It's Love Thursday again! Wow, that happened so quickly! But it's nice to see you here again.
I spent the last several days mostly writhing and/or balling up fetally in intense gastrointestinal distress, dead certain this would be the week I would succumb to cancer at last but, without insurance or savings, unwilling to run off to a doctor to find out for sure when I had such a nice bed surrounded by unread books in which to expire privately (that is, if Louise Erdrich, Sarah Vowell, and Reginald Hill couldn't distract me from that purpose after all). Then, over the course of a couple of days, I consumed most of a small bottle of curiously pink Milk of Magnesia in some noxious chemical flavor maliciously attributed to cherries as well as several vigorously bubbling Alka Seltzer potions, got off my resplendent rump and walked around a little bit, and then farted and burped so much as to pose a Hindenburg-level threat to anyone who might have approached me with a lit match. (Astonishing that I didn't blow up our stove making myself a cup of bouillon.) Though I still felt the tiniest residual pelvic pang upon retiring late last night, I awoke this afternoon relaxed, refreshed, and pain-free.
What cured me? Medicine? Walking? Laying off the wholegrain raisin toast with stilton for a little while? Or thinking about love preparatory to writing this little essay? I dare not hazard a guess. If I ever experience these symptoms again, though, I will not hesitate to try them all.
Ironically enough after all that fear and physical misery, this week's post is about how much I love my body, let me count the ways (at least to five). Gassily but commentlessly visiting some of my favorite blogs this week (see "Good Reads" list in left sidebar), I found myself particularly charmed by the responses of Goldfish, Blue, and Madame Lymphopo to a post by Zuzu at Feministe entitled "Wonderful, Glorious Me." In this post, Zuzu challenges her guests to, well, be the change we want to see in our world, to stop harping, just for a moment, on all the things we hate about our bodies and all our quite justifiable resentment of the eight zillion contrary ways we hear society telling us it wants to see our bodies if at all, and instead rattle off a few things we love about ourselves, at least five, including things we love about our bodies.
You know what? I do love my body. I do, no kidding! So I'm here today to take that challenge. And because it is most likely to shock people since I'm a chubby, middle-aged cancer patient with one leg, and yet also a woman -- and one who goes out in public without a burka, too! -- the five things I list will only be about my body.
Look, I have bad hair days like everybody. I also get big zits sometimes, and since I'm pale, they really really show, and I really don't embrace opportunities to go out and face the world on days like this any more readily than anyone else does. Hell, I have bad personality days, too, days when it's not even a matter of whether I consider my body presentable in public, days when I feel I really might chop off the first head I see, ugly or pretty, perky or grumpy, Democrat, Republican, Green or Libertarian, just give me an axe, or hey, that windshield wiper will do, so maybe I'd better just stay home, with the door shut. And by my saying so, you must understand that I am not doing as Zuzu warns against, "self-deprecation ... [or] ... offsetting a compliment with a dig." I consider these natural human phases and form negative judgments because of them upon neither myself nor anyone else who experiences them. I'm just listing them so you will understand when I tell you how much I love and cherish my body, and imply in the process but separately how well I respect myself, that I have -- somehow -- found it possible to do both without being whatever the hell anyone else might call "perfect." I have been overall quite comfortable in my skin for a very long time.
In fact, I think the one thing I want to say most of all on this topic is how much I love the fact that not one thing on my body is likely ever to be described as "perfect," even by me. I even love the fact that no physical part of me can ever be perceived as "perfect-looking" without material assistance (makeup, shaving, girdle, trick lighting, etc.). Suits me! While I will readily admit to being a bit obsessive-compulsive -- an obsessive completist, really, meaning I always strive to do everything very, very thoroughly or not at all -- I am, as I have ranted at length elsewhere, not a fan of visual perfection. Visual perfection is stupid and empty! The pursuit of visual "perfection," especially when it means conformance to a set of standards devised by other people, is highly questionable and potentially life-sucking! Or so say I. (So say I over and over again.)
