The light comes in from the far corner of my room. That's how I know if I have slept past dawn, and it is a comfort to me. I have, in my adult life, been prone to waking up at different hours of the night, and this corner lets me know how well I have done.
When I see the light shining in the far corner, I have done well.
It isn't so bad sleeping in a storage space. It is large enough to fit my art supplies, clothes and bike gear, and leave a space for me to sleep, work, and write.
The bed I sleep on is bumpy. I turn over in it and feel as if I am about to be ousted by some mysterious and insistent force that is always pushing, pushing, pushing. My blankets are slippery and they slide off the bed throughout the night. I wake up in the dark sometimes, wondering why it is so cold. My floor just lays there, grinning.
I live in a space with tools and handling things. A stark contrast to the spaces of an ancient youth. One in particular, my Aunt's house held a White Living Room. It was full of things I couldn't touch, and walls that held art of every sort, each piece completely unrelated to the next. It was not a room to be lived in, but admired. I never understood that room.
My bones need to live in a space that feels occupied. There is no comfort found in spaces that appear unused, or meant for observation. My blood chills when my body is too careful of its path between objects that seem to hold some mysterious and overriding value. My mind and heart spin downward into the posture of defense, like I am against the objects that surround me, and my struggle for dominance rages within me as long as I am contained within these cold spaces.
These rooms live in many homes, and my experiences within them bring me back to The Architecture of Happiness: "One of the great, but often unmentioned, causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kind of walls, chairs, buildings and streets we’re surrounded by."
My aunt's living room stands in my memory as a bright white reminder that this is the norm. Taking great pride in the stuff acquired is an early lesson, and it is hard to shake when it is combined with the exhaustingly ubiquitous and brutal dogma of comparison. I have many times found myself in the awkward situation of being explained to, or educated about this religion. I understand it, I just don't want to have to pray to that particular god.
It might be ego, but I want to feel like I am more important than the things that surround me. To feel my clothes supporting my lifestyle instead of working against it is a joy I create daily with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.
And my body. My body. My body I hold above all things; dresses, cars, shoes, homes, or any other item which a person might acquire. I take joy from being in my skin and living a life that encourages love of body. If I bought into the myth of ideal in this culture, I would have to believe on some level that I am inherently flawed.
I am not flawed, I am floating on the beauty of the human experience that does not require my body to be thin, or tall, or anything other than what it is. I am living in a body that has been handed down to me from generations of people who labored under unrealistic expectations and assumptions in order to not appear to be what they were. People who kept secrets in their cells, hid their love, passion, and unique wonder in their sinew, and in the end, died a stranger to their own bodies.
What a lonely life it would be, to live without a body.
I am endeavoring to end this for their sake, and for mine. I do not want to be another person watching her body die, even as her hate for it burns brightly. I cannot stand the thought of being against my very self when I breathe my last. I want to say good-bye to my body, in the end, with gratitude, love, and compassion. I want to say good-bye to my body knowing it is the one thing in this world that truly held me.
I cannot say all the things I want to say about the daily work I do to love and honor my body, but this comes close. What do you think? Does this ring a bell? How do you feel about dying in the body you occupy? Would you change your relationship?
The joy of a free body keeps me active. I have seen to it that conscious, intentional movement is a part of my daily life because I like feeling strong, flexible and able to do anything I need to do. When I look down at my body and see what I have done with what I have been given, I am genuinely proud.
My conscious presence in my physical body, in stark contrast to the hovering distance I have kept from my emotional body, pushed me to the edge of what I could do half-heartedly. It convinced me that I could not linger too long in emotional non-committance. I had to jump in.
Like extra pounds, fear weighed me down, anger cramped my body, and suspicion curled me in on myself until I could only feign health and happiness. Only show a nervous smile to the world as I hovered in between rage and shadow, and behave as if I had it all together, even as I snapped at my loved ones and pushed people away. In this, I didn't even fool myself.
When considering what I have done to free myself of my emotional weakness, my emotional heft, I would say that physical activity has been by far the easier task. Taking a bike ride or a yoga class is a joy compared to looking at myself and taking stock of my regret, resentment, and pain. .
Maybe it has helped. Maybe my ability to sit with the physical discomfort of breaking my muscles down and building them back up has pushed me to do the same with my emotional sludge. Maybe watching my body grow healthy, even as I stretched it and pushed it to work through muscular pain that sometimes brought on tears, has taught me that I can do that with my emotional body. Or believe that I can.
Emotional workouts are involuntary on some level. Unlike a nine a.m. yoga class, my grief or pain or sadness springs up and I must ride it the full eight seconds in order to break it. Sometimes eight seconds lasts weeks. This last time it was a full month of breaking down into the dark of my hollow places, where I fear the worst, feel only loss, and hold on for dear life as I am tossed and turned through the gunk of my innards.
I could let go. I could just leave the rodeo and never return, instead choose something outside myself to distract. Something outside myself to keep me from my work. But it gets harder and harder to stop once you start. It's like the first time you see real gains in your yoga practice, like touching your toes or bringing your body into a headstand, once you taste just a bit of emotional freedom, it becomes hard to stop.
