Friday, July 8, 2016

Hella Strong: Radical Self-Love and Gratitude

Okay, so here’s the deal: I am exhausted.  I have about 500 things I should be doing, and at least 3 other things I should be focusing on writing, but I really need to write this tonight. 

No, no, you don’t understand.

I need to write this tonight.

I don’t know if non-writers or non-artist/creative-types understand this need.  Hell, I don’t really know for sure if anyone who isn’t me understands this need.  It’s like an addiction.  It’s like I need to put the words on the paper or they will start to crawl out of my skin and do dangerous and unsightly things, and we can’t have that, can we?

I know I am not alone when I say that my relationship with my body is difficult.   It has come a long way – particularly recently.  Part of being human, and part of being female in this culture, and part of being raised in my particular family culture, and part of being a survivor of sexual violence, and part of just, like, being me with my particular neurology, probably, has meant that my relationship with my body has been tough.  It has gone through healthy times, and not-so-healthy times, and destructive times.  It has been through a lot, this body.  It’s hella strong, and hella resilient, and I have also put it through a hell of a lot of shit.
Most days now, I know how to feed her and water her and move her in ways that feel good and right.  It’s not that I always do those things, but more often than not, I am privileged enough to be able to make the choice to do those good things.  I am learning how to think good thoughts that do not hurt her most times.  I’m learning.  This being human, y’all.  It’s not for the faint of heart.
But here’s the thing: when my body does not do the things I think it is supposed to do…when it does not act in the ways I think it is supposed to act….when it does not feel the way I think it is supposed to feel…I fall apart.  I lose my cool.  The whole “positive relationship with my body” thing goes out the freaking window.
For the past week and a half, I have had some pretty nasty joint pain, amongst other symptoms.  I’m still in the process of figuring out what’s causing it…but it’s not fun.  Moving hurts.  Not moving hurts.  Typing this makes my fingers and wrists feel like they are on fire.  There are good moments and bad moments, and they are unpredictable and have seemingly nothing to do with what I do or don’t do. 
And ultimately, it will be fine.  I am blessed with a hella strong, hella resilient body, and with health insurance, and with access to whatever doctors I choose to go to, and that is one hell of a blessing.  In the meantime, I am tired, and I am frustrated, and I have done a really shitty job of being kind to myself about the whole thing, asking myself questions like “what did you do!?” and convincing myself that my body has some crusade against me, as if that is the only logical explanation.
In a few rare, gentle moments last night and this evening, I realized a couple things:

1.       There are not, actually, “sides,” here.  I am not at war.  This thing is just an experience that my body and I can live into.  And, I actually have some control as to how that is going to go.  This simultaneously makes me anxious and relieved. 

2.       Living fully present in my body is something that was a challenge for me for a long time, and has been something that I have only really learned how to do again easily recently.  Pain messes with the ways I use to ground myself physically in my body, which then makes it more difficult to feel grounded.  It’s a fun little cycle.  I spend a lot of time in my head.  And this is such a good excuse to spend more time in my head and not in my body.  

3.       I teach parents Kristin Neff’s self-compassion exercise all the time.  I have told friends and colleagues about it.  I refer to it often.  But I don’t use it, actually, because self-compassion is hard, guys.  I am really, really good at recommending self-compassion.  I’m really good at modeling it, showing it to you, taking you out for a self-compassion test-drive, even.  But when I am alone in my own head, it’s another story. 

Anyhow, she teaches the three steps of self-compassion (1) mindfulness, (2) connection with common humanity; (3) self-kindness. 
So, one might say to oneself – (1) This is a moment of suffering; (2) Suffering is a part of life; (3) May I be kind to myself.  Or (1) Wow, my shoulders and knees hurt right this moment.  (2) I know there are many people who are also experiencing physical and emotional discomfort.  (3) May I be gentle in my thoughts and actions. 
So I have been thinking for a few weeks now that I want to do a “post-a-day” challenge, and I actually really want to do a poem every day for 30 days like I did last year.  But then I think about how tired I am right now, and how much my all-of-the-things hurt at the moment, and how my brain gets uber obsessive about poems and writing, and how that would NOT be the kind or gentle choice right now.  Like at all.
But this is what my brain has been coming back to for the past several days: I’m going to start a gratitude practice specifically for my body and how it carries me through the day.  Because, when you think about it, it’s pretty fucking amazing.  Right? 

Every day, for 30 days, I will name one thing I’m grateful for about this hella strong, hella resilient, hella hurting body.  
But here's the thing: this works better with friends.  Will you also commit to loving and celebrating your (strong, beautiful, resilient, hurting, insert your adjective of choice) body with me? 

Will you join me in this act of radical self-love and gratitude?

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