Long ago, I was bulimic. I had body "issues," I was in a power struggle with my (I felt) overly-involved mother, and I spent 4+ nights a week engaged in an activity that rewarded excessive thinness (ballet). Growing up, moving out, getting rewards for my smarts, and finding love and acceptance not rooted in my physical being did much to free me from bulimia. As I had more power to control other aspects of my life, I could let the obsessive food control go. I never lost the body issues or control reflexes entirely, however. In all honesty (and considering what I am writing about, why hold back now?), my 17+ year vegetarianism is probably a low-level version of the desire for the control that is bulimia -- just one that also happens to fit with my political leanings, ethics, and personal tastes. I am at peace with this part of my life.
What makes me think of all this and appreciate the rather amazing transition that I just glossed over in that last paragraph is that I have taken to sleeping naked again -- something I haven't done consistently since the bulimia days when being alone and naked in bed was a chance to affirm my wacked out power over myself. As I let go of the bulimia, I think I was afraid to have that kind of reckoning with my body so I started wearing nightshirts. As a chronically cold person, I could tell myself that sleeping naked was not comfortable -- but the reality is that I wasn't feeling good enough in my body to want to do it.
So as I lay in bed (yes, naked) this morning in the minutes before the household would need to awaken I was pondering my rediscovery of naked sleeping. Certainly the addition of a huge down comforter helped -- I'm now actually warm enough -- but it is more than that. I can feel the changes of my body over the last twenty years: weight that has gone up and down, formerly C cup breasts that have settled in now as A's, a body that has grown two big babies, a hip that has gone bad (but hopefully will soon be repaired), a knee torn on an icy ski slope, arthritic toes from all that dancing.... but I don't feel bad about any of those things. When I am naked in the dark in the wee small hours of the morning I feel remarkably accepting of these things because I can also appreciate the softness of my skin, the feel of my ribs and hip bones, the curve of my hips, the wiriness of my fuzz, the definition of my quads from a summer of biking... I actually don't really separate out these things as good or bad -- they are all just sort of there. That is a new kind of feeling of power attached to my body and I feel good in my nearly 40-year old skin.
So then there is that part of me that would love to have 10 minutes with my 16-year old self to try and explain. This kind of peace is something I never imagined when I was young and seized with the idea that my body would only "get worse" or that having kids would "ruin" me or that my worth as a person was intimately bound up with my body. My 16 year old self did not see (and maybe had few good models of) women with real bodies who felt strong and attractive -- I could not fathom it then and, at times, like this morning, I am a still a little stunned to find I feel that way. It is not that I have made my life outside my body (which was the coping strategy of my 20s - work on the big brain and pretend to not have a corporeal existence) but that I have a life that integrates mind and body fairly peacefully.
I guess I have just come around to one of those cliched "if I only knew then" kind of posts, but, ah well, its my party and I can blog if I want to...
2 months ago