I wrote this letter close to three years ago, almost 11 months after Ben’s stillbirth, shortly after my 39th birthday. I stumbled across it tonight in search of something else. It was originally inspired by Kristin Noelle over at Trust Tending (and there were many of us who wrote these letters at her gentle urging that month). Rereading it brought me to tears.
I’m just shy of my 42nd birthday. Life has changed at breathtaking speed since then. I’ve lost 65 pounds and kept it off. I’m healthy, strong and still don’t get enough sleep. The work of fully, deeply, truly loving my body continues. Recently I looked at myself in the mirror and my eyes were clouded with a haze of judgment. I stepped away, picked up my phone and took a picture. I’ve learned (thanks to Vivienne McMaster’s work) to see myself with love when I do this.
I’m sharing this again here, unchanged. I invite you to write your own love letter to your body. Keep it somewhere safe. Anytime you forget how miraculous you are, pull it out and re-read it.
You are a miracle.
I have spent my life alternately connecting with you deeply and ignoring you completely. Sometimes I’ve done both at the same time, in different ways. We learned to work together early on – me telling you to stretch and bend, plie and pirouette, leap and glide and you listening, learning, growing stronger and more expressive by the day. You were beautiful and I had no idea. I found you imperfect – too tall, too muscular, too earth-bound. We grew into each other, discovering our likes and dislikes. I pushed you to limits and paid the price. I let you off the hook. We danced together, feeling heart and spirit soar.
You knew touch too early – the touch that should be reserved for consenting adults. You did not consent. You absorbed guilt, shame, and pain. You sensed sadness and took that on too, holding it so far inside that even when I looked, I could not find it. You discovered a loving, gentle touch but the shame was such a part of you that unfettered joy was a distant dream.
You were admired, adored, worshiped, lusted after, held, hurt. You began to speak to me – in dreams and in waking. Sometimes I listened. Often I did not. We followed one path, then left it to pursue another. We got closer. I discovered that you held memories, voices, feelings, and thoughts. You had your own clear, powerful voice, different from the one I used to speak out loud. I sought to access your knowledge, mining it as diamonds and gold. We practiced our craft – you and voice becoming the expression of heart and mind. And still I found you lacking. I opened you up in one area only to shut the door in another. I allowed you to be over-full, to be hurt, to be overworked and under-loved.
We earned money together you and I. We danced and sang, posed for pictures that would fill photo albums all over the world. I numbed your ache with alcohol and drama, even while demanding you perform at your highest level. We spent a decade in and out of sadness and self-loathing, weight loss and gain, new experiences and old pains. We went to therapy, you and I. You sat cross-legged as I told my story and tried to understand.
Another decade is almost done and here we are. Still together. Still exploring. You’ve known heartbreak that made you feel as though you would shatter but you didn’t. You ached from the trauma and still, you carried me through. You came to a point where you could have given up, could have surrendered to the tug back home but you didn’t. You began to heal. In your desire to stay alive and mine to find joy, we have grown closer than ever. I’ve learned how many secrets you’ve kept hidden away, how many hooks were buried deep. The scars are more elastic than the skin that they replaced, and I can look at them with love for the first time. I have watched you change so many times and I am finally beginning to see you with the eyes of acceptance. The space between your cells is vibrating at higher rates and life is changing at an astounding speed. I feed you differently – both with food and activity. We are relearning pleasure, relearning joy. You are shedding the weight you no longer need to hide behind. I am imperfect – still finding ways to make you wait, still learning what you need to thrive. But you, dear sweet body, you are perfect. Holding my hands over my heart I bow to you with tears in my eyes. Thank you for carrying me so well, for so long. I’m sorry. I love you. Let’s dance.
Debbie Grace says
Oh, Alana …. this is so, *so* beautiful.
Thank you for sharing.