Monday, March 31, 2008

A Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

I hate you. (I love you.)

No one is more of a stranger to me. (No one could be more familiar to me.)

I can never count on you. (You never let me down.)

Please just get out of my face! (Please don't ever desert me.)

I hate you. (I love you.)

Ours is a dysfunctional relationship, dear body, and it's all my fault. I never appreciated you, I never nurtured and cared for you, I never let you know how much I appreciate all you've done for me. I've taken you completely for granted and I'm sorry. When I was very young, I had no real concept of body image. You were simply where my physical being was contained. I provided you with fuel and you provided me with energy.

Simple. Pure. Perfect.

And you know, I think that's when I had the healthiest body image, because really, that's how it should be! We should be able to live our lives with a reverence, awareness, and consideration of our bodies, but without obsession around them. Things were simple then. You were made for running, climbing and dancing, and nothing could feel more perfect than following your lead -- and leading you with strength and confidence.

And then, somewhat suddenly (or so it felt) curves and mounds and complicated cycles and funny-sounding chemicals invaded my life, and everything changed. You, who had been perfect to me for eleven years, could no longer do anything right. You felt strange and you looked awkward and suddenly I compared you to all the other bodies of girls my age and girls in movies and girls in magazines -- and you never measured up. I blamed everything on you and blamed you for everything that felt so wrong -- and I even somehow managed to blame my parents for your shortcomings. Why had I inherited my father's short, stubby legs instead of my mother's long, slim legs? Why did I inherit Mom's long waist, which just made Dad's short legs look worse? Why did my boobs have to come so early, when other girls were still so perfectly flat and tom-boyish. And hell, while we're at it, why did I have to have red hair and freckles? Did both my body and my face have to betray me together? How cruel can it get?

But body... you were beautiful! Why couldn't I see it? You were strong and curvy and womanly and capable! You had only begun to show me your commitment and loyalty, and I rejected you for it. I never thought about what you could -- and did -- do for me; I only thought about what you looked like to others, and you always fell short. (And speaking of short...)

Even when you were at your most miraculous, when you grew and birthed babies -- some fast, some slow and some even in pairs -- I couldn't learn to appreciate you! You nourished my babies for months, providing them exactly what they needed to grow their own perfect, strong healthy babies, and even then, my dear body, I could only see how the babies had made you flabbier and saggier and puffier and far, far more tired. And I kept complaining! How dare I keep complaining?! Oh body, can you ever forgive me?

Now, almost twenty years since I've felt a baby move within me (talk about miracles!) or nurtured a growing child at my breast, I'm still complaining about you! And you're still patiently putting up with me! Oh, I can feel your rebellion now -- and I can't say I really blame you. I've been ungrateful for far too long. I'd love to say that I've let go of all my envy and frustration and negativity about you and that I've come to love you unconditionally. But I'm only now finally beginning to understand, after over 50 years of living with you, that YOU need to be cared for a nurtured and nourished too -- that you can't be strong and selfless and -- well, perky forever, and that now it's my turn to take care of you. Not to make you beautiful again (oh, how I wish I felt it when I was closer to it!), but to simply keep you moving and agile and strong. It's finally less about what you look like and more about what you feel like -- and body, my dear friend, I hope it's not too late!

I would love to finally love you after all these years of criticizing you and finding fault in you, but to be very honest, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to love you unconditionally. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to accept you for you, without wanting something different... better... taller...slimmer...younger. I simply can't promise you that -- or much of anything, really. But I am working on finally (finally!) being good to you in some little way every day -- not because I want you to look great or turn heads (anymore), but because I have finally realized how important you are to me, how much you've given me over the years, and how very much I depend on you.

As always, though, I beg your patience and understanding because I know that tomorrow or the next day or next week I'll catch my reflection in a store window and curse you out again, focusing on all your shortcomings and all my desires for something different. Just ignore me -- and if I trip or get a sudden migraine, I'll know why.

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Anonymous said...

Wonderful relatable post.

And I LOVE the pics!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Great post, Carol. Isn't it amazing how we don't appreciate our bodies when we are young, just see the negative. Now, that I'm rapidly approaching my mid-60s, I wish that just one more time I could get up in the morning without aches and pains. As far as looks are concerned, while I try not to care anymore, it feels strange to have people (men) just look through you, instead of whistling.

Betsy said...

Carol, you were gorgeous back then and you're still gorgeous now!

Goofball said...

really really great letter!

This struggle is just being female, I think ;)

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