Our bodies are expressive, beautiful, and possess an inner working where we feel little control. From my earliest years I have been sensitive. As a kid I would lose consciousness from the pain of an injury when one of my siblings might only shed tears. Frankly, my body told me a lot of things I was too young to handle, so I learned to shut off communication. It worked…sort of.
My body felt the dismissal. Its feelings went unheard, its knowing unacknowledged. So thirty years ago this summer, we had our biggest fight ever. My teenage self stopped feeding it. What sane person would stay in a relationship where one partner decided the other would get as little as possible? We were head-to-head—me liking the size two jeans after spending my childhood as the chubby girl; my body slowly being destroyed in an attempt to remain functioning.
While I’m intensely stubborn, I get it from an expert. My mom. The anorexia got to a point where she wouldn’t pretend I was still healthy, and her “food is love” weapon battered my self-hate until I finally started eating. The problem didn’t go away. It just got elusive and hid in socially-acceptable dieting and obsession over imperfection.
Fast forward to my early marriage years. Thankfully I couldn’t starve myself after Matt and I spoke our vows and forged a life that was ours. That didn’t stop the self-hatred, but I didn’t see it as such until many years later. I obsessed about my weight and ruined our first vacation as a married couple. I had told myself in the months leading up to our Southwest excursion that I would be happy if I lost two pounds. Well, I didn’t lose the two pounds, mainly because my body didn’t have two pounds to lose. Sure enough, I wasn’t happy. But it was my own self-realized doom that cast a pall on our trip.
My body wanted to be on better speaking terms with me. It’s forgiving like that. Around the same time I experimented with the weight-happiness ratio, it tried to tell me I was in a dangerous situation. I had a (short-lived) job where sexual harassment was the norm in the office environment. I developed unexplained allergies requiring drugs that would knock me out for an entire day. The pattern became work two days, eyes swell so badly I couldn’t see, take mega antihistamines for one day, go back to work for two days, recover with drugs again over the weekend. Repeat on Monday. After a few weeks of that, even I couldn’t ignore the cadence of my body urging me to get the heck out of that place. One of the guys had targeted me as an interest. There had been “bad stuff” that happened to two ladies who worked there, allegedly by this guy (and I believed them). Did I really need my body’s reaction to be as dramatic as it was? Obviously. I’m glad it kept me safe when my rational mind wouldn’t connect the dots.
I’ve grown in gratitude for my body. Each year or two brings new enlightenment. This past winter I noticed I still have waves of self-hate flowing underneath my day-to-day activities and thinking. I’ve gifted my body to a yoga practice focused on yin, hoping it will still speak to me in those soft whispers after all my years of neglect. This is the third week of yoga, and my body has begun allowing me to hear those secrets it carried for us. I’m sorry I’ve made her hold our feelings without my support or love. And I’m grateful to have this chance to reconcile.