Archive for the ‘Our Bodies’ Category
Sometimes I act as if my body is not part of who I am. As Eve Ensler says, I push my body past what it is capable of; I ask of it more than it can give.
I also disconnect things that have happened to my bodies – sex or abuse or judgment – from who I am as a person.
But my body and my mind don’t know that they are separate, and until I – both mind and body – accept that I am not just mind I cannot heal from what has happened to my body.
If I have wounds in my body from my safe, fairly sheltered life, than I cannot imagine the pain that others have in theirs. I can’t imagine what it is to be raped or beaten to near death. Or to have cancer rage through me.
Eve Ensler helps me understand. Maybe she will help you, too.
Suddenly, My Body – Eve Ensler on TED
My dear women, I urge you to take a few minutes and sit through this powerful video. Push through the discomfort we have our bodies and see where Ensler comes out, whole, still scarred, but whole.
Sometimes being a woman—and a mother—brings achingly, painfully beautiful moments into our lives.
Becky and Her Daughter Now
When our daughter was six, she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. After her second surgery, Sarah was moved from Intensive Care back to the peds oncology floor and since she was still on morphine and couldn’t walk due to the pain of her incision, she had to use a bedpan.
On one particular night, she called to me that she had to go to the bathroom so I got up to help her. She was in such pain though, that I couldn’t move her and adjust the bedpan at the same time without hurting her even more; I finally rang for help and one of the wonderfully patient nursing assistants appeared almost immediately to lend a hand.
I don’t know why such a simple act would be so indelibly burned into my memory but I will never forget standing there beside my suffering daughter, looking down at her almost naked, scarred, bruised body, and seeing her stripped of the dignity and innocence of her childhood. Since she didn’t possess the strength to walk to the privacy of the bathroom, she was having to attend to one of the most basic and private of human needs with an audience around her.
She was powerless, helpless, dependent, and miserable—there were no sweet smiles, no rosy cheeks, no golden curls. There was only the sight of a small child too weary for the battle and a weeping mother who could do nothing at all to help except kiss the skin on the top of her head and whisper the comforting words that only a broken hearted parent knows how to say.
It seemed to me that the whole world faded away that night and all that remained were the nursing assistant and me, bound together in an intimate, sacred moment of ministering to “the least of these.”
I loved my daughter more at that moment than I ever had before—far more than I did when she was happy and healthy and gorgeous. I loved her with a deeper love than I ever knew could exist for another human being and I was honored to be standing by her in the middle of the night, being a load lifter and an armor-bearer for the beloved, bald soldier of my heart.
I have gazed into the face of sorrow and pain. I have heard a little girl’s whimpers of fear and discomfort. I have seen the compassionate heart of a medical helper. I have seen all of life boiled down to a few holy moments in the middle of the night–moments that were holy because even in the midst of great suffering, peace was in the air, love was in our hearts, and hope was in the room.
Becky Smith is a book addict, cancer mom, blogger, published songwriter, pastor’s wife, thrift store shopper, breast cancer survivor and mashed potato lover.
I woke up in the middle of the night last week scheming some expensive plan that involved travel and new outfits; probably something to do with the “resort” clothing catalogs arriving each January I thought, “Oh. You’re too old for that.” I’d also need a serious Brazilian Wax and pedicure.
I’m past my fourth decade. I never was able to have children. I’ve danced at my friends’ weddings over the past decade. They each had children and entered the Mommy Universe – a place I’ll never be: with them or otherwise. I’m still the same person I was when I was 32, except I’m not.
I still exercise 5 mornings a week in order to be “ultra sleek”. There is nothing to be “ultra sleek” for – except for me. There are no more nights spent dancing or having parties at each other’s homes. There are parties at homes of course; for other people in the Parental Universe. I’m lonely.
At a time in my life when I thought I’d be married with children and a career – I’m married with a career and an obsessive exercise habit. I also have a nasty addiction to clothes and shoes. I need a twelve step program because, honestly, WHO ever sees me besides the four other people I work with? I could wear the same outfit every day for two weeks and I’m nearly certain no one would notice.
I notice myself. I notice when that dress makes me feel like an elegant Druid. I notice those boots that looked great on line but make me feel like a Storm Trooper. I also notice the extra 5 pounds so no matter how much I want to raid the Hershey Kiss stash in the office – I don’t.