The release of the bullshit that holds me back is revelatory. Better than any high or amusement, walking around with a little less pain in my heart, a little less tightness in my chest, a little less gunk in my guts, is a feeling of pure potency. It is a glimpse of what could be. It is the light that blinds in its clarity.
I remind myself from time to time. I used to be tighter. I used to be heavier. I used to be all closed up. I used to carry more than I could possible hold in my fractured heart and bound up chest. The weight could be seen in my eyes and heard in my voice. I remember.
I used to carry so much more.
This, for me, is what body positive means. Developing a relationship with your body so that you can understand, accept, and love yourself as thoroughly as you deserve. If you like what you have read here, please share it. If you don't agree, let me know. I would love to talk further about this topic.
There is this in-between place where I put my hopes. I keep them there because I want to protect them. I wouldn't want people to know what I want for myself or what I think I might achieve.
So I tell people my fears. I write about my struggles and my burdens. I write about the pain I have wrestled with for so long, because this is a real thing. I have moved through so many dark spaces, sat in the middle of my shit and mourned my soul and tore at my skin until I could feel escape on the other side.
I have become so comfortable with my pain and my struggle that writing about it has become an almost poetic experience. I am actually able to write about my rage without sounding angry. I never thought I would get there. But I have.
The joy I feel on the other side of this darkness is another matter entirely.
I have had days where I just feel happy. I don't know why, I just do, and everything my eyes rest upon is lovely, and all the food I taste is delicious, and all of my friends are angels and my home is a palace I cannot believe I have the fortune to inhabit. I feel like I can do anything on these days, like I can change the world by smiling at it.
I protect these feelings. Being open about them feels like a risk. It feels like I could lose it all if I appear too happy or too satisfied or even too hopeful. I am the little girl who finally got the dress she wanted but never had the courage to put it on.
I am not yet comfortable enough with joy to write about it in any real way. I am so afraid it will come off as Disney or worse, Hannah Barbera, that I just keep it to myself. I am almost fifty years old and I am not comfortable feeling joy to the point where I can own it.
It's not like I haven't worked my ass of to get here. It's not like I haven't stripped away all the layers I gathered over the years to protect me. It's not like I haven't admitted to all my shitty behavior, all my tortured and tragic experience that had for so long kept me from feeling this joy.
I have, but I have also felt the wrath of the pained. The people who cannot stand to see someone happy, or confident, or satisfied, because it is an aching reminder of what they lack. It is a prod at the open wound that might never heal.
It is their proof that life is not fair and that they are as they suspected, damned.
Pain is easy, a universal experience, and often enough, pain begets pain. Joy is hard because I have been taught to believe it is a fairy tale. I have been conditioned to accept that happiness lies outside the boundaries of my body. That the reason I am not happy is because I am missing something that can only be filled by something outside of me. But joy is not as easy as swallowing a pill, or buying a new car. Joy is an ability to believe. Joy is an ability to hope, and happiness holds the belief that I am lovable, and that I am loved.
Even when I am told otherwise.
So I will continue to keep my hopes in the in-between. I will continue to work on being comfortable with joy, happiness and hope. I will work until I can write about it as easily as I write about pain.
I will work until writing about joy is also a poetic experience.
What do you think? What is your relationship with joy? With pain? With hope and happiness? Strange how that stuff looks so easy in the movies!!!
This is how I carry you. I carry you in my bones. My sinew speaks your name and carries the pain of you into my fingers where it seeks a final escape, but I grab and pull you back into me, where you have always been held.
I hold and nurture you so that I might justify my rage.
I grew up in a house reverberating with the anger of generations, carried from different continents to this new land, where the promise of escape from oppression or famine or fear proved empty at the least, and was replaced by a whole new kind of horror, a new seeking that left people I never met empty with longing for anything other than what they felt they had to settle for. This pain converged in my parent's house and held all of us within it.
I left the house eventually, but this pain, your pain, came with me wherever I went. You were my constant companion, my personality, my aggressive nature. You made me interesting and frightening and sometimes to my great dismay, untouchable. This pain, you, and I, we would throw each other against people, walls, oppressive institutions, and while I never did, I always hoped to wear you out. I always hoped to figure out a way to elude you.
But this wretched illness is where I empty out.
I have been sick for several days and I wake to find an elephant sitting on my chest, my head being held in talons which at any moment might crush me utterly. I drink fluids, and rest, but nothing comes, until I bring this pain forth, and then everything.
Everything that has been held, protected, and carried is now spilling out. I cry for hours, I sob and shake and feel this history move through my body. The next day, lighter, I cry more. I cry for another hour, again, heaving with sorrow and ache and the fear of not being loved.
And then it stops, and my head is clear and my chest can take in more air than I every thought possible, and I wonder if I am free because my body was finally sick of what my mind thought all these years was a good way to handle you.
I can only hope I am free.
At this point, I can only hope.
What can I say? Sickness does strange things to me, like changing my writing style completely and making me a stranger to myself. Go figure. You like it? Let me know. I would love to hear from you. Also, on the 20th, it will be four years since I started this blog. That makes me pretty happy. If you have been here since the beginning, thanks for hanging in. If you have joined me lately, welcome, and for those of you who have come at any time in between, I appreciate you.
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