this body

Our bodies are always, in some way, a representation of our stories and our experiences, and as summer dawned and the heat coaxed my winter clothes back into the closet, I could not hide from my own weary body anymore. Denying the hatred of self that tempted me at every turn, I chose to explore all my body could experience and find gratitude in each touch.

Advertisements

Gratitude: A Thought Project

olliethebearcub (1 of 1)

When I look at this photo, I can feel it.

I feel the warm sun on my skin. I feel my puppy, who often looks and acts like a small bear cub, pressed up against me. His fur fluffs between my fingers; his soft belly rises and falls with each breath as he playfully squirms and makes muffled grunts and growls in my ear. I feel my thighs, touching where they did not before. I feel my waist, expanding farther in my waistband than it did the previous summer.

I have heard many women express gratitude for their aging bodies because their changes represent their accomplishments. Stretch marks from the children they have borne. Extra rolls of skin and fat brought on by bearing and caring for their little ones. Wrinkles from all they have felt and expressed. Freckles from laughter in the sun. Sore joints from years of diligent work.

It is this same recognition of what shapes our external selves that brought on such distaste for my own changes.

Mine was a body that had recently been shaped by despair. Muscles weakened by the days I could not find a reason to get out of bed. Extra pounds gained from the weeks that I only had strength for one activity per day. If I remembered to eat, it was whatever could be obtained the quickest. My face, which I had become certain would show the cheerful squint of crow’s feet in the coming seasons of my life, was now fleshed out without a laugh line in sight. For long draughts my insides did not stir enough for happiness to reach my face.

A new set of people entered my life, and for reasons I may never understand their actions suggested they would have prefered to have never met me. They painted some horrid unfamiliar image and labeled it with my name. I stood bewildered. It seemed the harder I tried to connect with them, the tighter they clung to this image and the harsher they scolded me for it. I was met too often with cold glances. Repetitive rejection. Whispers of gossip that followed me in the streets and confronted me in places I did not expect from people I hardly knew. But heaviest of all was that daunting knowledge that each sin of those who had targeted me would be placed on my own head. I was the subject of blame for their every turmoil. Each hurt feeling or elaborated offense. Even when I paid no notice of them, and mustered the strength to go about cheerfully with my life, there was always that impending text or that next conversation, where our lives would again be interrupted so my husband could be informed of the depravity of the wife he had chosen. Things as simple as shopping, grabbing coffee with a friend, attending or not attending a party, were marked as bitterness I did not posses, vengeance I had no desire for or pettiness I did not wish to serve but was thrown on me nonetheless. There was nowhere I could go to be free.

On several occasions I found myself consoled to the point of tears when any random acquaintance would do something as simple as taking an extra moment to ask me about my day or invite me to an event. I remember hastily brushing away the joy. Since the cold bite of judgement is what had harmed me in the first place, I was afraid to be vulnerable enough to let anyone see how deeply their warmth affected me. My soul had been bullied for too long. It had slowly been beaten into one aching bruise.

I had never been warned that loving someone could provoke such persistent punishment. Maybe someday I will ask my children that, when they have chosen someone to pledge their devotion.

“Do you love them enough to stand by them even when they make decisions that are unpopular?”

“Do you love them enough to be blamed for choices that were not your own?”

“Do you love them enough to be hated?”

I hope they will be like their mother, in that, when their time is right, they will say yes and mean it.

And I hope, for their sake, that they will not be like their mother, in that the hatred cast on them will not cause them to wither.

Because for me, the hatred was too heavy. Whoever I had known myself to be before seemed to have disappeared. I could not find her. I was some tired husk of myself.

When I would mention my physical changes: clothes fitting differently, simple exercises no longer being achievable, etc. my family would insist I did not look that different at all. And in a sense they were right. A little extra fat here. A little less muscle there. That was all that could be identified externally. But to me, those small changes were unmistakable because they were the result of belittlement, discouragement and a newfound hopelessness.

Our bodies are always, in some way, a representation of our stories and our experiences, and as summer dawned and the heat coaxed my winter clothes back into the closet, I could not hide from my own weary body anymore. Denying the hatred of self that tempted me at every turn, I chose to explore all my body could experience and find gratitude in each touch.

Slowly, I gained courage.

I am grateful for this body. Its transformation, which to me was once a sign of my weakness, is now an indicator of my persistence.

It is a body that still feels the cold rush of water across its surface with each dive into the cold waters of my home state.

It is a body that rows canoes and balances on paddle boards and wrestles with the little bear cub in my arms when he has too much energy to play on his own.

It is the body that hugs my friends and hikes through forests. That walks with head held high down mainstreet even when I have been told all too many times that I ought to be ashamed.

It is the body that makes my husband feel at home. The body that holds in it the hope of every future touch and sensation this life will bring.

It is a body that is weaker than it was one year ago, but houses a soul that is so much stronger.