I strive for a healthy relationship with my self and with my husband. I don’t think any of us ever truly gets it perfect. For instance, on New Year’s Eve I had tears streaming down my face because I’ll never have children. I thought I was over that. Apparently not.
So what’s a woman to do? Call her girlfriend who has entered the Grandma Universe and plan a weekend away to a SKI RESORT. No new outfits required; or skiing for that matter. Strike a Pose!
Shawna Martin studied Philosophy at Temple University, is a huge Prince fan, a voracious reader and very content with her odd family of two humans, two cats, and a wily Brittany Spaniel. She works for LMI Advertising.
I was so jazzed I could have jumped up and grabbed the railing on the historic courthouse. That is, if I could jump more than three inches off the ground. And if I wasn’t a little nervous about the return to the courthouse floor.
You see, it was our team kick-off for the Relay for Life event I’m chairing here in my home county. (We don’t really have towns, you see, so we have to call it a “home county,” which sounds very urban for a county that just got it’s first stop light a couple of years ago.) We were bringing people in to hear their stories of how cancer had touched their lives, to get them excited about Relay, to give them information about cancer support services, and to get this event rolling. We have $35,000 to raise to fight cancer, and I am ready.
Nothing gets me more excited than a good cause. This cause – more than any other besides perhaps working to write the people who were enslaved in the U.S. back into history – is very close to my heart. Since I only knew my mother as a woman who had cancer, I have walked all my days with the spector of this disease lingering just behind Mom. Then, when they found another melanoma, when it recurred again, and when this time it took her life, I vowed to do all I could to end this disease for everyone.
In 2012, scientists predict that cancer will overtake heart disease as the number one killer in the United States. If you have suffered from this disease yourself or if you have watched someone you love suffer with it, you now how excruciating it can be physically, emotionally, and psychologically. We need to stop this.
So last night, when I stood in that historic courthouse and watched people get antsy with excitement about our Relay and our goal, all I could think was, “Yes, Mom yes! This is for you. We will do this for you!”
How has cancer touched your life? Have you had the opportunity to do something to fight it?
I highly encourage you to find a local Relay For Life in your area. It’s a great way to fight cancer, build community, and have a blast!
I write this folded in half, hoping that the forward arc of my spine will decompress the damaged discs that are throbbing today with wet weather. This peculiar position is not yoga, strictly speaking – but if I had a nickel for every person who hears of my multiple disabilities and suggests yoga as a panacea, I could move to a state that allows medical marijuana and buy myself a huge plantation.
The body of a disabled person is disturbingly not her own in ways that parallel those in which a pregnant woman’s body becomes a field for other people’s unsolicited advice and even belly rubs, and of course the ways in which women’s bodies in general attract judgment. This is not an either-or proposition but an intersection. How to lose ten pounds by Christmas! the newsstand blares. Firm your belly doing housework! This is already a source of shame for women who do not look like the cover models, and to the woman whose medication curbs an illness but causes weight gain – many, many of them do this – it is doubly shaming, because maybe if we just Did Things Better, we wouldn’t have the disability at all.
Barbara Ehrenreich, in her books Bright-Sided and Smile or Die, has written of her own struggle with breast cancer and with the culture of enforced positivism that surrounds it: to be angry at your cancer, she writes, is a heresy that will get you kicked off Internet breast-cancer forums. What if a woman doesn’t like pink teddy bears, pink SAVE THE BOOBIES bracelets, pink anything? But that is what our culture offers, along with dire warnings that anger might make one’s tumor grow.
I am angry. I am no longer ashamed of that anger. I am tired to the death (to quote Willy Loman) of the forearm crutches that fight with my coat sleeves and prompt strangers to pity, to requests to pray for me – these I mind less, because at least the person is wishing me well – to suggestions that if I traded my Coke for coconut water, my full-body joint pain would vanish. The crutches turn me from the object of the male gaze – no, strange men, catcalls are not compliments – to the object of egregious pity, often from other women. I could march through Philadelphia’s cavernous 30th Street train station in my underwear, and people would still see “cripple” before they saw “woman.” Even if my panties matched my bra.
Solutions to this? I have few. The next person who asks what happened to me will be told that I fell off a motorcycle. This makes me somewhat unfeminine in other ways, but at least makes me a person with agency, not Tiny Tim but a former “biker babe.” In fact, I have never been on a motorcycle, but I’d rather tell a juicy story than explain the messy reality of my ghastly MRI.
