Other Ways to Be with the Body

I don’t know about you, but I can be merciless with my body.

Take this one Wednesday, for example.

I gave her about four hours of sleep. Crammed her into a few multi-hour flights. Hunched over my computer on those flights, shoulders up, neck out, jaw tight. Criticized her in the bathroom mirror for eyes that were too puffy and a belly too fleshy. Then expected her to lift my luggage, carry my purse, walk as fast as I needed her to walk.

And that night, like so many nights, I went to bed telling myself what I’d do tomorrow to make my body do more, eat less, better obey my idea of how she should be and look.

But once, I read about a poet who does something different when she goes to bed. As she’s falling asleep, she tells herself two things:

“Thank You. I Love You.”

The compassion of it really undid me, this gratitude for one’s own mortal body.

That night, I tried it. It was forced. But I did it the next night and the next. And sometimes, when I’d remember, I’d do it during the day.

Pouring laundry detergent – thank you, I love you. Locking the door – thank you, I love you. Buying apples, waiting for the dentist, filling up my water bottle – thank you, I love you, thank you, I love you.

And it’s this act of repair – like dislodging barbed wire that’s rusted on a fence – from being against my own body to with my own body.

Sometimes I feel it when I say, “Thank you. I love you.” Sometimes I don’t. And I think that’s okay. Because more than anything, it’s a reminder that there are other ways to be with the body than merciless.

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