This past weekend, I drove three hours to Cleveland, Ohio to see a friend who was visiting from Los Angeles. They showed me around their hometown, introduced me to their friends and family, and read me some of their most recent writing. Despite an otherwise enjoyable few days, I had to consciously keep my anxiety at bay. Of the many conversations that my friend and I had, our discussions about our bodies and gender identity hit a nerve that needed to be hit.
I’ve been experiencing moments of deep sadness recently when I think about everything I’ve put my body through and how that cut me off from my sexuality. I am sure that twenty years of trying and failing to contort it into a shape that I thought would make me more loveable made it difficult for my body to desire anything other than survival. Now on the other side of that self-harm, I am mourning how much time I spent cutting myself off from my body.
Talking to my friend made me realize that in addition to processing two decades of physical, emotional, and spiritual deprivation, I am now longing to change my body in new ways. Which was a confusing if not threatening thing to acknowledge at first. Changing my body has always meant hurting it and that’s not something I plan on doing ever again. Still, there is no denying that I want my queerness to present a certain way physically.
It came as no surprise to me that I initially pushed aside my longings for a body that reflected this new facet of my being. My mind was quick to remind me that my first priority is maximizing my financial wellbeing and paying off all of my student debt. After a few days of processing my feelings, however, it became clear to me that I don’t need to choose one over the other. In fact, both will benefit from the other getting the attention it needs.
While I have spent years doing work that has included my body, it hasn’t always been a holistic relationship. From teaching yoga to creating textiles to stripping to beekeeping to sailing, the physical labour I’ve done in the past had specific parameters for the demands it put on my body. As a writer and coach, those demands aren’t overtly obvious. Including my body in my work is something I have the choice to do as much or as little as I’d like.
Now, I am thinking about what including my body in my work needs to look and feel like. I am seeking out ways to bring together my longings to change my physique with my need for financial stability and wellbeing. I want this to be a “both/and” process instead of an “either/or” process. And while I am heartbroken that I spent so much time not feeling at home in my body, all I can do is focus on the time I still have to experience corporal belonging.
How are you intentionally including your body in your work?