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The Broken Temple

January 29th, 2014 by
The Broken Column, Frieda Kahlo

The Broken Column, Frieda Kahlo

 

This is about my body. My body is many things. It houses my soul. It has caused me more suffering than possibly anything else in my life. And, also, it’s beautiful. Sometimes, I forget that. Too often, I forget that.

There is a conflict between how I view my body and how it is viewed by others. This follows from the fact that they don’t have to live there. My body is fairly normative in appearance, but that’s as far as it goes. I have a chronic illness, which is mostly invisible. I’ve heard so many well-meaning friends and acquaintances have uttered the phrase that every invisibly-disabled person knows well and hates deeply: “but you don’t seem sick. You look so healthy.” When your body doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to, and society confirms this by constantly reminding you how pitiable and worthless you are, your healthy-looking body becomes a hateful shell, shielding the dysfunction that lies beneath. You walk a line between wanting your illness to be acknowledged, and not wanting it to eclipse the rest of your identity. It can be hard to see value in your body, or yourself.

Body worship is one of my favorite types of play. It’s very meaningful to me for many reasons, with many layers. On the surface, there’s my dominance; I am a fairly stereotypical dominant in many ways, one of them being that I love having attention lavished upon me. But it goes deeper than that.

There’s really no way to look at my body’s defects in a positive way. There are positive things that have emerged from it, such as greater self-awareness, the connections I have made with others in the disabled community, and activism I have participated in that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise. I am grateful for these things. But, in addition to limiting me, my malfunctions cause debilitating physical pain in many parts of my body, as well as fatigue, seizures, and more. The secondary effects are also numerous: frustration at my doctors, who are not equipped to deal with an obscure and untreatable illness such as mine, frustration at society, which is not equipped to deal with a broken person such as myself. It is, at times, difficult not to turn these feelings inwards, and feel hatred towards my own body.

On a physical level, body worship reminds me that my body is capable of feeling pleasure. That’s one way in which it does function, and when you spend so much time in pain, pleasure becomes something of solace. When I go for long periods of time without sensual touch, it’s almost like a surprise, a feeling that I nearly forgot existed. I’m not a spiritual person, but the closest I have come to feeling spiritual is the intimate connection I experience with another person during sex.

In a deeper sense, an emotional sense, it’s empowering to have someone take pleasure in touching one’s body, and being shown that pleasure. Even though I know, on some level, that my body is beautiful, it can be very difficult for me to truly internalize that as love. Instead I externalize my feelings of hatred, convinced that no one would want something so useless, so broken. But touch that is both gentle and eager, murmuring of appreciative sounds, and tender and hungry kisses are all evidence to the contrary. It is proof. Undeniable proof that despite all that feels wrong, there is something right about my body. If I can step out of feeling resentful and broken, if I can see my body through the eyes of someone who loves it and get a small glimpse of their love, this is an affirmation that living in my body isn’t tantamount to being trapped in a cage. At times, it can be powerful perfection.

My body lies in ruins. Reverence can take many forms: sweeping my hair across my neck to kiss my shoulders, tracing my sides with fingertips, touching me, touching my body with an admiration approaching awe. These actions are transformative and I am reminded that, despite its broken columns and crumbling foundations, my body is still worthy of reverence and of love.

Corpus

October 19th, 2011 by

Today is Love Your Body day.

I feel like a fraud talking about loving my body today–I don’t particularly love it.  You see, my body and I have a complicated relationship.

Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my hospital, in the midst of an extremely boring, 4-hour long medical test.  This sort of thing is routine for me.  Monday, I had another doctor’s appointment.  And I have more next week.  On a daily basis, I find myself in a lot of physical pain.  It’s hard not to turn that physical pain into emotional pain.

My body is high maintenance.  Good health is something most people my age take for granted.  I envy them.  I am constantly reminded that my body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.   Even on the good days, I have to remember to take all my many medications and schedule doctors appointments.

Sometimes I can love my body.  Even if I can’t forget its malfunctions, I can forgive them, and focus on the ways it can function, and revel in its beauty.

But it’s hard to love your body when it feels like it doesn’t love you.

There is a societal model of illness that is damaging.  When we think sick, we think cancer.  We think fighting.  We think this is something that has to be overcome, a war that must be fought and won, because losing would mean death.  When the illness is a part of your own body for so long, who is the enemy?  I cannot fight my body–that’s a war that I cannot win, the collateral damage would be too high.  Instead, I fight the voices I hear from society that tell me that healthy is beautiful, echoed by my own internal demons who whisper that if healthy is beautiful, I will always be ugly.

So today–Love Your Body Day–the day I am supposed to love and appreciate my body, I instead find myself feeling frustrated and resentful towards it.  I will try and put aside my resentment and remind myself something I wrote the other night.  Physical pleasure is deeply important to me.  I find it empowering to take pleasure in my body when it often causes me so much pain and I take pleasure in the pleasure others take from my body.  Here is what I wrote:

My body is broken. My body is beautiful. My body is perfect. No matter how badly it functions, no matter how much, at times, I hate the way it looks, no matter how much pain it causes me, after a night like tonight, after I’ve given myself countless orgasms, I can say, with certainty–my body is absolutely fucking perfect.