Gwyn McVay is the author of two chapbooks of poems and one full-length collection, Ordinary Beans (Pecan Grove Press, 2007). She teaches writing at Millersville University of Pennsylvania.
It all becomes a little overwhelming: full-time job, husband, daughter, a business making and selling art glass, blog posts, weekly articles for my BellaOnline site…the list seems to just go on and on.
On top of everything else, the onset of winter here in Alaska often causes my energy level to drop. I find myself craving carbohydrates, especially sweets, much more than normal. Getting outside for fresh air and exercise helps a lot, but it doesn’t matter that I know this, I still have a hard time overcoming inertia to actually get my butt outside. I want to just give in to the urge to curl up with a warm blanket and good book and not move for hours. Unfortunately, there just isn’t time for that.
I’ve been saying for some time that I’d like to quit my “real” job; my husband earns enough money that I could, in theory. Unfortunately, he’s self-employed, a job that doesn’t come with health insurance or the security of a guaranteed income. When I talk about quitting, however, he has on occasion said that his concern is that I’d get bored if I weren’t working full time. Huh?! I have so many things I want to do: complete projects already started, begin even some of the many ideas running through my head, write more, read more…heck, I’d even like to clean the house for a change. Being bored isn’t even a remote consideration.
Because Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays this year, my holiday days off fall on the following Mondays. I’ve decided to give myself a Christmas present. I am taking personal leave on the remaining four days during the week after Christmas. As a result, I’ll have 10 whole days in a row off. A colleague asked me, “Where are you going to go?” With a blissful sigh, I replied, “Nowhere. I’m giving myself a staycation.”
I assume you’re all familiar with “staycations” since Alaska’s always behind the times when it comes to the latest in trends. A staycation simply means that you’re taking time off from work, but staying home instead of traveling. In my book, the time doesn’t count as a staycation if you spend all of it taking care of chores or doing other work, unless, of course, the work consists of things you really want to do – in that case it’s really not work. (Whew! That was a complicated sentence.)
Undoubtedly, I won’t get to spend as much of my staycation indulging in my chosen activities as I’d like. The demands of family and house will require at least some of my attention. Nonetheless, I look forward to sleeping late, reading good books, writing, and spending time playing with glass in my studio. I hope to be able to return to work refreshed and with a better attitude, but I don’t really expect miracles. Regardless, I am quite confident the last thing I’ll be is bored. That worry is one my husband can put right out of his head.
Have you had a staycation, or, if you took time off from work did you just end up working at home? If you can’t indulge in a full staycation, what do you do to recharge your batteries when the winter doldrums hit?
Sharry Miller is a beleaguered State of Alaska employee who recharges her batteries through creative pursuits such as glass art and writing. She writes more-or-less regularly on her blog (sharrymiller.typepad.com) and posts articles every week to the Cycling site at BellaOnline.
Each December, magical benefit elves descend on my nonprofit’s office and try to woo us. They hold up shiny objects like life insurance policies and 401(k) investments and flexible spending plans.
I am immune. I have to keep my paycheck focused on things like mortgages, student loans, and Cheez-its.
However, for every employee over 55, it is bug eyes and copious note taking.
Sensing my seat on the sidelines of this mature discussion always has me self reflecting about getting older. Am I aging gracefully or am I kicking Father Time in the shins while plotting my escape?
It’s the shins.
Here’s a few of the ways I’m throwing a punch:
1. Fitness: Please don’t get crazy. I’m not actually fit. But I do like to push my knees to the brink with rafting, skiing, and 4-square. Plus, it never hurts to schedule in daily dance breaks.
2. Drugstore Choices: Hair colors, face serums, and sparkly spackle are the best way to place the ravages of time in time out.
3. Pop Culture: I’m not afraid to love that which may be age-inappropriate. Phineas & Ferb, Demi Lovato, The Muppets, and one RobertDouglasThomasPattinson.
4. Muffin Top: Carrying extra pounds leads to a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. However, those Cheez-its are a great over-the-counter collagen to fill out pesky hand wrinkles and brow lines. You may die 10 years earlier, but your coffin-side 16 x 20 portrait won’t need airbrushing.
