Making Friends With This Body

My body and I are on speaking terms again. After years of anger and silence, we’re re-learning how to be together. It is a truce of sorts.

We started out the best of friends. When I was little, I liked to make it run in my navy blue Nikes with the white swoosh that made me feel so fast. We rode bikes and caught silver wriggling fish. It felt good in the sunshine and so excited in the rain.

It was me and I was it. Strong and fun and wonderful.

But then, the betrayals. I guess you could say my body broke my heart one too many times. So we stopped being friends. And even though I didn’t start it, I finished it.

We are both to blame.

The first betrayal was when I was a young girl and my babysitter touched my body. He was curious. I was terrified. Not only by the boy, but by the police who interviewed me, the therapist(s) who made me talk about it, and the other boys who came after him, all wanting to touch my body.

I learned a deep lesson that I still carry today. Girl bodies are not safe. Girl bodies are not strong. They make you vulnerable to very, very bad things.

Then I went through puberty, and the hair and the blood and the pain that came with it felt more like a disease than a rights of passage. Parts of my body that made me uncomfortable defined me. My body was no longer fun. It was scary.

The final betrayal started soon after and continues, some 30 years later. My body is not perfect. And it stubbornly refuses to be perfect no matter what.

In high school, I carried my tiny breasts into Victoria’s Secret, hopeful that somewhere among the lacy gorgeousness, I’d find a way to make them bigger. But the sales lady said, “I’m sorry, we don’t make bras in your size.”

My mother tried to help. She introduced me to padded bras, searched for inserts made of silicone and water for a “natural look.” If we’d had the money, she might even have paid for surgery. (I am grateful we didn’t have the money.)

As if that weren’t enough, my body refused to be lithe and thin. So I learned a new trick. I stopped eating. And when that failed, I stuck a pencil down my throat until I gagged, flushing it all down the toilet.

Even though it was painful and scary, it was less painful and scary than being fat in a world that only loves thin. Because the opposite of love is hate, and I didn’t want the world to hate my body.

Then, endometriosis. Surgery after surgery. Harrowing pregnancies. Lost babies. Miracle babies. More surgeries. So many, I actually don’t remember how many. My body wasn’t wonderful. It was a battlefield.

And yet.

And yet, I started to remember that little girl body, the one before the betrayals. The one that could run so fast, feel good in the sun and excited in the rain.

Because I have a daughter and she is nine, around the age when this all started for me.

I see her brown legs running, small versions of my own. As she giggles in the rain, I take a chance and step out into it, too. It is cold and gentle.

Through her, I am making friends with this body again.

It’s been awkward and scary at times, this re-learning. Painful for sure. When she asks if she looks fat, I recoil and sink inside myself. But then we stand together in the mirror, looking at our bodies.

I reassure her, and myself, that our bodies are beautiful.

When she is too nervous to ride her bike or touch the silver wriggling fish that she caught, I encourage her.

I tell her, and myself, not to be scared.

And when she asks questions about how her body will one day make babies, asks where exactly that baby will come forth from her body, I explain to her, “Oh my dear, this is the very best part.”

Because her body will make another body, and it will be strong and fun and wonderful.

And maybe, if she is very lucky like me, it will teach her something she forgot long ago.

 

203 thoughts on “Making Friends With This Body

  1. Alison and Don says:

    I cannot thank you enough for this. It struck such a deep chord for me, and led to some much needed healing. I remembered the exact time I turned away from my body, the moment I lost my innocent and joyous view of it. I’d previously been aware of that moment, could see it in my minds eye, but suddenly I was thrust into the heart-breaking, gut-wrenching truth of it – that in that moment, at fourteen years old, I’d rejected my body as unacceptable, and had unconsciously been rejecting it ever since. Ah, the things we do to ourselves because of what others (or society at large) tell us. I too am finally discovering a way to love and appreciate my body exactly as it is. I’m 66 years old. It’s been a long journey. Thank you for an important nudge along the way.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • AKO Collective says:

      Wow – I am so so grateful you shared your story with me. I sometimes wonder if it’s worthwhile to put all of this out there, and then I get comments like this and think, for this alone, it was worth it. Thank you. And love to you on your journey.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alison and Don says:

        Oh yes, it was so worth it. Thank you!
        I do the same – publish deeply self-revealing stuff on my blog, usually with some trepidation, only to find there are some people that it really resonates for. And love back to you on your journey. It must be so lovely for you and your daughter to discover things together.
        Alison

        Liked by 2 people

  2. janetkitchell says:

    A harrowing story wonderfully told. Your daughter is lucky to have you to guide her through the vagaries of being female and I’m sure will grow into a strong, beautiful, confident and loved woman well done for being so brave.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ashee says:

    This is beautiful. While reading this I realised how I may be lucky with body that I have (even though I am not so happy, but I’m fighting against that “insecure” side of me). Well done on this post, I really don’t have anything else to say but thank you for sharing this because it might help some people, letting them know that they are not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. He Calls Me Mom says:

