Within my body are all the sacred places of the world, and the most profound pilgrimage I can ever make is within my own body.
To My Darling Body,
I looked at you in the mirror this morning and I realised that tomorrow will be too late for me to tell you how I feel about you. It must be today. Even now, I am already late and I am amazed that it has taken me this long to write to you.
How has it taken me so long to appreciate the fact that you are whole and that you serve me faithfully every single day? Such a simple thing and yet it is absolutely everything. You listen to my brain’s daily demands and goals that have little regard for how you feel on that particular day. You listen to my heart as it seeks to do everything possible for my son and to stand and cook for my family after work every day and then more. You listen to my ego as it demands that we exercise. You listen to my vanity as it demands that we wear heels and look good. Every day you listen, and then you do, faithfully and consistently. On the rare occasion that you do speak, it is because you have been driven into the ground and exhaustion has made you succumb to illness. But even then, you try.
You have been through a lot in this life. Falling from trees. Walking 20 to 30km. Running km after km. Broken teeth. Sliced tendons. Surgery. Concussions. Lost nails. Epilepsy. Scoliosis. Back pain. These past 2 years have been brutal on you. You worked. You went to school. You carried a child to term while peeing incessantly. You were cut open and your organs were lifted out and then placed back inside to bring him into the world. You struggled to heal. Even now the pain from the hematoma and the back pain at the tail-end of pregnancy lingers. Your relationship with food changed. Things you used to know and love don’t agree with you anymore. You used to guzzle full cream milk and now it causes such painful bloating that causes the tummy to distend. I am sorry it took me 10 months to figure it out.
I think you deserve special mention for holding onto the baby after falling down the stairs at 7 months pregnant. Concussion, skin scraped off my back, reduced hearing in my right ear, a displaced placenta, and zero painkillers. You were so badly hurt but I never gave you a second thought because I was all about the baby. You held onto that baby like a champion. Thank you. I should have done more for you too.
Over the years you have gone through stages when you were fat and stages when you were thin and even more stages when you were in between. In all of those stages, many people told me that you were beautiful. I never once gracefully accepted the compliment. I always tried to minimise the compliment and to highlight what was wrong with you instead. Perhaps it was in the name of humility but more likely it was in the name of insecurity. I should have celebrated you more. I should have accepted compliments directed at you with grace and gratitude. More than all of this, I should have been the first to tell you that you were beautiful.
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”
When I looked at you this morning with your squishy stomach, your perfect size, the scratch marks on your boob (because that boy’s nails grow back overnight) and the painful nipples, something finally clicked into place and I finally loved you. For the first time in my life, I dared to whisper out loud “I love my body.” In that moment I loved you intensely for all that you are, all that you are not, all that you have been and all that you will be. I loved you for your strengths and I loved you for your weaknesses. I respected you for every scar. I appreciated you for every movement.
“The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And will smile at the other’s welcome.” ~ Derek Walcott
So here I am, 33 years later, standing before you with no more than a wilted wildflower in my hand, gentle elation in my soul, a hesitant smile, and a love letter standing at my own door, in my own mirror with a promise in my heart that from now on, I will treat you as one treats an appreciative lover. I will understand your needs and I will cater to them. I will allow you to rest when you are tired and to heal when you are ill. I will fuel you with clean food daily and I will treat you with bad food every so often. I keep you watered like a beautiful garden with water and that non-alcoholic champagne you love. I will treat you with care and respect and I will remember and appreciate all that you have already done and borne. I will consciously see, cultivate and feed your sensuous side and your sexuality. I promise to be kind to you with my thoughts, with my words, and with my actions. Above all else, I promise to tell you and others out loud that I love you and that I am proud of you. Lord knows you deserve all that and more.
“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body“. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter] because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.” ~ Kate Winslet
All of this is to say thank you for a lifetime of service. I love you and I am proud of you.