Day 5: Un-perfect bodies.

Hello everyone!  This is a two-fer kind of day.  I didn’t get a chance to post what I wrote on Saturday, so there is that (a tiny little bit of fiction.  Fiction is so frustratingly hard to write, and this was just a toe dipped in a story). Today’s prompt is “my not perfect body”, which I spent a lot of time thinking about yesterday, so here goes:

Yesterday was my birthday!  I turned 35 and spent the day clambering around the Puget Sound with my husband.  We walked along the receding shoreline, chasing the tide out, and climbed a cliff and scaled some bridges and trudged through mud and ferns.  The sky was riddled with clouds and light, and there was water everywhere, splashed on sand, running in rivulets and sprays along down the bluff.  Out of every stoic trunk and clutch of rocks there peeped and sprung and unfurled all the shades of green a person could ever hope to see.

Mike is in a lot better shape, so there were stretches when I was struggling, clambering, huffing and puffing to catch up to him.  This has always been the case between us.  He plays basketball three times a week and rides his bike everywhere and just generally lives fully in his body.  I take my exercise sporadically- I get really into something (yoga, belly dancing, basketball, hiking, swimming) for awhile and it consumes me, but then my regular somewhat more sedentary pursuits (writing, reading, sewing, drawing, sitting with a cat on my lap) demand my attention and I go back to a fairly minimal physical life.  I’ve never been very interested in competitive sports or even all that interested in exercise for the sake of exercise, and so over time the cumulative effects of my general anemic interest in moving + an increasingly sedentary career+ a deep appreciation for food have left me pretty out of shape.

At this point, I feel like what is expected is that either I defend my body as perfect and fine as is, or I write about the deep shame of being an overweight woman.  But neither of those would be true to my experience.

First, I don’t feel a lot of shame about my body.  It would be great if it moved a little easier, and I certainly could take better care of it, but I like my body.  I like the places it’s taken me, the experiences it has allowed me to have.  I liked being a young twenty-something woman whose body was slender and sexy and I like being a thirty five year old woman who body is solid and soft and still sexy.  I like that I get to live a life that allows me to have experienced both, to be honest.

I like being inside my body when I’m paying attention to how great it feels to move and stretch and take deep breaths.  I like being inside of my body when I’m paying attention to how amazing it feels to drink the first sip of coffee in the morning, or to share a bowl of ice cream with Mike after a crazy long day.  I like sitting with the cat in my lap, or stretching out on a blanket outside under a tree.  I like my body held by Mike’s when we fall asleep, and I like the way  sun hits my face or cold water shocks my fingers or how I get a tiny bit giddy going fast downhill.

I like the things my body has taught me.  Having never had a very perfect body- having always been the slowest in gym class, the clumsiest on the dance floor- my body has taught me about limits and empathy and that worth is not contingent on being beautiful.  Growing into myself in a body that is composed of baby-fat knees and stubby fingers and a ridiculously round face, I’ve had the chance to, first hand, find out how distorted and mythical a lot of the received truths we get about what it means to feel good or be desirable or be happy.  At my absolute thinnest, I was also the most deeply unhappy in my life.  I wasn’t thin because I was unhappy, and I wasn’t unhappy because I was thin.  These two conditions just happened to exist at the same time, and that taught me something valuable about that particular myth.  Corrolarrily, though my life contains a lot of craziness and unknowns, I think I have more consistently joyful, forgiving, kind and hilarious days now than at any point in my life- and I certainly am the fattest I’ve ever been.  And that has taught me something valuable as well.

At the very end of the day, I want to climb higher and run faster and farther; I want to always be excited and curious about the world, and what is just beyond any next corner.  I want to touch all the leaves with the back of my hand and the tips of my fingers, and to cradle flowers and sand dollars in my palm, and to jump because I am happy and to be fearless in my exploration.  But at the end of the day too, I want to be around people (like my husband) who appreciate that I have things to offer other than speed and a slim silhouette, and who love my body because it contains all of me- the beautiful and the weird and the ugly and the gentle and the funny and the ridiculous.

And I only want to do these things in this body of mine, this me-ness.  In this shape whose imperfections make the moments of balance and grace and speed and strength feel that much more miraculous, that much more dear.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Day 5: Un-perfect bodies.

  1. Julie

    This is such a sweet love poem to your body! And a good reminder to feel all of the wonderful things of living fully in our bodies. Thanks

  2. Peter Abrahamsen

    The wonder with which you regard your body and its transformations reminded me of this passage from the Zhuangzi:
    “How remarkable!” said Ziyu. “The Creator of things is making me into this hooked shape. A hump has thrust up from my back, my five viscera are top-wards, my cheeks are in the shadow of my belly, my shoulders rise above my head, and my pigtail is pointing at the sky! It must be some dislocation of my yin and yang qi.” Yet he was calm at heart and unconcerned. Crawling to the well, he looked in at his reflection. “Oh, my! The Creator’s made me even more crooked!”
    “Do you resent it?” asked Zisi.
    “Why, no! What is there to resent? If this goes on perhaps he’ll turn my left arm into a rooster and I’ll keep watch over the night. Or perhaps in time he’ll transform my right arm into a crossbow pellet and I’ll shoot down an owl to roast. Or perhaps he’ll turn my buttocks into cartwheels and I’ll ascend into the sky with my spirit as my horse! Why would I ever want a new carriage again?”

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