Thursday, October 18, 2012

You don't have to love your body

Today is Love Your Body day and I wanted to give my readers permission to do something that may seem possibly counterintuitive, transgressive, or pessimistic.

You don't have to love your body.

You don't.

Sometimes bodies do things that are out of our control.  Sometimes they are sick, broken, or cause pain (physical or mental).  Sometimes they keep us from doing things we want to do (like bellydance or CrossFit).  Some days our physical bodies interfere with our mental states, and some days our mental states interfere with our physical bodies (I know, false dichotomy, Cartesian-style...but it's still useful). Some days our bodies cause some major issues in our lives, and it's ok to be upset by it.  Bodies can be expensive with medical bills, adaptive equipment, various products taken internally or externally, various foods that either make us feel better or worse, various physical activities that impact us in different ways on different days.

I'm going to be honest and blunt and profane.  Right now, I fucking hate my body.  I'm living in a haze of pain and painkillers and breakthrough pain.  I'm living in a state of jealousy where I envy their ability to do the things that I want to do, and their ability to not just lose words and trains of thought because of pain spikes.  I mourn the loss of my more abled self, even the one that was still in daily pain and nerve problems but was able to still push mentally in scholarly contexts and physically in athletic contexts.  I'm embarrassed by the emails I've had to send to professors and peers about my semi-bedridden life, compounded by the fear that my disability is feeding into popular notions of the fat body as a lazy, inherently broken body.  I'm constantly wasting energy expecting unwanted advice, comments about how my body is something scary and untouchable, and what happens when the "get better soon" well-wishers find out I might not ever get better (and whether or not to just graciously accept the lie or tell the truth).

Black and white photo of author on road bike with helmet, Erik's Bike Shop jersey, spandex cycling shorts.  Text says "I STAND for fun physical activity for all. Weight =/= health"
My STANDard, photo taken in 2007
On better days, I can get to the point where I have a dysfunctional relationship with my body, full of ambiguity and ambivalence.  A day where I can more readily accept the neoliberal notions of body acceptance as an individual process.  Those days where I see the beauty in the dissonance, much the same way as the author from Building Radical, Accessible Communities Everywhere states in this Love Letter to My Body.  Some days I'm able to revel in what my broken body gives to me despite (and sometimes because of) it's brokenness.  My broken body has shown me who in my life is worth keeping around and who isn't worth the few spoons I have in my daily arsenal.

Today is not one of those days...but that's ok.  My fracture shifted two days ago, causing the most pain I think I've ever been in, even greater than when I actually broke my vertebra.  It makes life really difficult right now, particularly with my doctoral coursework.  My pain is not under control, and with the recent change-up in my medical team, there isn't much I can do about it short of going to the emergency room or hiding in my apartment.  It is what it is, and it's one of those times where self-love is a load of crap and I'm dependent on the love of others to get me through....but it'll be ok.

See, I don't have to love my body, and neither do you.

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