I used to sing Ani DiFranco’s song “As Is” and think of others. Now I think of myself.
And I’ve got
No illusions about you
I never did
When I said
When I said I’ll take it
I meant as is.
I have a body. I am a body.
My body is many things. My body is soft and supple. My body is flexible and strong. My body is prone to allergies and skin irritations. My body is ample hips and delicious curves. My body is endometriosis and blond hair. My body is tiny wrists and scoliosis. My body is tattooed kindness and frequent urinary tract infections.
I am soft, supple, flexible, strong, prone to allergies and skin irritations. I am ample hips, delicious curves, endometriosis and blond hair, tiny wrists and scoliosis, tattoos galore and UTIs, too.
My body experiences chronic pain. That’s part of being in my body.
I am chronic pain. That’s part of being me.
And sure, there are times that I have wished that I didn’t have the physical issues I have. It has been comforting to think that someone else’s body could not only be tried on, but could fit.
But something has been growing inside me as of late – I call it Tiny No. A tiny “no” every time someone suggests a way in which I could shift how I experience being me. Tiny No looks like a fist opening up.
Because if I think it is great to be who I am, which I most certainly do, how can I not see that it is great to be in this exact body? Can this body, too, celebrate existence?
I am tired of attacking myself, hoping I will give up the fight and just not be who I am. Didn’t I just say that
my body is I am flexible and strong? It stands to reason a fight with myself could go on for the rest of my life, yes? That sounds exhausting and all consuming.
I have decided to call a truce.
And in some ways it’s been deceptively easy. I have stepped enough outside of our mainstream culture to consistently avoid common messages of self-hate. I rarely see TV commercials. I don’t frequent shopping malls. I avoid magazines.
But I do walk in New Age and pagan communities, where I encounter a lot of self improvement, healing, and self-help rhetoric. And while I do think that it is very useful to examine oneself and heal oneself when appropriate and/or necessary, I think it is just as useful to think about why we want to do those things, why we push so hard. Unexamined “self improvement” frequently masks self-hate. (I was going to qualify that last statement with some kind of “in my experience” blather, but no. I’m going to stand by that statement and let it have full power.)
I often talk about my pain. I acknowledge it as a factor in my daily life. And when a well meaning stranger or acquaintance volunteers that I may have issues with my family of origin, and that it probably impacts my chakras, and my leg, hip and back pain? Or insists that my eczema can be helped by Bach flower remedies? Or talks to me about my endometriosis, pushing that I alter my carefully chosen treatments? I acknowledge the advice, and then I often check out of that conversation. I check out because conversations like these often include as underlying messages:
1) You must not have thought of fill-in-the-blank-remedy.
2) Living with pain isn’t ok/your experience must be unpalatable.
3) Everyone wants to improve.
And Tiny No responds:
I choose to talk about my pain, and acknowledge my reality.
I choose to be here when I’m in pain.
I may have tried all the remedies. I may choose not to try the remedies. I choose to be here as I am, regardless of their impact.
I choose to be here even when I’m exhausted, or crabby, or immobile.
I choose to love myself and my experience, exactly as it is right now.
Nothing needs to be fixed, changed or shifted.
I have a right to be here, exactly as I am. My experience is valid and beautiful. This is my Black Heart Manifesto.
“There is no wrong way to have a body.” ~Glen Marla