This piece is about a year old (I write a lot that I sit on or discard or can’t figure out what to make of) but it feels as relevant as ever. And, interestingly, the idea of “body détente” came up in a recent journaling exercise I did, so I guess it is, as ever, an ongoing process.
I want more than a détente with my body, I want peace.
I often go back and forth on the idea of body love. On the one hand, it feels vital, life-saving, and profoundly radical. It is a political stance and action (praxis, if you will) that has the power to counter and subvert centuries-old systems of power. On the other…I’m just fucking tired of thinking about my body. And how it succeeds and fails to fit into someone else’s ideals. And actively practicing body love (or acceptance) takes a lot of energy.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live in a culture that doesn’t hew to Western ideals around bodies. And then I wonder what it would be like to live in a society that doesn’t value dualism but rather understands and values the wisdom of both the body and the mind and understands them as intimately connected if not the same thing. And then I think about how cats live in their bodies. If you have a cat (or have a friend who has a cat) spend a few minutes one afternoon watching how that cat inhabits their body. They snuggle into a little circle to sleep, shifting and stretching to get it just right. They get up suddenly and spend twenty minutes tearing around the house simply because it feels good in their body. They demand cuddles and pats because they feel good.
I aspire to be cat-like in the way I inhabit my body. And I realize that embodiment can not be reached if the best I can do is detente with my body.
Not actively hating my body isn’t enough. Not being actively at war is not enough. It is a respite. It is important. It is a step on the way. But it can’t be the end goal.
In my work I sometimes talk about intellectual knowledge versus felt knowledge. I think there are a lot of feminists and other body-positive people and activists who are stuck in the intellectual knowledge of body acceptance but who haven’t yet reached felt knowledge. We say, we shout, we tell everyone in our lives that they deserve to love their bodies, to be at peace in them. That all bodies are good bodies. But that felt knowledge eludes many of us.
I don’t have answers, but I have my own process and praxis which help:
- I don’t shit talk my body or others’ and I don’t let people do it in my company.
- I move in ways that feel good, that feel like coming home (dancing), that feel empowering (weight lifting), that feel natural (cycling).
- I strive for balance in my food ways–eating in ways that nourish my body and nourish my soul, sharing meals with others, being gentle with myself when I make choices that don’t feel great after the fact.
- I don’t read or watch tabloids/gossip media.
- I challenge body-shaming or judgmental language
- I seek out writers who I can learn from and discard whatever isn’t helpful.
I am still trying.