5. Menu: A gourmet bowl of Cookie Crisp with a side of apple slices makes for a delightful meal. It’s all the better when served with a full-bodied grape Kool-Aid
How do you stay young?
Jamie Golden is a single 30-something from Birmingham, Alabama who likes to follow the conversation wherever the medication may lead. She majors in sleeping and minors in photography, baking, party-planning, traveling, and changing out handbags. Jamie blogs at Jamie’s Rabbits and tweets at @jamiesrabbits.
Yesterday, Shelva wrote about the issues of body image that Barbie brings up for her and her concerns about raising children in a world where Barbie is part of the standard of beauty and where people lament a Barbie who looks like an actual woman – pink hair, tattoos, and all. I wholeheartedly agree with my friend Shelva – Barbie has done me some damage.
I had Barbies as a kid, and while at a young age I didn’t think anything of them (besides that they bored me and didn’t really provide much entertainment, at least not as much as books), I certainly grew up to internalize the standard of beauty that Barbie represents. Tiny waist, big boobs, shapely legs, and great hair. I also internalized that beautiful meant you had perfect skin and stylish clothes. My parents didn’t teach me that, and by herself, Barbie didn’t teach me that either.
But the truth is that by the time I was 11 or so, I already knew that I was not beautiful in the way American society judged beauty. I had terrible skin, big thighs, crazy hair, and I wore glasses, and much to my dismay, there was nothing I could do about that – at least nothing I could do to make myself look the way society said I SHOULD – not could but SHOULD as a woman of value.
As an adult, I have learned – at least intellectually – that beauty is internal and my continuing acne, my encroaching gray hair, and my still larger than I’d like thighs do not take away from my beauty. On good days, all of me believes that. But most days, I still want to look like Barbie – thinner, blonder, and with those feet that naturally fit into heels.
But as an adult, I have also learned that I am beautiful in more ways than physical ones – my intellect, my writing, my compassion, my ability to make a great cup of coffee – these are the places where I find my beauty.
It’s just too bad that I didn’t grow up believing and knowing I was beautiful. It’s a shame that I had to learn to find my beauty – that I lost it somewhere along the way with all those Barbie dolls. It’s a shame any girl has to learn that lesson.
Well I know I have always had some issues with Barbie but after reading an article on line I realize I actually have issues with our society, the media, toy companies and some parents because honestly I can’t really be mad at Barbie since she is not real. I think that is the key to my soap box that I am on tonight she is NOT REAL. Women, young girls, boys, men if Barbie’s boobs were really that big and the rest of her really that small she would not be able to walk I mean literally she would fall over or her back pain would be so debilitating that she would be bed ridden and although she is “fit” anyone bedridden starts to lose their muscle tone and “sex appeal.” Maybe I am on to something I should market a new bedridden Barbie and see if that appeals to people.
Okay I know there are lots of toys out there that people might not agree with and we are all allowed our opinion so I am just voicing mine. The article I read was about a Barbie doll that some parents are upset about and will not buy their children because Barbie is tattoo, has pink hair, leopard pants etc. You get my point she does not look like the classic Barbie and to this I say hurray! Oh gosh people can you believe it, not everyone in the world has huge boobs, a tiny waist, long blonde hair, and blue eyes and thank God! I say it is about time that Barbie starts to show all little girls that women look different and are beautiful so even if they are not making a more realistic Barbie as far as measurements go at least let’s support the attempt to show the beauty of all women.
Here’s what I think is true beauty in women: stretch marks from carrying a child in your womb, the veined hands of a grandmother, gray hair, skin that looks like paper from age, smiles, eyes, a giving heart, a mother’s heart, warmth, laughter and tears for the pain in the world. I am not saying we should tell young girls to let themselves go and that being unhealthy is a good choice all I am saying is that as a mother of a daughter I never want her to think because she might posses one of the “keys” of societal beauty that she is not beautiful. As a society and as a parent we need to foster in young girls the confidence to love themselves and others. We need to tell them they are beautiful and worthy of being treated with respect and dignity. We need to help them understand that there is so much more to them than their physical appearance because unless you are Barbie physical beauty will fade. I am still not advocating purchasing a Barbie but if you do, consider the tattooed Barbie and when you give it to your daughter consider telling her that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors with or without tattoos and piercings and that part of being a woman is seeing all the beauty a person has to offer which is so much more than their outer appearance.