Bodies I’ve Had

You have a new body every 7 years. Skin and cells shed, rejuvenate. A rebirth. A resurrection. Flesh is sacred. Skin protects muscles, organ, bone. Body. The glove for my ghost. The first home I remember. The material I build myself with. This place all too familiar. The journey of the body lasts a lifetime. It is the only place you can not escape from. The religion you are raised with.

The first time I noticed myself, was not a revelation. It was the way a blonde haired boy saw me. The way my body took up space. How gravity pulled me back down to Earth as I sat on a seesaw in the park. Hey fat girl. I do not keep pictures of myself as a child. The photos of me between the ages of 6 to 13 are secrets hidden in the back of albums in my parents closet. I do not remember my reflection, only how my father made me stand naked on a scale every week, recording the number on the frame of the kitchen door, like some parents proudly display how much their children have grown. I always knew how much weight I still had left to lose until I would be “right”. A magic number I could never reach.

Where can I find god here? I am not the most impressive of buildings but they say it doesn’t matter what the church looks like as long as gods can find their way inside. All temples are beautiful; from the dustbowl congregation in Oklahoma to the Angkor Wat, as long as the door is open, there is space for prayer.

The second time I am noticed is in middle school. Catcalled by the men who sit on the side of the street. Windows open in passing cars with sirens of sweat and spit salivating over my 14 year old breasts. My legs like a meal they want to sink their teeth into. Their hands eventually find me and I am nothing more than something to be digested. My flesh consumed, and bones tossed to wolves.

These pieces keep me together. Memories lodged in my skin waiting to be shed like a serpent, but I am nothing more than parts. A machine of stimuli and reaction. Of cause and effect.

When I am 21, I starve myself. Hidden in exercise and health food. Never thin enough to cause alarm, but you can find my ribs through my skin, like a cage I am trying to put myself into. I am smiles and praise. Strangers comment on my physique. Friends compliment on my change like it was the only thing that ever mattered. The weight is lifted. My stomach is flat and empty. I am exhausted, but I am skinny. My father calls me beautiful for the first time.

I have forgotten to praise you. To treat you like the church I pray in. You are just the crumbling remnants of a relic destroyed by wartime bombs. Ruins of something that was once holy.

7 years later I am drinking 3 bottles of wine a day. This is the way I feed myself. My cup is always half empty and I am always thirsty. My brain is the executioner leading me to a grave I am trying to claw my way out of. I am the scraping hollowness of dry heaves as I stumble through mirrors. I speak a new language of hangover and regret and I give my flesh willingly. This is all that I am. The physical form. The heavy load. Tethered to the cruel Earth. I cover the cracks in my face with a dirty sheet and gather broken glass off the floor.

I am waiting to feel the rapture of seeing myself as something worthy of worship. Each stone placed around me instead of muscle and bone. One by one with each molecule I scatter I am waiting to touch my skin and make it mine. To see my body as a the place I want to live instead of the prison I am trapped in. The spirit will find its host with a purpose. This church will find a god who speaks through it.

I grow a person in my uterus. The first member of my congregation. My belly stretches with elasticity, and I become full for the first time. I am forgotten. I lose myself in the probing of hands on my stomach. Strangers comment on my physique and reach out their hands to feel for his body beneath my skin. I find my flesh once more when I scream and he leaves me, holding his warm pieces in heavy arms and I begin to rebuild myself again.

I am the house. I am the pieces of the puzzles that have no purpose. I am the hymn sung on a sore throat. In 4 years I will be a completely different person. A new body ready for the next rebirth. I don’t know the prayers to grow the love I deserve, but I am learning to read the pages of my scripture. This holy place I want to call home and welcome willingly, not as the image seen through the eyes of others, but as the amazing location I choose to reside. The temple holding all of the communion of a lost believer making their pilgrimage. A body, divine.

