When was the last time a friend really let you down? You trusted them, you were counting on them, and they completely dropped the ball, pulled the rug out from under your feet, and poured vinegar into your wounds, possibly all at the same time. Sucks! Hopefully our friendships are resilient enough to withstand the occasional devastating rogue wave, even if we have to tread water for a while, and have some awkward moments aboard the lifeboat.
Our bodies sometimes throw us for a loop. We get injured, we get old, we get pain in weird places. We become ill or disabled, or we just… change. Everything was going along just fine and then, our body betrays us.
Puberty can be a real game-changer. Here I am, enjoying my body, having fun being a kid, just starting to understand a few things about life, and boom! Breasts! And what!? Hair in my underarms? And hips!? Where did those come from? What are they for, other than attracting obnoxious attention? And don’t even get me started on the whole bleeding thing! I didn’t sign up for this!
Many other events and conditions alienate us from our bodies… a cancer diagnosis, infertility, addiction, molestation and abuse, weight gain and loss, menopause… the list goes on and on.
In almost every film, there’s a moment of dramatic tension when something difficult or terrible happens---a misunderstanding, an accident, a loss---and the rest of the action is spent exploring the effects of that rupture. What is that moment for your body? The moment when your mind and your body declared war, or simply diverged silently and sullenly along different paths? It’s good to pinpoint the pivotal event(s), even if we have removed ourselves so far from our body’s story that we’ve forgotten why we feel alienated.
If your body were your best friend, how would you handle this event, this betrayal or disappointment? Hopefully, you’d sit down with your friend and talk it out. You take a seat, cup of tea in hand, tissue box nearby, and finally tell your friend why you’re so pissed at them. They listen for a while, maybe they defend themselves, maybe you argue some, maybe even harsh words are exchanged. They make you listen to their side of the story, and then you both cry, both apologize, both pledge to not let misunderstandings muck up your relationship any longer. Your relationship, you both discover, becomes stronger as a result.
When I journaled a dialogue with my body around puberty, this was our discussion:
Me: I was happy just being a kid, eating whatever I wanted, not thinking about what I looked like, and you started to change me into a woman, without asking me anything about it! I was so mad at you. I didn’t want breasts, I wasn’t ready to bleed, or think about sex, or worry about whether my stomach poked out too much. But you didn’t care, you just went on like what I wanted didn’t matter! You’re so selfish… I hated you!
Body: I hear you that you didn’t want to change. But I couldn’t help it… it just happened. It was kind of exciting and kind of scary. I needed you to help me through it, to be excited and scared with me, to help me figure it all out, but you were just mad all the time. I was so hurt and lonely. Right at the time I needed you most, you totally ditched me, and were suddenly mean to me, hurting me all the time, because of something I had no control over! You abandoned me.
Me: Oh my god, I had no idea. I completely forgot that you might need me. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I really missed all our good times together. I know it wasn’t really your fault. I’m sorry I was so mad at you. Can we start over?
Body: I’m sorry that it seemed like I didn’t care about you. I do care about you, I always have and always will. I missed our fun together too! I’ll start over with you anytime!
[Me and Body cry a little bit, and hug, and decide to go dancing together into the night.]
If you have a painful relationship with your body, you can start to heal it by airing your grievances, sharing your hurts, and then listening to your body’s point of view. Use you imagination to come to a place of understanding and forgiveness between your body, mind, and heart.
Next post: more meaningful conversations with the body