How To Love A Traitor
We’re conditioned, particularly as women, to be self-deprecating, to not take up space, to not revel in our bodies and ourselves. We can get 150 comments in a thread about when we realized that we were aware our bodies weren’t up to snuff; let’s see how many we can generate praising ourselves.
Your mission: list at least five things you love about your body and yourself. Five is the floor; you can always do more. And no self-deprecation! No offsetting a compliment with a dig.
As I read through the lists people posted in the comments, I couldn't help but notice how many women said they loved their bodies because they're strong and healthy and sexually attractive. They love things like their lovely mouths, their hour glass figures, their beautiful breasts, their adorable curves, their perfect posture, their strong legs, their awesome hair. They love being able to run marathons and climb mountains and be great in bed.
And I couldn't help but wonder: what if they didn't have these things any more? What would happen to that love if their youth and health and vitality went away? Would they still find something to love? What will happen to them if the day ever comes when their hair falls out, their breast are cut off or wither from age, their bodies grow old or sick, their faces or limbs are maimed and disfigured? Will they find a way to go on loving bodies that have broken down and betrayed them?
A year ago, coming up with five lovable traits about my own body would have been a piece of cake for me. I was strong and healthy, sexy, athletic, graceful and able, and my body was a fabulous source of pleasure to me.
Now my body is no longer strong or healthy. I have no hair, my muscles are weak and shriveled, my skin is mottled and my face swollen up like the moon. My spine is twisted and collapsing; I have a hideous protruding chemo port surgically implanted in my chest wall. I'm itchy and bloated, I soak the bed with night sweats, my brain is slow and depressed. My body isn't even capable of feeling much pleasure these days. It's mostly just a source of pain and nausea and bone grinding fatigue. On top of all that, it causes me constant anxiety: every little ache or cough or swelling might be the cancer spreading somewhere else. My body has become unreliable, untrustworthy, endlessly worrisome.
For 52 years I took such good care of my body, and then one day it turned against me. What can I possibly find to love about it now? I'm sorry, but I honestly can't come up with five things.
But I can come up with one thing that I love about my body today, and it's this: I love my body just because, against all odds, it's still alive. It's hanging in there, kicking and screaming, surviving the cancer and enduring the chemotherapy. And in spite of being under full-blown attack, it still manages to muster the resources to take care of trivial domestic incidents like healing a cut or preventing a cold. My body has suffered so much damage and pain in the last six months, yet it's never given up. Plenty of times my mind has given up, my soul has given up, my broken spirit has wanted to throw in the towel and quit. But my body has steadfastly refused to stop living. It just kept on going, and dragged the rest of me along with it.
And today, for that, I love it.