Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This is My Body...

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I suppose many a woman in the process of discovering herself have read the poem above and saw the experience of her-self reflected in those words.

...let the soft animal of your body
      love what it loves.

Recently I've given much thought to my relationship to my own body and to owning my body.  It seems that it's been rare that I've found it has belonged to me.  Many of us experience this relational disconnect to ourselves.  Here's an incomplete list of the reasons I have not owned my own body:

Catholic guilt
Race based shame
Serious medical illness
Sexist US culture
Dysfunctional relationships
Self loathing
Internalized bi-phobia
Family dynamics
Absence of nature

I've been working on a campaign in the last several months that has triggered in me a greater and deeper need to make decisions for my own body.  My fear is great regarding a choice being taken away and having to literally swallow someone else's version of truth.  I'm scared.  All of my years of 12 step recovery has left me suddenly and I cannot let go.  My body is angry and reacting to the stress.  I've been unable to speak much in the last week.  Every day we get closer to knowing the outcome I become more distant from the innate understanding that I deserve to feel good.  All of the above factors in my disconnect to myself seem to be playing tricks on me.  I tell them I deserve to feel good and I deserve to partake of healthier things.  Yet something about this other voice, made manifest in a campaign based on false pretense, tells me I don't have the right to feel anything for myself.  And with that, the familiar wave of shame washed over my finely carved psyche.

What is it to love oneself?  How do we own our own bodies?  My slave ancestors were given no choice about when to work, what to wear, what to think, how to feel, what to love, what to reject.  Even as a kid I felt their complete obliteration of humanity as if through some time/space continuum it was still happening.  In all honesty I don't believe I would have been able to handle slavery.  I think I would have killed my masters or myself.

The only option in this current modern predicament is to let go of the injustice of the past, present, and future, and find a way to give myself compassion.  I want to wear it like a soft coat that serves to soothe rather than protect.  In order to stay strong I must remain vulnerable.  But instead of the soft coat, these last few days I wore the familiar metal contraption that gives me a false sense of safety.  It always seems to rust or fall apart.

I deserve to feel good.  I deserve to drink clean water and breathe clean air and eat truly healthy food and wear what serves my spirit and dance and sing even if I look foolish.  So do all the people I love and the people I don't love.  We don't get easy lives.  But we deserve to find our fulfillment without being subjected to other's notions.  I guess life doesn't work that way, but still, we deserve to feel good.

"Everything is going to be okay."  This has been my daily mantra.  And it will.  In the mean time though I will try on that soft coat of comfort.  Hopefully I'll soon find that it's just the right size.

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