My Dear Body they asked us to write, mightier body is what came to mind. I’d write a letter, but my body and I have a long history of skipping stuff like that and going right from thought to body.
We’ve been through a lot, this body and me. We spent a terrifying afternoon together when we were about 8. We’d been at the park playing, carrying out trademark moves of daredevilry on the monkey bars. A fateful misplant of one foot led body and me to discover a startlingly bright and robust trickle of blood between our legs. I was certain that my body had failed me- that my period had arrived. We fled home to sit together on the floor of the bathroom in terror and regret. If only we’d been more careful…(we were still fretting 3 years later as the milestone of first period seemed to be passing us by.)
We held hands and stuck close as everyone around us started using body as self, the size of chests, whether it was girlish and propped up with foam and lace, or brutish and puffed up with bluster and bravado, became the gauge for popularity and inclusion. We didn’t fit. Body still wanted to carry my across the blacktop, I still wanted to occupy it, we fit, but only with each other.
As we began to be interpreted by other people in ways we didn’t intend we grew apart. I came to resent my body for its strength and size, my body paid no heed to my desire for smaller calves and bigger boobs. The less I ate and the more I worked out, the bigger my calves and smaller my boobs became. Body and I slipped into a grim downward spiral of light blue pills, intestinal cramping and brittle hair. The numbers on the scale got smaller and smaller. My body was slipping away, and with it, the greatest strength and friend I’d ever had.
It was touch and go there for a few years. Camel Lights and Ex Lax playing recurring roles between half-hearted attempts to find my way back to content. I sought out things I wished my body was and silently berated my body for not being as lean or willowy.
The thoughts slashed at me with razor sharp intensity. I was relentless and exhausted by my own self-loathing. I desperately tried to break the cycle, journaling, working out, reading, crying.
I had fleeting moments when my hands caught hold, if just for a moment, to the oneness of my youth. I would remember the way my legs carried me across the field, the burn in my lungs and shaking in my legs making me smile. Fatigue was an accomplishment, not a failure. It was during one of those periods when I met the person who would accompany me back to the girl with the wind in her hair.
I’ll never forget the moment, alone with my body, having spent months reconnecting, studying, listening and care taking, when it clicked. My body. My beautiful, wondrous body. I was staring at my reflection in a mirror as I learned that my body was carrying another. A daughter. I knew in that moment that it had to end. There could be no more hatred, no more running away.
More than four years have passed since that day and in that time, with the exception of a few understandable pregnancy induced oh-my-god-I’m-gigantic moments, I have loved my body. I’m not sure if my calves are any slimmer or whether my boobs ever had that wished for growth spurt, but as I look at them, I love them. Two daughters have been caught by a doctor’s arms pressing against my calves. These daughters have been nourished and soothed at my breasts. And as I sit here now, one leg tucked beneath me and my body preparing to once again nourish a daughter, I love this body. It is stronger, more beautiful. It is mightier than I ever knew.
And it is mine.