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How I'm Learning to Embrace My Body, Even Though It Fails Me

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When I fall to my knees, I learn to rise, stand up and walk a little farther until I find love. I have been hit hard one too many times. The wind knocked out of me. Left scrambling in the dark, reassuring myself this is rock bottom. But with each step forward, another blow hits me harder, sending me flying, body slapping against the brick wall until I lay limp and lifeless. I watch this happen from above. I watch as I try to reorient myself and find which way is north. But the compass keeps spinning. My brain keeps running. My body keeps writhing in pain. I feel myself float away. My body carries a person I no longer recognize. Perhaps, I once knew her. Back when the sun shone on my face and I dreamt of a field of sunflowers, the soft Earth tickling my bare feet as I indulged in the sweet, sweet smell of possibility and hope. But I know better than to dream up such fantasies. I watch my body trudge through the streets of New York City with an absent mind, ensuring those memories stay locked behind the vaulted door. The ones that make me live in fear of how far this body will carry me until it no longer can. Until the blow is too strong for me to get back up.

I want to rise, but the scars are too deep, penetrating my soul with their jagged edges. I run my fingers along them, one long, two small on the hip, one long, two small on the knee. They fixed me, right? Then, why do I still feel broken? Why does my body fail me so often leaving me no choice but to compare myself to the other 23-year-old bodies around me? I do physical therapy, pilates, massage therapy, yoga, and yet it’s not enough. They do SoulCycle, barre, boxing, dance cardio, and they bounce back like the pliable layers of skin on their body. If I take a hiatus from tending to this exhausting body of mine, I spend weeks building back up to the starting line. If they take a hiatus, they just have to double up on classes.

The routine has become my new standard, two pills before bed or in the morning. Depends how vicious this body of mine wants to be. An antidepressant and an NSAID, one swift gulp down with only a drop of water. In the mornings, a poor imitation of an acrobat, as I twist and turn in my bed waiting for the snap, crackle, pop with the same satisfaction I know I will get from scratching a mosquito bite. There it goes… hip, knee, neck, ankle, wrist. Ah, it throbs. It radiates like fire down the right side where those scars sit taunting me. The pain is constant, but invisible to my friends.

“You look like you’re walking fine.”

How can they be so ignorant? Don’t they know every body fools the eyes? Don’t they know my muscles, my soul, my body — they all ache? But my face smiles irrespective of the turmoil brewing inside me like a teakettle whistling away. There is so much more to my body than just the extremities. People see the face, they see the beauty. I choose to see the pain. The pain blinds me. I am left driving in a torrential downpour, windshield wipers furiously working to help me look past the storm and onto the visible path clearing in front of me. So, I watch from above. I watch and I wait until this body fails me once more. Until I must relive the past several years and restart the cycle once again.

Apologize to your body, maybe that’s where the healing begins. Save the judgment and the anger, don’t waste your precious energy on improvements because there will always be a new end goal. A new target. A new finish line. This is the body I have been given, and the more I yearn for a different one, the more I will resent what is mine. I have abused, misunderstood and loathed this body of mine. But the strength this tall, slender, mocha-skinned body bears is remarkable and unique.

I watch from above as this body dances and jumps in puddles with a buoyancy that captivates you. It leaps through the air, emanating light from every crevice, washing away all of the pain, accepting all of the shortcomings, believing in all of the possibilities. There is a fire igniting inside this armored warrior, ready to climb mountains or walk for miles or dance until sunrise recognizing this is my home. This is where I will live for better or for worse until my body dies, but my soul lives on. I have chosen to rise above and forgive this body of mine.

Unsplash image by Dev Asangbam

Originally published: April 9, 2020
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