    I absolutely loved this! Omg! While I cannot relate to being violated it is something that as a mother I am concerned about for my daughter. But I can relate to the struggles with body image itself. Especially where you say you reassure yourself and your daughter at the same time because I do the same. It is such a battle for girls. And women to see their beauty in a world that says you have to be perfect. This really blessed me! Thank you! Following!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ingoodcompany says:

    There are so many things related to being friends with your body again. We decide, no matter what has happened or who has done what, that we are going to be confident and that we are going to make a difference. We are who we are and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. We will not listen to these people who have nothing better to do than to treat us like garbage. We will fight and we will stand up for ourselves. Make the decision to love who you are, no matter what you’ve been through. You are perfect. You are confident.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. beccaswordbeat says:

    This is beautiful. I do a lot of writing on body image and health/wellness. It is so freeing and therapeutic to have writing to go to with something like this. I love this piece and how happy you and your daughter look together in that picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. @fromvermiliontoviolet says:

    Thank you for sharing your feelings and story. It is when I read testimony from people like you, who once had a relationship with their bodies like the one I struggle with now, that I begin to believe, slowly but surely, that acceptance and moving forward is possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • AKO Collective says:

      Thank you for your comment. I didn’t really get there until I had children. Pregnancy showed me the inherent wonder of what my body could do. And then my focus was so much on my children, on their little bodies and wellbeing, that I lost focus on my own. They have been a gift of perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hemangini says:

    Such a wonderful piece about body image and the struggles that come with it. I wish everyone accepted themselves for who/what they are and worked to better it by natural means. Fat/thin/ugly etc norms of society sucks. :/ I am glad you found your happiness with the two little girls… You are beautiful.

    Have a wonderful day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sandra says:

    Reading this post made me feel so happy for you! So glad you have found your way to accepting yourself wholly as I know it is no easy task for anyone and can take more or less of a lifetime to do. You’re definitely brave, powerful and most of all, beautiful.

    💕 from our-equanimitea.com

    Liked by 1 person

  10. OaktownVibes says:

    This was absolutely amazing. I was able to some what put myself in your shoes with how you managed to make every word ooze with emotion. Of course I’m not a woman and I could never relate to how it feels to go through what you went through but I’m very close with my mother who shared with me her horror stories of how she learned to accept her body as she was growing up. This transparency is everything and I just want to thank you for opening up and sharing this. Peace and love to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. squirrelsatarave says:

    I really relate to your words. I have tried to instil in my daughter the wonder of her body, how beautifully it functions. How miraculous her body is. I hope that by doing this she will value and enjoy her body way more than I did mine.

    Like

  12. Daal says:

    This is amazing – way beyond ‘accept yourself’ – thank you so much – because throughout reading this, I see how amazing you — & all of us are – for enduring despite all the emotional crap that gets loaded into our hearts. and healing through enduring and seeing others…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. LacySnow says:

    I find as I get older body image and self image can be harder to feel good about and stand up straight as a women being strong in it. There are so many things pressures from both genders and marketing etc.. that make you feel not good enough or valued for you as a person. I feel your post speaks to the many many women of the world feeling that pain and pressure and working at standing up for the wonderful people we are no matter what the outsides may or may not show. thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • AKO Collective says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful response – I’m getting older, too, and it’s opening up new territory in body acceptance. I read somewhere that we (women) are so focused on our appearance because historically, that was the only power we had in a society where men held so much power over our lives. Youth, fertility, sexual attractiveness – these are still valued to the extreme, and yet we as women have more power than ever before. So for me, I am trying to find perspective and ignore this patriarchal legacy, especially as I age, by reminding myself of how much power we have as women.

      Like

  14. shortymcporky says:

    The way you speak about your body is so familiar. My body is a part of who I am and not all I am. I have noticed that when our words or our minds fail us we are forgiving and kind to those parts of ourselves, but we find it so hard to extend that to our bodies.

    I am learning and this post helped. Thank you for your brave honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Katrina Horton Food says:

    Like you I have my struggles with my body through the years, but I have never experienced anything like the experiences you have! Like you, I have a daughter (now 13). I worry about her and how she sees her body, especially when her mother has spent so many years dieting, exercising and wishing that I looked different to how I do. That I could miraculously have smaller thighs, smaller hips and be half a foot taller! I fret when she refuses to eat breakfast, when her lunch comes home uneaten. But mostly I worry about what the media tells her about women’s bodies and how we should look. Thanks for writing this. The more women who tell their stories, the better the world will be for our daughters x

    Like

  16. cathysrealcountrygardencom says:

    I am a teacher and tell girls everyday to do just this, but sometimes I feel like a lone voice because they have really listened to their unhappy insecure mothers and will grow up the same unhappy way. Thank you for this, I am sure your daughter will grow up differently!

    Liked by 1 person

    • AKO Collective says:

      Thank you for your comment and thank you for working to make change for the girls you teach. There’s a fabulous photo book – Strong is the New Pretty – that features images of girls being active with quotes and reflections by the author. I highly recommend it!

      Liked by 1 person

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