The Context of Our Bodies

I have been journaling a lot lately, which is new for me. I was always strongly averse to it–I think because I was caught up in the “Dear Diary” recounting-of-days idea that has never appealed to me. But I’ve been journaling in response to the prompts given by Gala Darling’s Radical Self Love Bible (I’m only three weeks in but so far I’d definitely recommend it!) which has lead to my own prompts. And it turns out that writing through the hard stuff is useful! And easier than I thought. And, unlike the thinking that comes with long walks, can be revisited long after it’s whooshed out of my memory.

So today I started thinking about how the context in which we view and experience our bodies impacts whether our relationships with them are healthy and happy and nourishing or dysfunctional and disordered and dangerous. And this question popped up:

Absent context, it’s just a body–so why not write my own backstory, fill in my own context?

And I realized that, though the cacophonous voices of body-shaming and regulation are ever-present in our society, I get to decide whether they get any credence, whether they are granted the privilege of taking up space in my soul.

Now, I don’t want to frame this realization as fait accompli–I know only too well how a day or week or month of body peace can be rocked and shocked and shattered by a seemingly innocuous comment or something from the past coming up–but I do want to make the point that we have a lot more power than we oftentimes grant ourselves in calling a truce with our bodies. See, we can’t control the triggers, but we can build up our toolbox for when they inevitably happen.

And one of those tools is rewriting the context of our bodies–stripping away the bullshit about cellulite and size and writing a story about the things that matter.

What started this runaway-freight-train of thought was watching this trailer for Embrace (a documentary about body image that is mid-kickstarter campaign). There’s a moment near the end of the trailer where the documentarian is in tears talking about meeting two women on the beach–two women who had been perfect strangers until the first had a moment of joyful recognition “ah! She has one boob just like me!”, rushed over and gave her a hug. And I thought, how dare I see my body as anything less than perfect?!

I have had my own health tribulations and been very, very sick (though certainly not in the same league as the women mentioned above) and my response to finally getting well again hasn’t been to dance in the streets and thank my body for healing, it’s been to get pissy because this go around my body’s bigger than it was pre-sickness.

I am reminded of Naomi Wolf’s brilliant quote:

A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.

Imagine what we would get done if we spent the years and billions of dollars we spend trying to hate ourselves thin marching in the streets, rabblerousing for an affordable childcare strategy, shoring up the leaks in medicare, ensuring every woman has access to safe, legal, and timely abortion, fighting regressive (and downright racist) immigration policies, and just goddamn living our lives!

If we rewrote our body’s contexts to be ones that nourish, accept, and love our bodies–that understand that they are instruments not decorations and utterly divorced from our worth and lovability–we would get a fuck of a lot done. Because our bodies would require only as much thought as a dog–they need to be fed and walked and loved and that’s it. There is nothing more complicated than that. No mental gymnastics to figure out if I can eat this if I do that many burpees; if I can wear that dress or maybe I should just skip the party entirely because I’m feeling fat; if losing 10 pounds will FINALLY make me loveable.

Cause all that shit? It’s distraction. It’s filler–it’s like mental asbestos. It fills cracks and crevices and is toxic as shit. And sometimes you need a professional to help you remove it. But when we rewrite our contexts, when we choose the value of our bodies based simply on their continued excellent service (even when it doesn’t feel so excellent) we free up those cracks and crevices for big, bold, radical ideas to take place and shake shit up.

Let’s shake shit up.

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