Often, I find my hands on my hips, fingers running frantically over my flesh, scanning my body for its physical flaws. Palms make their way from thigh to abdomen, pausing at the crevice my bellybutton forms, running down, over, past years of stretchmarks – imagined and disdained – of extraneous flesh whose purpose has yet to be seen. Tracing a map of my past, countless anxieties, stopping precisely at each moment, pausing at each memory of too small, too big, recalling the feeling of that space between my hipbone and stomach, the hollow sound of bone meeting bone, knuckles knocking on the protrusion.
I look down, at the red mark I’ve left, picturing a bruise beneath my flesh, a speckling of blue and purple lines woven intricately together, a pattern uniquely and unequivocally of my own making.
I attempt to be present in this body. Breathing through the flesh, taking solace in its ripples, the feeling of flesh on itself, the red lines it forms. This is my body.
I return to a poem by Derek Walcott, grounding myself in the simplicity of the future he has created
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
– Derek Walcott
I have spent far too much time as a stranger in my body, staring blankly into her eyes to receive only emptiness and disdain in return. Denying her pleas for rest, for nurturing and care. Yet she has persisted, her stubborn neediness only fueling her refusal to be ignored.
This body belongs to me; its composition is distinctly my own. It deserves to be loved and celebrated, to move freely, and to be treated with compassion.
It’s not a matter of winners and losers; dueling with oneself does not create such polar opposition. To give her power is not to diminish my own – she is neither my enemy nor my tormentor.
Unlearning this hostility takes effort, but I am ready.
I give myself permission to be vulnerable, to let her in, and to feast on the things I have denied myself.