bodily

Things are going well here in our fourteenth (almost fifteenth!) week with Rabbit River. We’re happily settling into the reality of being here (this house. this town. this version of our lives.) for two more years. J is getting over a lousy summer cold, and though the coughing has brought back her nausea, we’re hoping it’ll abate again soon. I finished an eighty-one page dissertation chapter draft yesterday, and am moving on to the next today. (I’m trying to get as much written as possible before this baby comes, so I can spend most of my time loving on him or her!). J is a finalist for the job she most wants, though this isn’t as exciting as it sounds: it means they’ve offered the two positions to two other people, but if either of them turns the offer down, or fails the background check, that line will be offered to her. She’s super disappointed (and doubtful that in this economy anyone would turn down an offer), but we haven’t given up hope. She has another interview on Monday. Other than the difficult work of hiding her belly for interviews, things are pretty peaceful.

But I’ve been dealing, in the aftermath of January, with two bodily problems, and now that things have settled down, I’m finally addressing them.

The first is a fear that – because so many things happened to my body at once, because things went so wrong and we still don’t know quite why – maybe there’s more wrong with me that we don’t know about. I get swelling above my ankle now, and feel sure it’s a blood clot. I worry that my heart murmur might be a problem. I get scared a lot. That I’m going to die before I get to raise a family, or grow old with my wife. I learned (the night we lost E) just how out.of.control a body can feel, and now I can’t seem to get back my trust.

The second is a resurgence – since deciding that it isn’t safe for me to try to get pregnant again in the future – in the old, old ghost of anorexia. I haven’t acted on it, but not doing so has been a struggle. Like many women, my late teens and early twenties were a battle for self-esteem, and I fought that battle with (among other things) food denial and exercise. It was difficult for me to recover from because, personality wise, I get a lot of pleasure from self-denial. There are pictures where I’m too thin. J hates to look at them, but try as I might, I still can’t believe that I’m not prettier in them. To this day.

I won this battle a long time ago, and it hasn’t come up for me since coming out eight years ago. And it helps that J and I became cooks together because now I love food too much to be as good at denial as I used to be. :) But I hear this in my head all the time now: if you can’t be pregnant again, you can at least be thin and beautiful. I hate this voice. I feel a responsibility as a teacher, as a parent, and as an educated woman to FIGHT against the dangerous beauty standards to which we subject ourselves and one another. I know how influenced I am by the women I look up to – teachers, colleagues, friends – and I take any influence I might have over female students or other women seriously. I am devoted to never passing this on to my daughters. I want to be an influence of health and moderation: I’ve exercised consistently since I was nineteen, and that’s important to me. Strength is important to me. Healthy living is important to me. Food ethics are important to me. But there’s a line, and it would be so easy to cross it, so easy to feel in control that way.

Because that’s what it is, right? I’ve felt out of control, and I know I could get the sense of control back by over-exercising, by obsessing over everything I put in my mouth. I’ve found control that way before, found value in my body that way before. Once you know you can get it so easily, so cheaply, you never forget. I can’t control what happened to my body in January – nor the knowledge of its weaknesses that I’ve learned about since – and it’s hard to just face that. Retaliation and resistance are easy; vulnerability is the tricky part, the part that requires real guts. But I want to learn how to accept vulnerability. Refusing it is an illusion anyway, and I’m not interested in that. So this week, I went to my school’s clinic (the only place my insurance covers me without a referral), and I set up an appointment to help me let go of these false measures of control. Living in fear is not living in the moment. These are (God willing) the last six months that J and I will be a couple without people to parent, that we’ll live alone together. I want to enjoy that. I want to enjoy this Rabbit’s arrival, to enjoy his or her presence, without wasting so much energy on fear. I want to love my body not because it can make healthy babies, nor because it is thin, but because it’s mine, and it’s healthy (enough), and it carries me through this life. And I want to be present for the people I love, not self-obsessed. I think these issues make sense given everything I’ve been through. I think they emerged as coping devices, and maybe I needed them at first. But my goal now is to begin to put them down.

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2 thoughts on “bodily

  1. Thank you for sharing this. It’s perceptive, and it makes a lot of sense with all you’ve been through this past year. Sad, though, how many women (and probably more than a few men) deal with these issues. Smart, thoughtful, self aware people deal with them. I’ve been thinking a lot about *control* lately too, which has manifested itself in many ways for me, including bodily ones. Anyhow, I appreciate your thoughts here, and I’m glad to hear you’re taking this seriously and working towards that tough path of vulnerability. Let’s talk soon!

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