I read this story: “I don’t have the stomach for worrying about my body anymore” and it struck a nerve.
I look in the mirror and I am nearly 46. I worry about the extra few kilos I have gained recently – weight maintenance is so much harder when one is disabled and have chronic pain. Hopping on a bike is out of the question, and the motorised scooter makes my life so much easier but doesn’t exactly require anything but the flick of a finger – scarcely taxing. So I am trying to walk a short distance each day, for I can, albeit for those short distances before the pain kicks in – I have movement but such agonizing pain as my mobility impairment. Hydro is great, and am trying to get back into it with regularity now that summer is in, and teaching is relaxed for the year.
But the reality is I am also at the age of menopause, and the weight goes different places. I have had ten pregnancies, only five to surviving term, and that has played some in regretted but undeniable havoc with my body, as has the various medications that keep me from howling in agony (oh, my poor teeth, how long will I keep what is left of you?). I am aging too, and the body is not young any more, regeneration slows, decay, all those things start their subtle indicators.
But this body has tried it’s best to sustain life, even carrying dead babies longer than it needed, unwilling to surrender them (a fact I once reviled it for). It has nurtured and sustained five magic babies even after birthing them, feeding them and giving them as good a start as I cold mange, and even struggling through a hellish start with the last one (emergency, life threatening c section that nearly had myself and my amazing boy die, then he was in NICU, and needed me in every four hrs to establish feeding, but as the hospital had no beds, I struggled back and forth exhausted, refusing pain relief so as not contaminate the milk, while trying to be there for my four other children – oh brave body to manage me through that time of the shattered, frightened zombie like life).
It struggles through the pain to perform what I demand of it, it is pushed at times to the limit, so determined and stubborn, often foolishly so, am I to try to be as normal and functioning as possible. It allows me to quilt, to be creative, no matter how much I have hated it for not being pretty enough, musical enough, artistic enough.
All my life, dear body, you have allowed me to feel pleasure, pain, laugh, do, be…and all I have done is be churlish and resentful to you, starving you, treating you poorly. Maybe I need to be kinder to you, stop loathing the fractured, damaged shell that carries me around, hating you for the pain, instead marvel at how you keep working despite the damage, ow you release chemicals to try and help me cope, respond to drugs to try and lessen pain, how you bounce back after illness. Be grateful for the five lives you have given me to cherish in the form of those magic, living incarnations of joy, those children who are my absolute pinnacle of achievement and delight. How you can feel so safe and right in the arms of the bloke, how it feels like our bodies are just the right size to hug and kiss and love one another.
So, dear body, I will try, in this hopeful second half of life, to care for you better, in the way you deserve. I can only try to make the pain we share better, but I can recognize you try to work through it with me. I guess we make a good team, body. In fact, I have long thought that, even offered plastic surgery for the bits I really wish were different, I would reject it for this comfortable, familiar old shape. You have been my home for 46 years now, counting the time in utero when you had become my body, so I think we are in it together now for the rest of the journey. I couldn’t think of a better body to be in.