This guest post is from one of my favourite people on the planet. Rachel and I used to cut class a lot together. And rant. And write poetry. And talk about All of The Things. It always does me good to hear her thoughts and I am delighted to be able to share these particular ones . Rach is funny, honest, relatable and resilient as she shares how she learnt to pay attention and listen to her body.
I didn’t want to write a post about bodies. I really didn’t. No, thank you, not for me to discuss private stuff on the internet, I already feel like the wind blew up my skirt and showed off my pants when I even comment on a blog. But then, I woke up at 5am. A few times. A lot of thoughts racing through my head. And I thought, yes, I owe it to her, my body, to explain how it was for us.
It was about three months after we married, a discount spa weekend at a hotel in Austria. Wow. I’d never been to a spa before, it was very exciting. I marched myself off to the nearest department store and spent a fortune on a sleek new all-in-one-black-swimsuit complete with the odd sparkle. We booked in and got ready for our spa adventure on the top floor. The fluffy white gowns were a total novelty for me. In we went to the roof top spa area complete with saunas, sun room, steam rooms … and then, shock, horror. They were all buck naked. Just walking around buck naked as if it’s normal. My face crumpled. I scrambled on to the nearest sun lounger – eyes and gown tightly shut until I could retreat to my room, shocked and sobbing.
I looked around at the faces at dinner that night. Normal people, they didn’t look embarrassed. Not ashamed of themselves in the least.
They said our bodies were a gift, a present for our future husbands. Not to be unwrapped. That wouldn’t be fair, to give an already opened present to our dear future husbands. No no. Just wait. Protect it. Be ready to hand that body over to its rightful owner on the blessed wedding night.
Maybe that’s not quite what they said. But it’s what this young girl understood, believed, swallowed up… took as seriously as if it were God’s own truth, written in stone, just for her.
My body was a gift for someone else.
Sitting on a red sofa, in a small room. A (slightly crazed looking) therapist gazing at me, waiting patiently.
“What do you think your body would like to say to you now?”
Bodies don’t talk, do they? They don’t have an opinion, do they?
And then I listened. And she spoke. That girl in my belly. The one I’d stopped listening to so many years before, I forgot she even existed.
No wonder she was mad, no wonder she’d started doing crazy stuff, making me have panic attacks on buses. She was sick of being ignored, pushed down, shut up. She had something to say too. Even if she wasn’t right all the time, or couldn’t always have things exactly her way. She had something to say, and she deserved to be listened to.
I can’t pinpoint the time when I retreated into my head. When I drew the invisible line somewhere under my chin, and decided the rest of me wasn’t really relevant. But I did that, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to my body, that I shut her off as if she wasn’t anything to do with me. I’m sorry that I kept my soul shut up in my head and didn’t let her fill up every inch of me. I’m sorry that I didn’t realise that long before this body is a gift to share with someone else, she is mine. Just mine. Every bit of her holy and important and worth paying attention to.
So now we’re trying to work together, my body and I. We talk, and listen, try to accommodate each other as best we can. When she gets anxious and starts feeling the need to shout I treat her to some big deep breaths. That helps her calm down again. Now she’s swollen with a third baby, she’s feeling tired and nauseous. I’m being kind to her, giving her rests and cups of tea, though not as much coke as she’d like.
(Read the rest of the Body series here)
Rachel is a 34 year old Northern Irish girl living up a hill in Switzerland with her husband Jürg and their young family. She had a brief fling with the world of teaching but now happily spends her days with her tinies at home playing lego, reading stories and cleaning stuff up, again.