And even if it's not, visual "perfection" is boring as hell! And that automatically makes it imperfect, doesn't it? Ha ha!
I find myself looking for flaws everywhere. I don't think of them as flaws, though; I think of them as interest. Perfection is the difference between art and artifice. Artifice is uninteresting except to game players.
Regard this lovely sculpture. (Hand detail I photographed myself can be seen at right.)
Does this represent a "perfect" female form? Sure. Yet also, no. Eve here is thin and long in some places, thick in others -- maybe disproportionately thick if you think that way -- a gangly adolescent or an adult who might have been malnourished at some time, maybe still is, not a gym member at any rate, probably not Caucasian. That last possibility alone would render her looks "imperfect" to half the world, I daresay, as ridiculous as that sounds.
I could stare at her for hours. I will return to look at her again and again. She is beautiful.
Think of your own body as a sculpture. Art, not really in need of artifice because it is perfect being imperfect. It's something you can live in.
In that spirit, here are five gloriously imperfect things I love about my body, five things that help me openly relish my life in it:
1. It's wicked strong. Oh, sure, you might be able to run faster and farther than I, or benchpress more metal, but I have the gift of physical endurance. I also have the gift of recovery. I have a very low pain threshold; I feel everything very intensely (and loudly). But I am able to suffer great physical duress, sometimes for a very long time, and then get over it, really get over it. This is an amazing gift. I don't count on always having it, but it has made my life possible.
2. I have an awesome face! Oh, yeah, one of the best things about it is how when we go out to dinner together, you won't have to watch my teeth masticating my burritos or get distracted analyzing how congested my sinuses might be. Yes, it's wonderfully opaque! It's lined and freckled and scarred, too, a glorious collection of souvenirs from my own private wars plus all my laughter, every sunny day I've squinted into, all my thoughts. It looks like both my parents' faces, too, round like my father's, sharp-boned and deep-eyed like my mother's, so it's also a memento of them. Finally, it's just so fabulously expressive. As many words as I spew here, there's a lot I can tell you in person with it without ever saying a word. I especially like how skilled it is at making people laugh.
3. My skin is amazing. Does it surprise you to hear me say this when you consider that the kind of cancer I have is metastatic malignant melanoma, a cancer of the skin which has now invaded my lymph system? So what? I do not blame my skin for this. (I don't even blame my gene pool, even though that's probably where we could find the source code for my cancer if we were ever to look. Whatever. Stuff happens.) I'm just glad I have skin, and you should be too; see the whole thing about my face being opaque to understand why. It's ice-pale without being spotless. It usually scabs fast and callouses brilliantly, which helps out a lot with the whole endurance thing. It tends toward hirsuteness, and the hairs come in many colors -- flame, silver, auburn. Sometimes I shave and pluck them. Sometimes I stroke them. Grooming my skin, fingering it, or just staring at different parts of it, like the wrinkles on the backs of my hands, has provided me with hours of entertainment, something fascinating to pore over (pun intended) while I think, maybe while I think about how things are put together in bodies so I can paint or draw or electronically render them.
4. I love my feet.
I have always loved my feet, no matter how many or which ones I had at any given moment, and as you know if you are a regular reader, being able to use them however I wish is something for which I thank feminism.
They're fantastic. They've taken me everywhere.
5. Okay, my ass has taken me some places, too, helping me get places by firmly situating me in traveling cars and buses, on bikes, motorbikes, and planes. In fact, there it is, at right, doing what it does best, sitting and working. Isn't it glorious? It's a little lopsided now, because some muscles in the right cheek have atrophied since my amputation changed forever the way I use that set, and meanwhile the muscles in the left cheek have built up as my left leg has taken over much of the original right leg's workload. Nevertheless, both sides still work equally well when I dance.
Okay, your turn. Happy Love Thursday. In its honor, I pass along Zuzu's invitation that you give yourself a present and tell yourself at least five things you love about your body and/or yourself. You can do this. And remember, you don't have to stop at five.