Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Story of My Body

Somehow this seemed appropriate.
Over the past few weeks there seems to be an uptick in my friends' talk of a need to lose weight, the status of their muffin top, their desire for larger breasts, and any number of other statements of body-dislike (or even hating).  Perhaps this is because it is spring and body scrutiny bathing suit season is fast approaching?

It makes me sad and angry to hear women complain about their bodies.  We are accepting and trying to fulfill the expectations of an insane culture.  This is a culture where the bodies of girls - young teens - are the standard of beauty, and the marks of adulthood (cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks, ...hands..?) are removed from photos.

Yesterday my Facebook news feed was awash in pictures of women's mid-sections as my Running Moms group undertook an ab challenge and everyone posted a "before" picture as a way of committing themselves.  There was a range in shape, size, goals, and journeys-thus-far.  The captions ranged from bits about c-section scars, number of pregnancies, and what the owner of that body thought they could do about the look of their "baby home," as one called it.  Each and every one of us was insecure in some way. 

I am still on a high from my half marathon, and I am feeling tremendously awesome about my body right now.  I don't really care what it looks like!  When I saw a photo of my own midriff, I actually found I was happy with what I saw.  It could be more toned and defined, blah blah blah.  But I wasn't embarrassed to post it on the internet. Yet still hesitated.

I hesitated because I didn't want to seem like I was bragging, I didn't want to hurt anyone else...and I also felt like that picture - and a body in general - simply cannot tell the whole story. 

This all became clear to me on my run this morning.  And I decided I would like to run a series on this here blog in an attempt to combat this problem, and bring another aspect of some of our private struggles out into the light.  This will require your participation!

Here's the deal:  I would love to have submissions of pictures of and stories - stories told by the owners of those bodies pictured, about what that body has been through.  This could be perhaps the story of a scar kept hidden, the story of your stretch marks, the story of invisible wounds and survival.  I want to know what you and your bodies have accomplished - not necessarily weight goals met, but life goals achieved and obstacles overcome.  What is your body capable of?  What story does it tell?  Or perhaps you want to tell us what story is not - perhaps cannot ever be - evident on your body?  As I said in my running group:  "You cannot Photoshop a marathon onto a body." There is just no way to know what someone is capable of or what they have done just by looking at them!

Pictures can be with or without faces.  They can be revealing, or they can be covered in a tent.  Posts can be anonymous or I can link to your blog, use your name and location, etc.  Just let me know.  I want this to speak to the fact that our bodies do not define any of us or speak to the full worth, wisdom, or experience of any of us!

The pictures could be something you love or hate, old or new, whatever you want.

And there is to be no standard format - you can write a poem, submit photos with very few words, one photo and one word, etc.

I welcome your submissions via email and will try to edit/format them very minimally.  I'm willing to do drastic editing, but would require that you 1) start it and 2) approve it before it is posted.  And yes, you can have someone else write it for you if you don't feel like a writer!

I'm excited!  And here is the story of my body to kick this thing off!

That's me at 1 year old.  My sister apparently called me "Bear Ears."
The Story of My Body

There are a few stories my body can tell you.  First off, there is a scar in my cleavage.  When I was in 6th grade I had a large, dark birth mark removed because it was changing.  It was a flat birth mark, but developing bumps.  It was tested and called "benign."

There is also scar on the inside of my right foot.  I had a bone removed and the tendon re-attached.  I was in 5th grade.  The doctor gave me the bone to take home with me and it sat on my desk next to my baby teeth.

The most freakish thing:  I have had stitches in my ears for about 25 years!  They were pinned back when I was about 5 years old.  Somewhere there are pictures of me with a giant bandage around my head.  I was most excited because I had my ears pierced while I was under general anesthesia.  I think Mom had it done because I was a sensitive and teased child - even at 5 years old.  But, truly, the stitches are still there, and there is a lump behind each ear where the knot is.  Perhaps I should have a picture taken - I have never actually seen the stitches, but I know they are visible under my skin.

The stitches hurt when a comb hits them during a haircut.  They are sensitive in general, but I'm embarrassed to call attention to the fact that I have 25-year-old stitches in my ears and ask that people be careful.  I have looked into having them removed.  There is a chance my ears would pop back out, but I don't really care at this point.  I just can't afford the surgery.

Mostly, though, I look normal.  I don't have belly stretch marks.  I am thin.  And yet...

I have inner scars of grief and turmoil...of things I will not write about on this blog (maybe someday...).  And I have an unseen physical illness.  I have grown to love this body, but it is upsetting to be asked by a nurse "you still have high blood pressure?  Even with all that running?" Variations on this question are not uncommon.  Someday I will have the nerve to answer, "Yes.  Even with all that running, my body fails to meet your expectations."

I spent 5 years going to the nephrologist hoping this would be the appointment where I was told I was in remission.  I spent 5 years being told there was still a 30% chance. The five-year window of 30% chances has long since closed.  I just hope for no change, and I keep seeing what this funky body can do.  Sometimes this funky body swells its eyes shut.  But it can run 13.1 miles!!!

My boobs are not the perky orbs they once were  My hips are wider now, causing some of my pants to be ill-fitting.  I wonder if I'll ever have a completely flat stomach again, but I figure it must not be in the cards if all the running and exercising and good eating hasn't done the trick.  (I'm completely unwilling to give up chocolate or any of the other treats I occasionally indulge in.)

Nothing seems to be in the same place anymore, anywhere on my body! But dang this body is amazing!  Two healthy, happy babies.  Hundreds (thousands?) of miles run.  It has endured incredible pain, it has cradled babies, it has enjoyed some fabulous chocolate cake and a few glasses of wine...(this body eats a lot.)

My accomplishments:
-My body and I once played the flute really fricka-frackin' well.
-My body and I have somehow managed to carry two babies to term, despite freaking out a few doctors along the way.
-My body can take some long-term, intense pain.  Like whoa.
-My body came through a terrifying birth experience to become the snuggly safe haven of a little boy.
-My body did this?!?  Are you kidding me?!?  And then became the snuggly safe haven of a second little boy.
-And only a year later, it did this, and a little while later this, and then bam!  I placed in my age group at two separate races and my body said, "screw you, Brea.  You underestimate me!"  Suddenly I had run a 5K in six minutes less than my goal.
-Dearest Body, you have been stable for 5 years in the kidney department.  It's ok to be quirky.  Thanks for not going off the deep end!  And, you know, for working with me on the whole "pregnancy" thing.

And now, Dear Body, can we do a pull-up?  Less than 9 months to go...

Bean took this.

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