I have been cruel to my body.
I have overfed it and starved it down. I have pushed it and poked and prodded. I have fed it laxatives when it asked for love. I have injured and ignored it. I’ve berated it for what it couldn’t do. Decried what it looked like even as it wasted away from my working it to death.
It feels like a constant war in my bones. The tension between how tenderly I know I should treat it, the kindness it begs of me every day. And the instinct to clash with it that has been with me since I was ten years old.
I went on like I’d be invincible. As though the years of chaos would never settle into my organs. And for once I feel the effects of it. The stomach issues I’ve tried to pretend I don’t have for a few years. The ankles and knees and hips that shift at strange angles and ache from years of abuse.
Why won’t you be right?
Once I was in a volcano in Greece, no more than seven minutes from its summit. The knee I hurt years ago- and danced on for another four hours and then four years because I wanted to audition for the ballet company of my dreams- would carry me no further. My back ached from carrying the swell of my breasts. My feet cramped angrily from years of my arches falling.
Why won’t you do this for me?
I trudged back down the volcano defeated, never reaching the top, berating myself the whole way down.
You know how to fix this, I said to me, sweaty and hurt and defeated.
And I do.
I know the appetite suppressant qualities of ice cold water. I know that if you cause yourself pain while eating, your body registers itself fuller faster, because it cannot process both feelings at once. I know you can go two days without eating something solid, so long as you have bone broth and water. Three if you have a small fruit smoothie. I know that on day four you can no longer full out exercise- your body won’t allow it- but you can trudge, slowly, awkwardly, for a long time. Suppositories work better than laxatives. Black coffee gives you energy with few calories. If you make yourself cough violently instead of sticking your finger down your throat, you’re less likely to bleed. If you take a Tums right after, the acid in your belly will stop swirling.
But I’d like to think I know better.
So I don’t do what I know.
Instead I cook good food and I count calories and carbs and macros and try not to lean into the obsessive urges that flare up. I thank my hands for preparing my meals. I thank my legs for taking long walks and climbing stairs and for every cycling and yoga and barre class. I tell my skin thank you for being bright and relatively clear, my hair for snaking long down my back. I tell my body I appreciate it for not letting me fall victim to all the things my lineage says I should suffer, all the things I’ve done to it. Because I’ve done nothing to deserve even that.
At the beginning of yoga, I set the same intention for my practice; Be kind to yourself.
I fail almost every time.
But a few times a week I meet my demons back on the mat. I stare them in the face and tell them I’ll be kind to them. I settle the war underneath my skin into pose after pose, quieting the mind, focusing on the breath. I more than likely fail again.
But I’m back, over and over. A peace offering to the civil war I’ve waged within me. Each effort an apology.
I’m sorry for the things I’ve done to you. I come in peace.