(In)trepid(ation)

A small selection of things I have said—out loud, sometimes in the presence of other people—about my own body over, oh, roughly 45 years:

Me and my fat ass…

My stupid effing knees…

…This whole thing is just falling apart…

I’m a hopelessly clumsy thing of a girl…

My [hair, nose, thighs, butt, skin] is a disaster…

This damn body betrays me pretty much ever chance it gets.

I’ve never really been one of the pretty ones…

Over the decades, my body and I have had a contentious relationship, like it was a cat abandoned by a deadbeat roommate: I never wanted it and didn’t really like it, but we were yoked together by some combination of obligation and the fact that neither of us had anywhere else to go. Coming of age in an era of Christies, Cheryls, Kellys and Farahs, I was more like a moose than a model, all mismatched spare parts, big feet, and a doleful mien.

I’d thought I made real progress, not toward loving my body exactly, but I thought I’d gotten to a point where I’d accepted it. So long as it got me over trails, through the water, up the hills, and generally behaved itself, I would stuff it full of cortisone shots and ibuprofen and spare it the diatribes. Our relationship had shifted to a sullen, transactional, acquiescence. Except, of course, that this is not a relationship, this is a hostage situation.

But over the weekend, somewhere in the third or fourth hour of yoga classes, all those old taunts started coming back. “These legs aren’t ever going to do that…” “My hips are just hopeless….,” “Maybe if I got this gut out of the way that might happen…maybe….” That same old voice that used to berate me for not being blonde, not being busty, and never ever ever having the longed for gap between svelte thighs. Somewhere between Extended Forward Fold and Arda Chandrasana I was right back to bemoaning my glaringly obvious lack of perfection; sought-for release turned right into recriminations. And it was awful. It was also wonderful.

Because I heard it. For once, it wasn’t me saying it, but it was me hearing it. And I stood back-to-back with this dear old body of mine, and I told that harpy critic to shut the fuck up. I whispered to my body that all the scars, all the aches, all the creaks and groans and cracks, those are all evidence of our shared survival. This body and I have gotten through hardship and heartache, but we’ve also felt caresses and soft butterfly kisses. We’ve stood up to disappointment, and we’ve danced to success. We’ve been broken and shattered and laid out on the ground, but we have also pulled off some amazing things.

Like that cat, we are crabby and sometimes our fur is matted, but we are scrappy and soft in all the right places and we can curl up on the couch purring and dreaming of adventures gone by. I might still hear that nasty old voice, but my body and I agreed that we don’t have to listen to it. And I promised that I would stop ignoring my body’s mews for respite. We can’t pretend a tabby is a tiger every single day. Even a lion just stretches out on the savannah and soaks up the heat of the sun sometimes.

Maybe for all these years, the problem hasn’t been the cat, it’s been the asshole roommate who never appreciated it. Maybe it’s time we box up the last of her shit and dump it out on the curb. But we’ll keep the box, because, you know—cats.