Body: If I don’t claim it, I’ll ruin it

Gemma Wilson and I are friends, cousins and mutual fans. She speaks, tweets, lives and writes about social justice, advocacy and the reinjection of worth & value into culture. I love the way in which Gemma educates herself about the things that bother her or interest her, and then educates the rest of us. I also love the ways in which she dares greatly, shows up and speaks up. The writing prompt ‘Body’ nudged her into slightly new territory writing-wise and I am honoured to share this beautiful and personal piece.

Body 365

Body.

What comes to mind when I say that?

Mine. My body. Obviously? Or maybe not.

My body’s not always been mine.

I was the teenager whose complexion was different to her Swiss classmates’, whose, ironically-to-her, ‘exotic’ freckles and auburn tones attracted attention.

I was on stage, singing and talking, for pleasure and for work, being seen.

The voices that increased in decibels as I increased in calendar years told me what I looked like mattered most. In film, print, image, in sexism, unhealthy narratives and well-meaning Agony Aunts. I listened, and took note.

The perception of my body was what I was. “Beauty is the eye of the beholder”? The beheld is, also. Stuck there, sometimes. I was in my body, but the ‘me’ inside wasn’t as visible as her shell…and if my shell was what other people said I was, then they could have it.

Because I was scared of the perception of me being the sum of me (this was my own conclusion), I pushed against it. I detached myself from my body when I handed it over to its perception held in the eyes of others, keeping my character, personality, beliefs, dreams, likes, dislikes, abilities away from it.

My body is not me. I’m more than my body. It isn’t important.

I felt ‘fat’ when I was 15. I decided to lose weight. Healthily, at first. Comments on my slimmer figure secured my perception’s grip on my body and encouraged me to pursue what had become a shaky horizon, an evasive goal. I stepped it up a notch. This time, unhealthily. It was easy: I wasn’t my body. We were different. I controlled my body and mistreated it because well, it wasn’t really a part of me.

I ignored my body. Tired, sick, hungry, full, frustrated were the labels my shell was crying out, while I just got on with business in my mind and my heart and my soul.

I talked ‘ugly’ to myself in the mirror. A constant reel of noise. Your hair is a mess, can’t you sort out your skin? That outfit is ridiculous, your hips are too big, would you consider getting your nose fixed? What a waste that orthodontic treatment was.

I danced with this detachment for a decade. Experimenting with my body, using food to appease it, using food to punish it, pushing it too far, comforting it for a season, burning it out.

My body is not me. I’m more than my body. It isn’t important.

And then.

A decade of this dualistic detachment draws to an end.

I start to look at my shell. I realise it has limits. I realise it’s powerful. I realise it’s intricate. I realise it’s beautiful.

Most importantly, I understand it’s a part of me…it’s mine, again, or for the first time. It’s mine to look after, to enjoy, to own. If I don’t claim it, I’ll ruin it…and ruin me.

The most obvious symptom of this life-long lesson came in the strangest of forms. I was on birth control and it wasn’t really working out for me. I realised everything was linked: a physical pill was having an effect on my body which was having an effect on how I felt ‘inside’. I came off it, and journeyed back to health.

This time, realising that my shell was an important part of me. If anything, the pill had shown that. And so I needed to take care. To take time. To take steps toward health.

Health that was physical, but also so much more than that. Because ALL of me is me. I can’t be separated from myself. And as obvious as it sounds, I think I’m realising that my body is mine. It’s a part of me. And that ALL of me is worth taking care of.

 

gemma Gemma is an about-to-be bride who manages an anti-trafficking NGO in Northern Ireland. She loves good thought, good  people and good scent: this piece was written under the influence of a Summer Scoop Yankee candle. She writes at  gemmaruthwilson.com and tweets @gemmaruthwilson.

 

(Click about Gemma’s blog for lots of Body-related issues including advertising, beauty, human-trafficking and pornography. Recently she has been writing about hormonal health here.)

Read rest of Body series, so far, here.

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One thought on “Body: If I don’t claim it, I’ll ruin it

  1. Pingback: BODY: SHARING MY STORY ON WEE FRIZZ | gemmaruthwilson{dot}com

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