My body and I are attempting to get to know each other all over again. I have been living mostly in my head this year, desperate to try and think my way free from where I've been. I've been sure the right combination of thoughts and words and hard work would act like stepping stones, if I was careful and clever. And it has worked, in a way: each slow step has found its ground. It's just that in my distraction, in my determination to block out pain and the lull of fatigue, I had forgotten a little about the real feet that move me, and the skin and bones they join, and the whole fragile frame of me. It was like looking up from some busyness to see my cat patiently waiting for food, his dinnertime long since forgotten.
I believe very deeply in loving the body you're in. How could I not? Without its cooperation, very little of all the rest of this matters. It's something you learn fast and sharp when you get sick or hurt, and yet we tend to forget it just as quickly. And when you've been ill a long time, it can be easy to start tuning out your body or writing it off as a lost cause. I have done both of those things, so many times, but I don't want to make that my life. I want to show my body that it still matters, however it is right now - especially how it is right now - and so I've been turning back to it lately, and trying to care for it in new ways. Trying to see what it needs and what it can do, what I can do better to work with it, and trying to do all of it with the love and gratitude it deserves.
Each of us lives inside a wild animal. Put something soft and vulnerable and newly alive in our arms and I bet the world would see us care for it with a tenderness and attention and good humour that we rarely show our own bodies. And yet this tangle of muscle and bone, this pumping heart, this is the one that will see us through all the rest of our days, whatever shape it's in, whatever it looks like. These are the hands that will let us stroke and soothe, the back that will root us when we need to hold firm, the breath that will allow us to do what's right. This is our precious ride. So many of us search endlessly for some sense of a lasting home and forget that we already inhabit it. However imperfect, our body is the one thing that's really ours.
I am trying to come back to this wild animal of me, this home I live in, as I would anything else I wanted to care for. Patiently, hopefully, joyfully, respectfully. In my time, I have cared for the bodies of people near death, for bodies after death, for new babies, demanding toddlers, sick lovers, injured animals. I am trying to remember everything I have learned and apply it to my own body for a while. I'm trying to remember that it's only through that care, I'll be able to do everything else.
I sat and rubbed hand-cream into my dry hands yesterday, and I smiled to look at them because they always remind me of my mother's hands. I now own the hands I remember from my childhood. We share the same long fingers and rounded nails, the same strength. I would interrupt her to press them to my head when I was feverish, for they were always ice cold like mine are, and run from them, laughing, when it was chilly, for she'd wickedly slide one down your neck to make you shiver, as I have been known to do to my son now.
Looking at them made me fall down a rabbit hole of time, remembering that she would have cared for this same body of mine before I could. It made me love her all the harder and want to respect her all the better by taking care of myself now.
Falling into new love is all well and good, but falling back into old love is even better.
I think that's what this might be, what me and my body are doing right now, or perhaps what it could be, if I keep trying. I think this could be something really good.