I never cared much about my body until people started to hate me for it. According to others my body came out of my mother too dark complected for acceptance, too thin to be healthy, with hair too curly to be feminine. Though I never hated my body as a kid , and never took out my frustrations on it, I did not view my body as the true temple that it was. I really felt nothing toward the vessel that brought me place to place, as that is all I saw it as. I was indifferent to my birth marks, my warm brown eyes – I did hate my gap tooth smile though, and how my skin colour changed when I would pick the scabs off my scraped knees and elbows from running too fast.
During those years my body was vulnerable to everyone, begging for attention and affection from someone other than my mother. I had seen what grown-ups did with their bodies when they wanted love and I felt I would do anything for it, but how much could an extremely supervised girl do with her heart, soul, and body at age ten? From that early one I loved too deeply, felt too strongly, and went through life completely unguarded. I didn’t realize then how much hurt and trauma my body was protecting me from. By then my eyes had learned to perceive the world as an adult, my ears had heard horror stories and kept my brain vigilant, my mouth had learned which secrets to keep from her mother and which stories she could tell to this person who was her only confidant, her hands had learned how to hug her stuffed animals so she felt less alone.
By thirteen I thought the key to being less alone was to allow people access to my body they did not deserve. My brain told me that my body, still healing from those playground scrapes, was ready to be viewed by the thirteen year old boys I perceived to be men, to be suitors, to be people who would take the loneliness away. I remember my hands using phones to send pictures of my body to other boys in embarrassment at my naivety now, though I know I’m not really to blame. Again, I didn’t see my body as something worth protecting, or caring for. I thought my body was a bargaining chip, a tool to manipulate people into giving me what I wanted, love and affection. In my teen years, I hated my skin for not being white, and my hair for not being straight because that was clearly the only way to be loved; to be white and feminine was to be admired and adored.
By my early twenties, once my mother became ill, my body was never a temple and no longer even a vessel to carry my soul. My body was hell on earth, forcing me to watch my mother forget me in a sick Groundhog Day movie remake. I refused to let this movie replay daily without trying to stop the movie. So I did. I tried to poison my body for four years. I filled this body with as much liquor as it could take, and then some. I shoved any drug I could get my hands on to numb my body, my face, my thoughts. For four years my body breathed, and walked, but I was not in it. During those four years my body was literally beaten and bruised. I watched from somewhere outside of my body as various men used my body as I offered it as the same bargaining chip, but I was never given any real love or affection just a very lame consolation prize of a few less lonely nights. I also watched as men used my body but had never been given permission to use it. On those nights my body protected itself by letting my mind and soul walk away, but sometimes when I close my eyes I still feel the agony of my heart being ripped apart.
In those four dark years my body managed to finish a degree, and though she poisoned herself nightly she was still her mother’s legal guardian and never failed her. This body moved houses, and changed cities and held a job despite the box of pain her body stored in the back of her brain. Despite how much I tried, this body didn’t seem to want to give in, give up, or die. I knew inside this body lived someone worth a fighting chance, worth a world of happiness, but I didn’t know how to help her.
Eventually the dying light in my body cried out, and asked for help. In a matter of months my body changed drastically. I gained much needed weight, and had a new, bigger, body to love. Without the alcohol and drugs my brain grew sharper, my eyes clearer, my nose and taste stronger, my memory – crystal. Over a year of therapy has helped this heart, mind and soul put together some jigsaw puzzles to empty the box of pain. It was as if I had metamorphosized into a new body that I did not know, but one that could remember the path she had been down to get here.
Though I find it hard to look at my body and see permanent markers of where I let my body go down the wrong path, I can appreciate and thank my body for trying her best and for keeping me alive despite it all. I love the scars from my cat playing with me. I love the tattoos I’ve gotten to honour both sides of my family and highlight coming to grips with my identity. I have most recently come to love all of my body’s natural beauty and have stopped trying to whitewash it and turn it into something it is not. After 27 years, I love my spiral curls and my discoloration in melanin and my dark body hair.
After almost three decades, my body is no longer a vessel to bring me place to place. My body is my temple, and those who experience what this body has to offer are given the gift of my presence. Long gone are the days of all access passes to my thoughts, my curves, my endless love. My body kept this heart beating, these lungs breathing, and this brain praying for the moments I am currently living, experiencing a kind of success I thought I could only dream of. My body unknowingly carried generational trauma on her back while adding on new traumas and new pain until she decided that this was the end of the road, that this body would be the last to suffer like her mother’s had, and her mother’s mother’s had at the hands of abusers and men who never deserved an inch of those bodies.
My body is constantly changing, adapting, growing, shifting with each thing that this world throws at it. This body hopes to someday transform again and create a new body within it, to love and cherish and to teach how to love its own body in a way that she was never taught. I believe the ebb and flow, movement and growth of a body is art. Life is art. And this body is my life and life force.
From trying to end this body’s journey to cherishing things as small as the feel of book pages fanning against her thumb, it feels as though this body has seen and done it all – and yet this body has so much more to explore. More than it could possibly fathom.
Thank you for listening to my body tell her story.