 

She Keeps Her Butt Round and Her Lips Red

If she likes you, she’ll tell you.
If she’s hungry, she’ll eat.
No sugar-coated words or fake smiles from her teeth.
When her body craves motion, she’s quick on the move.
You know she’ll be dancing; You hope it’s with you.
American sweetheart with some spice to her sweet.
Apple pie on a Sunday where the fallen saints meet.

20150326-101613.jpg

Seeing Gold

~~

This is Chloe.
An ever-dramatic soul. Lover of theatre.
She has more passion than she knows what to do with, is always in motion, and is always ten steps ahead in her mind.
Also, she likes Star Wars.
And dance shoes.
When I asked what color she wanted to represent her eyes, she said “Gold” instantly.
Perfect.
She always is seeing shining lights… Stay gold, Chloe. ❤

~~

photo-3

~~

Flattery

flat·ter·y

ˈflatərē/

noun

  1. excessive and insincere praise, especially that given to further one’s own interests.

 


10686970_10152372770213034_5413409228233202001_n


 

Flattery is poison. But some poisons are more lethal than others.

My mother once told me the most dangerous kind of flatterer, is the one who flatters who he wants you to be, not who you are.

“He’ll take one little piece of you and pinpoint it,” she said, “He’s not lying. It is there. It is a part of you, but it’s not all of you. It’s a tiny part that serves him best. Then he’ll flatter it and glorify it and remind you of it as often as possible, because he wants you to think that is all that you are.”

From what little I know, I know my mother knows more than I do. And from what little I’ve seen, I’ve seen that she is correct.

The man who desperately wants to run away with a girl, to have an affair with her, to do anything that only a man who wishes for a girl to rebel against her own heart and home would do, he will flatter her free spirit. He will praise her boldness. Anything she does that is pushing the limits of convention, that is creative or progressive, he will respond to these things with kisses that taste like honey and words that warm her insides. But her softer thoughts, her love of safety, her want to place discernment over frivolity, he never praises that.

The man who wants nothing but her submission, nothing but a passive girl who will let him rule in a rigid home, he will praise only her sweetness, the way she sits quietly when she reads a good book, the way she smiles politely when other girls get angry or frustrated. When she does these things he will make her feel wanted. He will make her feel “good enough”. But he never encourages her passion, the fight in her eyes, the sharp resilience of her backbone.

Well to the flatterer, don’t bother with me. Don’t act as though my wilder nights define me simply because that is the definition that suits you best. I may forget tomorrow by moonlight and chase after stars, but I will still have ambition beyond the thrill of a moment. I will still have discipline beyond my desires.

And don’t glorify me in my best Sunday dress when it is rigid and still untouched by windy afternoons. My heart is steadfast but the rest of me is always in motion. So don’t act as though I am best when I follow every rule and it is an unfortunate fluke when I go against the grain. If you don’t like me barefoot, you don’t like me at all. If you prefer I never let my hair down, I prefer you go away.

You may flatter my eyes

my mouth

the freckles on my nose

anything superficial enough that I might have enough silliness or vanity or insecurities to listen for awhile,

But flatter any fragment of my soul and you’ve already lost.

I watched the grownups play that game as a child.

I learned the rules before you even asked me to play.

 

The Dirt of Life

         BareShiny things had never tempted her. Diamond rings didn’t widen her eyes. Fancy restaurants didn’t make her feel important or sophisticated. A GQ model in a Lamborghini might make her giggle for a moment but nothing more.

What gripped her was the dirt of life. Ink under skin. Cigarette smoke stitched within a faded sweatshirt.

She liked the hum and hammer of old washing machines.

She preferred to sit on the floor or curl up in a windowsill or perch on a counter-top. The only furniture she liked was the kind with tangled sheets or this one old couch that smelled like grass.

If the dishes were dirty it rarely bothered her. Neither did laundry on the floor. When she did clean she paused every other minute to dance and enjoyed it so much that she wondered why she didn’t clean more often.

She liked choruses of frogs and singing with anyone or no one.

She liked bare feet by campfires and friends made in nights that faded into mornings before sleep could interrupt.

She liked swimming in lakes under stars. She didn’t like swimsuits.

She liked rain and puddles and fog over hidden houses.

She liked the eccentrics, people who spoke puzzles and held stories in every scar and wrinkle.

She liked mazes of alleyways with tired bricks and conversations on fire escapes or by dumpsters.

She liked to be tucked away in corners and books with tattered binding that proved the words within were well loved.

She liked to wear flannel that was too big and tank tops that were too small.

She liked walls quickly painted as canvases without frames.

She liked freckles that punctuated perfection, noses that were too big and hair so red it threatened to burn at the touch. She liked trails of blue that shown through skin, the veins that reminded her of a heart beating.

She liked to forget the blank walls of sterility and the cutting binds of sternness.

Sometimes she liked solitude, but she hated to be alone.