What is the difficulty in stripping layers of cloth and standing bared in front of my own reflection? It should be easier to face a reflection in the mirror than it is to face the secrets of a soul; easier to bare a breast, a hip, an ankle than to see unmasked the wings and horns of a self.
and yet it almost never is.
Even after all this time and thought and searching and acceptance and writing I maintain a complex relationship with my own body. This husk of muscle and flesh and spark and firework, this weight of tendon and sinew and bone and passion. This body.
We circle each other warily. Often we are at war, waging battles against one another, laying siege. At times we live under the flag of an uneasy truce. But the peace is always tenuous. There is always a new front to be claimed, another battle on the horizon.
These legs. These crepe-skinned knees and flesh-heavy thighs. These legs which have carried me through four and a half decades, which have run me up mountains I thought too high to climb, which have scaled heights I thought impossible from where I stood looking up.
These arms. My God, these arms. These arms which are baggy and saggy and on their way to bat-winged. These arms which have cradled and rocked countless babies to sleep, protecting and soothing. These arms which have carried the weight of what is needed to feed my family, which have wrapped around generations, pulling grief close, pulling joy closer.
These hands. Christ, these hands which have woven the threads of love and passion and family together into a tapestry of life. These fingers which fly clacking over keys and sometimes seem to know what I need to say before my own mind recognizes it.
This womb. This womb, that hollow source of heartache. This womb which eventually harbored and nurtured two little lives, which had the strength to push those lives into this world to stand on their own, apart.
These breasts. No longer high and mighty, these forlorn breasts. These breasts which nourished two sons; and these hips, always too wide, curved and rounded leftovers of my mother’s body which expanded to accommodate and grow new human beings.
This spine. This spine now just starting to lean. This spine which has stood upright in the face of change, of heartache, of sorrow and grief. This backbone which has borne whatever I have heaped upon it without breaking, without complaint or crack.
This body. This body which has starved itself and run itself ragged trying to fit a tortured and distorted ideal of its own making. This body, a safe haven for a lover to harbor in, warmth and depth in which to burrow. A lap in which to snuggle, flesh soft enough to absorb the sharpness around it.
This body which despite all of this still only loves itself part of the time.
This heart. This heart which bears the scars of breaking, which has been pieced back together and still beats in time with a love ferocious and fearless. This heart which still has not completely learned to love what has loved me back so fiercely all this time.
18 Comments Add yours
Accept it, love it, be grateful for it. I ❤ my body.
Oh, I do. Then I don’t. Then I do. Then I don’t. It’s complicated. If my body were on Facebook, we’d have an “It’s complicated” status.
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It wasn’t until I entered my sixties that I appreciated my forty year old body.
Hindsight. That fickle beast. I’m doing my best to appreciate it now, while everything still works for the most part, but sometimes it’s not easy.
we are who and what we are. love this post and agree it is difficult to do at times –
Thanks, Beth. We are so, so hard on ourselves, even in the absence of others being hard on us we are hard on ourselves.
Excellent and wise post. It resonated with me. And, I suspect, most women. Well done.
Thank you. In response to yet another weeks’ worth of conversations revolving around weight and exercise and balance (and wine). It’s like a constant cycle of uphill, plateau, downhill. Uphill, plateau, downhill. Not the body itself, but the view of it.
as you said..it s complicated! Love/hate relationship!
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Feels like the body’s a boat and yes, I want mine to look a bit battered and worn out by the time I get to the other side.
See….now right there is the difference between the XY and the XX–I still want mine to look shiny and new–even though intellectually I know I’d rather have that lived in look 😉
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You are so ridiculously talented I can’t even stand it.
I think you’ll be able to relate this post that I wrote a few years ago but you are so much kinder about your body than i can ever be.
And this one:
Yesterday I was kind. Tomorrow I will be brutal. And so the battle continues….I’m like the Star Wars franchise. Oh God, I really am like the Star Wars franchise–some better than others, always a battle between light and dark–though not even at my best did I look like Leia in her slave costume. I’m off to check out your pieces. And thank you for the kind, kind words.
This is gorgeous writing around a very deep truth. Like Anonymous’ post, I didn’t appreciate my younger body until I was much older. I relate to what you wrote–you’re right, it’s complicated–and now I’m trying to make friends with it (though always wondering if it will “betray” me — illness, etc., as “payback”– and hope I don’t further betray it by not treating it respectfully. It’s a daily challenge ;).
It’s always hard. Even when it’s NOT hard, it’s hard! I’m getting there, but it is a work in progress for sure. Though I most decidedly appreciate what my body still can do and dread the day when it can no longer.
And thank you. x