my evening mutura or buy paraffin by less 20/- for my kangumu or return home late from play.

One evening he smeared kerosene on my left hand and lit a matchstick on it insinuating that I stole a Bill Cosby novel and he couldn’t find it in the single room we lived in so I must have been the thief. After all, could mother steal a book? Could Akinyi, the house keeper steal a book? Could Uncle Ojolla steal a book?

I could barely walk for two weeks after this. My body shattered in pain with stones in my heart.

The beatings only stopped the night I was busted at a Naivas Supermarket on Ronald Ngala Street for shoplifting, mob justice meted on me. They called my father. He came holding his bulky Ericsson mobile. I’m lucky I survived. It was after a week long stay in the streets having run from home because I couldn’t stomach the chaos anymore. The fighting and shouting. I wanted a better life. That night I stood against him. Told him he’s not beating me again. I was tired of abuse.

My body has fought many battles. Aside from sustaining my traumas, I have worn clothes I didn’t like because daddy said so and sat in rooms I felt unseen and of course, injured it in play. I was an active child. So outgoing.

In my healing trek I since took up body-centred psychotherapy.

Body-centered psychotherapy is an experiential therapy based on the idea that we store and hold information and emotions in our bodies. Said another way, our bodies have a kind of memory for experiences and feelings. Body-centered psychotherapy tries to identify where experiences may be blocked and inhibiting you from accessing your feelings.

By giving the body a “voice,” through movement, gesture, sound and/or awareness of subtle sensations, you can gain insight into long-held patterns of thought, emotion or behaviour. The awareness and understanding gained in this process can help you develop a deep inner sense of knowing, to reduce anxiety and depression, to make healthy decisions, to set boundaries in relationships, and to feel grounded.

In my practice, I incorporate oiling my body slowly head to toe. I grew in a society that said a man shouldn’t bother much about his body. Girls complaining folks have ashy feet, it comes from somewhere. ??

TV commercials often sell beauty products to women only. When men are targeted, it isn’t so that they can feel good about themselves, but often there is an aim outside them. Like confidence to conquer the world or woo the girls. And the guys they show are muscular with abs for days. Tell me how many men on this earth identify with that.

I discerned that when I oiled my body, especially with organic oils, then basked in the sun or burned some incense in my house in the evening, my body feels very relaxed. It feels cared for. My skin is rejuvenated.

So I was talking to Agi Oloo who told me she was starting an organic oils business. And I asked her how come these oils are never targeted to men? Especially African men. I mean, I also want to walk glowing in the streets fragrant like a meal. She said “say no more”.

So we met again and she brought samples of the oil she made targeted for men. And I loved it. So when she finally launched her business, I bought my portion. How I look forward to shower time just to smear that thing on my body.

This is what it means to love myself.

Onyango Otieno

Onyango Otieno is a cultural designer ardent in maximizing the power of storytelling for healing and connection. Onyango believes in the potent spirit of humanity collectively creating safe spaces for interaction, development, business and movement, for a more cohesive world.

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