Sunday, March 26, 2006

Being My Body

One day shortly after I had turned thirteen years old, I remember I had gone through an especially moody day. I'd been ecstatic and miserable, delighted and lost--all multiple times within a span of hours. I remember a particular moment that day (Virginia Woolf calls it a moment of being) as I walked through our dim cellar, ducking my head under the low pipes, passed the old stagecoach toy trunk my Dad had made for my brother and I, over to my Mom who was moving the wash over to the dryer. I remember it was somewhere in that space that it dawned on me: I was an adolescent!

This thought was accompanied by one of those ecstatic moments of utter delight. It had happened to me, finally! That night, I wrote in my diary: "Today I officially entered adolescence. I was happy one minute and miserable the next. Then happy again. And this is exactly what happens with adolescents." I loved being aware of it in the moment, even if I can see now that it was a bit contrived. I was marking my own passage. I knew my body and myself were changing. It was a threshold moment.

This morning, during prayer at church, I sat staring at my hands. I had been noticing them all morning, actually. On the drive over I'd become suddenly aware of them. The skin on my hands is changing. It seems thinner somehow. And the lines in them are more visible, deeper. The wrinkles and crinkles are not just on my knuckles, but ease along the whole back of the hand. The night my grandfather died when I was sixteen years old, I sat beside my grandmother with her hand in mine. Her hands were deeply wrinkled then, with skin that seemed loose to them. Her veins were clearly visible. I held her hand and thought: "I'll always know how old I am by my hands. Some day my hands will be beautiful like this."

Lately, too, I've taken no small amount of delight in the grey strands that are starting to streak through the front of my hair. They greet me every time I check the mirror. I'm very, very fond of their joyous appearance.

Also, I see the lines around my eyes that betray how much I've smiled, out-right laughed, and squinted into the sun over my lifetime so far. Like my hands, the skin on my face is changing. Subtly, I'm sure. But I see it.

These are small things, but certain. Small ways that my body and myself are changing again as a woman who can now see 40 on the horizon. And just as I did when I suddenly realized I'd "officially entered adolescence," I celebrate these changes. They amaze me!

A week from today we'll celebrate E's eighth birthday. It dawned on me recently that that means it has already been nine years since I was pregnant. Now that nearly floors me, because I remember it all so well. As if it were last year, not nearly a decade ago.

Now I have this wonder-filled privilege of seeing my boy grow into his own body (even as I continue to grow into my own). E and I both had a pretty rough time this past week. E had his disappointment with the chess match on Monday, but also generally had a week where his emotions were close to the surface. Lots of tears. And I lived into that no-where-land of trying to meet daily obligations while keeping the long-term destination in close focus. D wisely suggested to E that his recent tears have been the sign that he's in the midst of changing, in a time of transition. "Maybe it's turning eight," he said.

Yes. Marking changes.

1 comment:

srf said...

The gift of tears indeed. As I flew from West coast to East coast last Thursday, I could not stop the flow of tears (much to the distress of the young couple sitting next to me). I had not connected them, as wise D did, to the transitions of this time in my life. Bodily, emotional, academic, and relational changes have marked every part of my life lately, from the intensity of comps and dissertation, to the 30-yr old adolesence that no other women in my life (except J) alerted me to. I know I said earlier that I was taking on a Lenten discipline of napping this year, and I have tried to do so, but it just dawns on me now, that each nap I've managed to take was marked, either in waking or falling asleep, by tears. Perhaps it is more accurately a Lenten discipline of tears. Seems somehow appropriate... and makes yearning for resurrection even more embodied.