Bodies are meant to carry
Getting to this place took a while. Happy to be here.
I’ve been thinking about my body a lot lately…on the things it has allowed me to do and provides for me on a daily basis. As society tells me to look at the rolls, the hyperpigmentation, the cellulite, and stretch marks, and hate them or correct it all at once, I’ve become fascinated by its capacity to let me experience life for 32 years. To survive/surviving a pandemic. How it has allowed me to have my son grow and be born within me and out of me is something I’m learning to express gratitude for each day. My cesarean scar has easily become my favorite part of my body. At one point it was keloid and now it’s flat. Almost like a map, a roadway, and river all in one. No direction, no beginning or ending, just a path.
So to resist snapping back 4 years later or cosmetically altering it to present in the ways social media tells me to, I touch myself more. I exfoliate my skin, massage my feet, rub my belly and say thank you. Often. I’ve started to see each stretch mark and the weight I gained as my body telling me, “I got you…we don’t break, we carry.” For so long my body memorized a pain so deep I never thought I’d feel light again. In between a postpartum depression and anxiety series I had no idea I was starring in, and chronic pain with no exact pinpoint, I was just a body. A body that operated carefully and performed the minimum tasks required. I wasn’t a person. I functioned and then after I succumbed to the ugly part of motherhood no one likes to hear about but we are so desperate to scream the hurt and confusion out loud. It became almost unimaginable to walk and take a breath, and not feel as if the wind took it for its own ride. For so many of us, this is the part where the shame hides. Or is it that it makes its presence known? To be thankful for our child’s life and confused about what’s become of ours?
When my son was about 1.5 yrs old, I looked at my arms in the mirror. I looked at the rounded yet fine lines around my muscles. Sometimes, I can’t wear certain shirts because they hug them too tight which causes me to hug less. I’d angle my body so that they didn’t appear wide and then it hit me like love is supposed to: these arms are meant to hold. They do not take up space, they are the space. We carry babies, grocery bags, memories, and dreams, and to treat the body as a site of contention, as something to be hidden is to wage war on the very thing that allows us to love. Choosing to marvel at my body instead is an act of resistance I didn’t sign up for. Why can’t we just care for the body just because? It does not deserve to be punished for blossoming and adapting. Its flexibility is something to revere when we are forced to sit and try to make an impossible “perfect.” Imagine the space we can create between our thoughts and our aches if we spoke life into these bones?
And then there is this skin. Black skin, Brown skin. How I’ve developed a sharp tongue to protect it. I know my brain is just as tired. To resist “white body supremacy” is exhausting. To decolonize ideas that do not belong to us but live in our bodies is exhausting. How do we make things beautiful while everything burns? What does water do to a chaos that’s been burning for centuries? I’d say one of my favorite things yet also one of the hardest things about being a Black mother with Spanish on her tongue is the forced presence I must assume. How in this act of breath, I must perform an action(s) that ensures the physical/spiritual/emotional wellbeing and survival of my son. Yet I wonder, is this a form of self-neglect? To just perform and do and not…be? My body is a result of this presence/neglect.
These days I am letting it all flow through me into clay. I found I got to be a better ceramicist when I breathed into my body and into what I was making. Throwing requires me to hold and compose my body in a way that protects my wrists and back so that I can create for a long/er time. I lose myself for hours while I am making. So my body, knows when it can go for a while and when it needs a break. In this way, I am similar to the clay body; I am of the earth, made of air, and need water and fire to shapeshift and become forever. What is it that they say about death? We die twice. First when we leave the physical body and second when we are forgotten. When I make ceramic, I am thinking of myself in the future. The me that will live through my descendants who will drink and eat from the cup that I make today. It is my body in these objects.
I pray for the peace I have found in my body to permeate other parts of my life. What would it look like to be less career oriented and more experience focused? I am beyond satisfied with how my body looks and I am working on ensuring it operates optimally (hello, pilates 🖤). I recognize that this means actively working against standards of beauty that never included me and in the most violent ways capitalize off of our need to be seen. I look forward to the habits I will continue to create that prioritize rest for both my brain and my body so that I can continue to do the things I love and be with the people I love.