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Archive for September, 2014

Love Letter to My Body

A few weeks ago, my 4 year old son started asking me about my age. “Mom, how old are you?”, he would ask inquisitively. In the beginning, I joked, first with the obligatory much too young number, like 27, to communicate how old I pretended I wanted to be but even as I said it, I realized it was a joke that was more habitual than funny. He furrowed his brows and asked me again, and again, and again and again for what seemed like an eternity. After a few pretend ages: 27, 6, 94 and a couple real ones: younger than your dad, more than ten times older than you, I conceded. 42, I finally said. 42? He repeated. Yeah, 42. For real. Then he was off, doing something or the other.

But later on that day, he asked again. This time, I just gave it to him straight. 42. Remember? Oh, yea, he answered, 42. Then suddenly, as if there was a glitch, mom, how old are you? 42. 42? Yea 42. Then he’s off again. After that, it seemed he would ask me this question every time he saw me. He asked me throughout the day, at home and out in public, in elevators with other people, while I was on the phone talking to someone, as soon as I picked him up at school. Mom, how old are you? I couldn’t tell why he was doing that. It felt like some mix of true curiosity, but also some testing of patience, some mischief, some game he was playing, some desire to understand numbers, time and age. After weeks of this monotonous interrogation, I didn’t care why he was asking me. I no longer heard the question. I just answered. 42. He would ask loudly in front of adults, and they would smile to themselves at what they thought was an embarrassing question. But I didn’t care. 42. I don’t have any real hang ups about my age. I don’t feel old or young. I just feel like me and if the number of 42 is attached to it, then ok.

One day, Max was draping his body over me as he often does, and he started to fondle my breast. He did this with a mischeivous smile because he knows it makes me cringe–my natural reaction to push his hand away. Despite the fact that I nursed him for 3 years, he still holds on to a nostalgic yearning to return to that time. He refers to my breasts as mama and me as mom. His first word was mama. After I pushed his hand away and gave him a stern look, he asked, Mom, how old are your mamas?

My mamas, I replied with a certain nostalgia, are 42 years old. Then he continued, Mom, how old are your hands, as he placed his hands in mine. My hands, I replied are 42 years old. Mom, he we went on, how old is your cheek as he brushed his soft hand against it. My cheeks are 42 years old. Mom, how old are your feet? My feet are 42 years old. Mom, with a giggle, how old is your butt? My butt, is 42 years old. And on and on to other body parts. Then he was off again.

When he left, I felt somehow reunited with my body in a way that I hadn’t been before. Like a long devoted lover that I had taken for granted. I had forgotten what we had been through, these 42 years. How she was always there for me, serving me, protecting me, keeping me company, communicating to me, allowing me to enjoy life and create and make love and give birth and hug and run and dance and swim. About how she always responded to my true needs. How she made me rest and slow down with illness and how she always recovered and was there for me no matter what abuse I put her through. I thought about times when I starved her or stuffed her, commanded her to go on without enough rest or recuperation, expected her to do without water or exercise, allowed others to abuse her, abused her myself, ingested carcinogens and intoxicants, pushed her and hated her, insulted her and expected more from her, wanted her to be different than she is. Through all this my body stayed with me, performed for me, supported me, served me, protected me, tried to guide me, tried to communicate with me and gave me pleasure. Through all this my heart beat herself, my breath kept coming and going, and my blood flowed by itself. For 42 years, without fail. Not even for one moment did my body say, enough, I give up. I have said such things at dark times, but my body carried me through.

I know one day my body will stop. My heart will stop beating and the air will cease coming in and out of me. And before that, my body may succumb to serious illness and pain. Refuse to get out of bed. Feel tired and worn out. Refuse to help me carry out what I may think I need to do. One day this loyal body will disintegrate into the earth or become ash over the oceans. This is certain.

And when that day comes, my wish is that I will continue to love, trust and be in gratitude for her. Not only for what she has given me, but for what she continues to give me. Even as she seems to be failing, I believe that she knows better than I what is best for me. Because between myself and my body, my body has always told the truth. I, however, try to hoodwink the world and myself while my body displays plain and simple truths. So basic, it is easy to miss.

To listen deeply to one’s body, like listening to anyone one loves, is to put one’s own agenda aside. And that is not an easy task. Too often I was deafened by my agendas for what my body is supposed to look like and feel like. How she’s supposed to move through the world. What she’s supposed to withstand without complaining and how she’s supposed to perform. With so much on my agenda, it was difficult to hear what my body was actually feeling, actually communicating to me. When I didn’t listen to my body when she needed rest or nourishment, I ended up in pain and turmoil. When I didn’t listen to my body when she bristled at something my intellect couldn’t comprehend or when her heart quickened for someone or something she desired, I experienced regret. When I couldn’t hear her limits on things that pleasured me or hear her yearnings for things that would fulfill and nourish me, I fell ill.

When it is time to lay down and die, my body will tell me to let go. I pray that I will listen quietly and surrender. And have the courage let go of the fine companion that has seen me through the trials of this life so that my spirit can finally soar with trust and gratitude. Thank you thank you to the one so close to me I almost missed her. And thank you to the silly and wise little one who emerged from her to remind me of my mortality.

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