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Toxic

When embarking on a fast or a cleanse, toxins are supposedly pushed out of the body, causing side effects like headaches, nausea, irritability, acne and many other physical symptoms. These are known as “healing events”. They signal the toxin leaving. The body becoming healthier. When embarking on a life cleanse, we are told to cut out all of the people in our world that do not make us feel amazing. Who do not support us. Who make us feel bad about ourselves. Unfriend. Ghost. Cut communication. You will feel better. Like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders. If you’ve done both of these things. When you’ve pushed out anything that makes you feel “bad”. What is left to destroy? If you still feel bad about your life, who do you have left to blame? When you eat clean, when you exercise 5 days a week, when you go to therapy, when you live motivational posters, when you read every self help book, and you are still stumbling do you question your motives? We are told to avoid toxic people. Toxin means poisonous. Something that will infect us slowly. Something that kills us. But haven’t we all been toxic? Have any of us never said the wrong thing, never hurt another person, never wiped our feet on someone else’s self esteem? It’s easy to point out flaws we see so clearly when we are hurting. To avoid responsibility. To call someone who might be struggling “poisonous” What if you were the toxin. What if you were the illness in other people’s lives. Maybe you were the “healing event” for someone else. The headache they needed to better their future. Maybe it’s time to be honest about it. I have reacted to being hurt like an atom bomb. I have destroyed relationships. Cut through people with my teeth and devoured the scraps. I have been abusive. I have said things I regret. I have been the reason people have left. I have been cut off at my lowest point. When depression consumed me, leaving me in the dark. I have been shown backs when I asked for help. I was too much excuse. Too much baggage. Too much emotion. Too much fire. I was too much. I was the cigarette. The junk food. The self loathing. I made enemies when I was just trying to be myself. I never realized how mercury lived in my skin or why mosquitoes never bothered to bite me. Something must be wrong with me. Or maybe I’m just human. Another person making mistakes. Another life running its course. I am learning from my toxicity. I am seeing my venom as something that teaches me. We all hurt people. We all carry with us something ugly we don’t want to see in ourselves, but love to see in others. Finding mirrors in the bad behavior we condemn. Calling someone toxic is dismissive. People are are made up of chemicals, but they’re not noxious. They have bad days. They have bad years. They mess up. They deserve forgiveness. Maybe instead of looking for toxicity in others, we need to find those things within ourselves. The wounds that are still infecting us. And when we find those wounds; those still beating bruises. Those empty cuts that won’t scab over. Those poisonous places inside of us, I will say close your eyes and imagine yourself as the child you were. With all of the innocence and hope you can muster. See this child and speak to it. Tell it what it needs to hear. The child who only wants to be loved for who they are. Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself. You are not toxic. You are not mold. You are not asbestos. You are not poison. You are human. You are here the shadow that helps you see which direction the light is shining from. You are not the healing event. You are the healing.

Demeter speaks to Persephone after her rape:

 

Daughter, the end of summer will always be a signal. You will never forget when spring was taken from your skin. Only the smokey smell of the season’s changing. The chill of the place his hands found. It is amazing how the body remembers. Like the trees after a forest fire, you will ache from a wound you place at the back of your mind. I also know what it’s like to feel empty. I can still remember the hollow absence of you in my womb. When I birthed you into the sun a girl. This was my mistake. I should have known how girls are plucked so easily from the Earth. How they are placed in vases. How their beauty is seen only as something to be owned. Even goddesses are not safe from assault. Every winter, I remember too. How we danced. How we bloomed. How I held you in my arms and whispered “sweet girl” “sweet sweet girl” You most of all should never know how the world only holds you close enough to stab you. How any day may be the day you lose your limbs. How soon enough you will face yourself in the mirror and not recognize who you are. How can I prepare you for that? When you stumble back to me with stories of how his touch reminded you of death. How every year you feel like dying. How the sunlight no longer gives you warmth. How they will make a myth out of you and he will still sit on a throne. There is a reason they call me Mother. I am good at watching the things I love suffer. Holding a place for tears is not easy but I would gladly trade your’s for my own. Anything  to let go of watching the journey of my children as they stand painful in abandoned fields like stalks of withered corn. When you walked back from Hades and its darkness I made sure the sun would show you that hiding your pain from the light only kills you slowly. And I will tell you, Daughter that everything dies but it is never the end. Do not forget you are a goddess. That the sun is shining for you. Your skin is not a fruit he sunk his teeth into, it is an orchard. Your body is not a withered stem, it is a rosebush. Every year may remind you, but never forget that above all else, you were made from this Earth. You are not a victim of it. You are the fertile soil. Ready to grow. I will mourn with you. I will show them all how to bend to your pain. How they will share your grief every time you are forced back into his bed. I will plant seeds, naming each one after you, kissing them like children, letting them sleep and dream of your return. And there, in the dark, you will find yourself yourself again. Hands in the dirt, feeling the flesh of your fruitfulness not as something to be stolen, but savored. Sweet girl, you are a survivor. You were made for greater things than the Queen of Death. And you will find them here. In the Spring.