In an exercise that came through reflections on trauma and some of my new writing projects, I offer an intimate apology to my body…
My Beloved Body,
There really isn’t much I can say to start this letter without first saying that I’m sorry.
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to understand you and I’m even more sorry that I have let so many extrinsic rules put you in a cage.
My earliest memories of you were nothing but simple – complete. But by age 9, I was already in a “diet” with a mentor figure who was probably then the age I am now. I remember, the middle-school kids, telling me I was fat. Yet, I took karate and walked to school almost every day. I rode my bike for miles and lifted logs, turned over stones, and in the winters, shoveled snow and climbed a hill 500 times to ride my sled. As I got older, I played volleyball with the “big kids” and older neighbors. I was active, I was fit, and I was healthy. I was normal except for a few things that slowed me down – I didn’t like to run, because my lungs couldn’t handle that with the asthma. Sure, I had allergies and one time I broke my ankle playing outside with my sister and the dog…
But I never hated you like I did after I turned 12 – we moved away, and you were subjected to years of torture and confusion from our neighbor.
No doubt, being molested, and later at 15 years old, being sexually assaulted, affected the way I treated you and the way I felt about you…
But gosh, there was also just… junior high and high school – your hair made some think you looked like a boy and your language was not very feminine overall. I tried to dress you up but by even 18, you looked more like a 40-year old woman than a kid just being herself. I did not like you at all. Everything they said to you was just a mirror of how I felt about you. I hated you…
And I can’t apologize enough for pretty much everything we heard at church. While I heard that “the body was a temple” for some greater force, the needs and beautiful depth of being in a body seemed to be completely lost on the church people I knew… they were so concerned about controlling you and harnessing you for some agenda that really conflicted with every beautifully created part of you.
I understand why it was so easy to hate you, not just because of these messages and words but…
It’s because you remember everything.
I used to want you dead because of that – especially if I had a flashback and you were transported back to those July nights, or any nights, when that older boy would strip you of your choice and dignity. You would be left either in a dead stare or sobbing out to a god who didn’t listen…
You also remembered the tension in our home, even from when you were young. You could hold all those feelings inside of you and feel them for years.
Years after the bullying, you still flinched at the thought of what they all said and did. You couldn’t forget!
I hated you because you remembered all of those moments.
But as I’ve gotten older, I still haven’t paused to tell you not only that I’m sorry, but thank you…
Thank you for putting up with me as I have learned to tune out what society says is “beautiful.”
Thank you for sticking with me, as I have endured physical, sexual, and emotional traumas that came not only at the hands of others, but sometimes, just with age and use!
Thank you for remembering what I couldn’t process when I was younger, because I can handle it now!
Body, you are kind of a badass, you know?
You literally contain all of my stories. Every scar, every mole, every stretch mark, every now graying hair, every fat roll, every wrinkle… you remember when I was 40 pounds lighter and you remember what I was 40 pounds heavier.
But you don’t judge me.
You haven’t left me.
You’ve just been here, like a loyal friend, waiting for me to understand how dedicated you are to keeping me safe, helping me make connections with what matters, and unconditionally, being mine.
I used to believe that even the flashbacks or the traumatic physical pain I endured the last two years, were part of some kind of deterioration of you, but they are the proof of life. You’ve shown me how I was kidnapped and you’ve even shown me how to pay the ransom to get you back…
It’s wild now, that at 37, I can finally look at you with love.
I’m sure that some will tell me that I can only love you when I’m a size 10 or less.
I’m sure that some will think that I can’t love you at 195 pounds because it was “better” at
I’m sure that some will think that you are wrong because of what you are attracted to and what you like and don’t like in the bedroom.
I’m sure that some will always have something to say about your skin, your hair, your clothes, your food, or your… essence.
But I’ve left this behind, like any other useless construct and I’m proud to say that you are mine.
There has been some kind of factory at work, industrializing the way we view our bodies, and checking them off by standards to which I never agreed. I see this in spirituality and relationships of all kinds. The “factory” mentality really hurt you and I’m sorry I was a part of it for so long. Just last year, when the doctors told me I may never walk properly again if I didn’t let them shove their knives into my back, I thought, “Why all this fear? How does that serve anyone?”
Learning to love you through the pain of abuse and specifically, the physical pain of the last year, has taught me that fear only keeps the status quo going – it keeps us believing that you are broken and there are thousands of tools to fix you.
You are not broken.
You are beautiful.
You are sexy.
You are my body…
And I am going to love you for as long as you are mine.
Thank you for teaching me how to breathe, when to pause, why to hope, how to stop, where my boundaries are, when to listen, why to love, how to trust…
Most of all…
Thank you for teaching me to love me. In the end, I honestly believe it’s what made me open to loving my wife… I had to come to terms with you, my Beloved Body.
I’m so glad we’re together and you house all of my stories.
I love you,
Gail’s Mind and Soul… 😉
Fore more information on understanding child abuse and sexual trauma, please check out the resources at RAINN.
Gail is an author, poet, blogger and activist whose book, Enlightened-ish chronicles her spiritual awakening experience after witnessing a suicide, grieving her father’s unexpected death and leaving a spiritual community. Her first book, “Coming Out of the Closet without Coming Apart at the Seams” was published in 2004. Gail has appeared in FOX DC News, SkyNews and Our America with Lisa Ling as an advocate for ex-gay survivors and young people. Her freelance work has appeared in God Allows U-Turns, Encounter Magazine, Blue Mountain Arts, and Outlook Weekly. “For Gail So Loved the World” is her blog, where she discusses spirituality, politics and social and emotional intelligence from a global perspective. Her spoken word pieces and drumming meditations are available on YouTube and she schedules private speaking engagements where these performances are shared. Gail is the only lesbian known to hold a Bachelor’s Degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Currently, Gail resides in the Washington, DC Area and serves her local community as the Executive Director of a nature-based early learning center.