Whose body is it anyway?
Several days ago I posted the poem below. It came to mind this week when I thought about the way women’s bodies are shamed and punished. Sometimes to such an extent that we don’t recognize our bodies anymore as gifts. And many of us haven’t learned to be their vociferous, ferocious and loving advocates.
Like my heart
A house of Your creation
Stands ready to greet the stranger
Whose form and visage
Isn’t as expected
Dust of the earth
Sorrowful yet not without hope
Who is this stranger who stands waiting? I think I’m the stranger. Alienated from my female body even though I call it ‘my’ body. Part of this is a hangover from childhood and youth. The consequences of being directly and indirectly abused in my female body.
It seems my body keeps trying to get my attention,. It’s tired of hanging around waiting to do my bidding, or carrying me here and there no matter how it feels.
Instead, it wants me to stand up for it and stop forcing it to keep going. Or hoping someone else will save the day, like Prince Charming.
Several evenings ago at the end of an unusually busy day, I stood at the kitchen sink slogging through a pile of dirty dishes. It was late. My feet and back were screaming for mercy.
All I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep. That, or be rescued by a prince who would gallop into the kitchen and do for me what I refused to do for myself—take care of my weary body.
It struck me as odd if not self-defeating that I wanted help from someone else. There I was, supposedly a grown-up woman with a mind of her own, unable to do what I needed to do. Stop. No matter what happened or didn’t happen to the dirty dishes.
My body works and waits every day, hoping against hope. Have I forgotten how to take the initiative? How to sit down and give it a rest, fuss over it in a kindly way, and thank it for the ways it helps me get through each day?
As a child, it sometimes seemed other people owned my body. They did not. God owns it, and has given me the privilege and responsibility of being in charge of it.
It’s as though God said to me,
Here. Take this body. I created it just for you. It’s the only body you’ll have in this life. Treat it as an ever-present stranger you’ll want to get to know at least a thousand times over. Someday I’ll come knocking at your door, eager to see how you’ve treated it and what you’ve learned from its wisdom.
Women’s bodies are demeaned and pushed beyond their limits every day. Sadly, I can’t put an end to all of it. I can, however, actively love and care for my body. Which strikes me as more than enough. Upstairs attic, here I come! Though Crater Lake would be nice, too.
©Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 June 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser at Crater Lake, Oregon, 2015