reading series 4.1

Picasso, 1959

April certainly began with a start – an influx of warm, sunny weather, the publication of one of my most beloved poems, the acceptance of one of my stories to be included in an anthology, a day trip with my lover, the Easter holiday, my mother’s birthday, a gathering with family, spring break for my children …

Whew! It’s been a bit hectic, which explains why I’m beginning the first series for April so late! Things have been really good, just busy. I still feel the change of season within me, a restless stirring that is telling me to spring clean and shake off the dormancy of winter. Most recently, I’ve been feeling the need to attend to myself and my body.

Last week, I got my hair done! Which probably does not sound very exciting! But I hadn’t actually had a professional haircut in many years. It’s an expense, definitely not something I would usually spend money on. To me, a professional salon haircut equates to money for food, clothes, shoes. How I spend money is almost always a question of need over want.

But I have a little extra money right now, and I wanted to use it in ways to make myself feel good. Sometimes, I think, our wants tell us what we truly need. And taking care of ourselves, even in simple ways, renews and replenishes who we are. I feel it is so important, to not only give what we can to others, but to give to ourselves as well.

Besides getting a haircut, I have also been getting back into doing yoga regularly. I just don’t feel as healthy as I want to be. For years, I did yoga on a regular basis and it had a wonderful affect on my mind and body. It is truly amazing how something as simple as taking a half-hour each day to stretch and pay attention to breath can have such far reaching effects. But it does.

I used to work at a university writing center, and I had a couple of sessions with a girl who was working on a cornerstone thesis paper about the mental, emotional, and physical effects of yoga. She had to use many “alternative” citations, but the overall findings were strong and overwhelmingly positive.

At the time, I was overweight, still carrying the residual weight from my two pregnancies. And I was also carrying years of depression, struggling with money, struggling with loss, struggling as a single parent, struggling as a writer. I was making changes in my life, and when I discovered yoga during this time, it had a transformational effect on me. For the first time in my adult life, I felt good about my body. I felt balanced, body and mind.

Our relationships to our bodies are complex. We grow older, we change. As a young girl entering puberty, I was upset and angry – I did not want to change. I was embarrassed by my body. I hated the way older boys and men were beginning to look at me. I hated the way the world’s perception of me was changing.

Now, I care very little about other people’s perceptions. I am who I am. I don’t hide my body. I don’t show it off either. I enjoy my femaleness. I’m comfortable in my own skin.

As a child, I had little body awareness. My first scar was caused by the sharp edge of a coffee table when I was about 10 months old. (I was a very early walker) Throughout my childhood, my body was a map of scars. I also had a few serious accidents.

The most serious accident happened when I was around 9 years old, riding on the back of a friend’s bicycle. My foot got caught in the spokes of the back wheel. The spokes ripped through the back of my heel and I received a little more than 100 stitches; I was out of school for months on complete bed rest. The doctors were not sure I would be able to walk again.

Throughout my teen years and into my early twenties, I remained distant from my body. I had developed the idea that the body was a cage for the soul. I longed to leave my body, and spent a lot of time focused on cultivating my mind. During these years, my mother would often comment that I tried to make myself as “un-pretty” as possible.

My mother would look at me with my boy-short, sometimes shaved, dyed black hair, and shake her head in disapproval. I wore combat boots and utilitarian clothing. I scarred my body further with piercings and tattoos. I don’t think I wanted to be “un-pretty”; I think I was in some way rejecting the female ideal. I think I wanted people to see *me*, who I was inside, beyond the external image of gender and beauty.

When I became pregnant in my early 20s, all of my previous ideas about the body fell aside. Suddenly, I was in awe of my body. In absolute awe. Seeing the body change in response to pregnancy is humbling. The body simply takes over, speaking the language of all of creation.

The body does not know image or beauty; it just is. When the body unfolds, it reveals knowledge our brains can’t even begin to comprehend. This knowledge is also revealed through sex, through dance, through yoga – whenever we are completely engaged with the body.

Despite all of my body issues, I always felt comfortable being naked with another person. Even knowing that I was flawed, and that sex is the ultimate body reveal, I was willing to reveal myself because I was so curious and interested in the shared intimacy of sex.

In some of my poems, I repeat lines I’ve written. Sometimes a line from one poem will show up in another poem. I’ve often come back to a particular line I’ve written – “searching the surface of skin for the key to the soul” – In many ways, I feel that this speaks a deep truth about what happens when we truly engage with the body.

Today I want to share a few poems I’ve written about the body at different points in my life. Click here to read three poems I’ve written about the body.

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