There is a place in my body that feels in ruins. There is a prevailing sadness surrounding those ruins that holds both the goodness and the violence of my life. It is a place where I lost hope, pleasure, sustenance and contentment. It is a place that grows both pregnant with life and ideas as well as feels tight and out of control, because it is forever changing throughout the rhythms of my life. It is the place I have done the most violence and have not attended to the goodness that breathes within. That place is my gut.
I hesitate to go here in my writing because I live with it every day of my life. It feels old, dull and redundant. I’ve felt resistance, and I have wanted to avoid the deep ache that has ruined so much of the goodness I brought to the table as a 17 year-old girl. There was so much promise and potential that was destroyed and lost…. and the ache doesn’t go away.
I was a vibrant and carefree 17 year-old. My peers would say I had it all, and I did…until I didn’t. It shifted quickly at the dinner table. I had just enjoyed good food, good conversation, laughed and reminisced when my attention was forever altered by my dad’s words. He said, “Mary, if you continue to eat like that you are going to be big and fat. There are a lot of big and fat women on my side of the family, and you are going to be one of them.” The violence started immediately as I escaped to my room and pounded my stomach with my fists. Metaphorically, I’ve been pounding it ever since.
I struggle here to extend kindness to myself. It is easier to violate unto death the goodness that percolates within. I want to deaden the life of desire and joy that honors my passion, my generosity and my truth . The “fist pounding” accomplishes just that…until it doesn’t.
Last week I had a bout of the stomach flu. It was difficult for me to give into my weakened body. I wanted to forge ahead, act as if I could ignore the nausea and the pain. I didn’t want to give in even by admitting to John that I didn’t feel well. My body felt vulnerable to disappointing him and betraying me. I had been here before, lashing out on my body as I did over my dad’s words. I felt myself sinking and annoyed. I felt exposed. I felt needy. I wrestled with my body and my heart…what was I to do with myself?
I was at a crossroad…the one I have bumped up against over the years. Do I forge ahead alone, denying my body the rest and care it so needed? Do I allow John in on my pain? Do I ask for what I want? Do I embrace my weakness by inviting him to join me there? Do I allow myself to attend to the care my body was aching for?
Can I give my body permission to not be perfect?
These are all good questions that await me at the crossroad. Last week I made the choice to travel down the road of kindness and leave the violence behind.
I will continue to restore the ruins of that place in my body one day at a time. It has longed for my kind attention. It has felt peaceful to invite John in to embrace me there. It is good to release the tightness, the control and to be pregnant with the goodness of my life to become.
Know that I will be standing at that crossroad again…probably sooner than later. God has gifted me with my body, and it is a good and powerful one. My desire is to continue to love it well…especially my gut!
Mary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.
this happened w/my father too. He prized slender women and both is wives were underweight. He saw and still sees it as a class issue.
I’m sorry your father’s view of women is based on their size. Thank you for reading and responding.
“I was a vibrant and carefree 17 year-old.” Dear Mary Jane, I sorrow in how that vibrance was stolen from you for a time. Your gut has suffered, Your heart has suffered as well. And when I look at your photo and remember the times we have been face to face, I see that vibrant woman grown. Yes, still fighting at times to care well for yourself. That speaks to the deepness of the harm suffered at the table of your father. Yet I see a lovely woman who fights well for yourself much of the time. And you also fight well for others – you have fought for my own heart at times. Thank you friend for your words of honesty and and inviting me to be more in attune to care well for my own body. love, Valerie
Thank you, Valerie for your encouraging words. I appreciate you and your kindness in reading my posts.
Mary Jane, you have no idea of the timing of these words and story………it is exactly what I needed to hear this morning as I have begun to face the enormous amount of violence I have done to my body. You bring hope. You bring opportunity for choice. You bring honesty. Thank you so much! God used your willingness to expose and offer to bless me tremendously this morning.
Cindy, I feel so blessed that I could bring hope your way. I trust the choices you make will ones carrying goodness and kindness for yourself. You deserve it. Love you, my friend!
Thank you Mary Jane for sharing your heart, your questions and your desire to choose life in the crossroads…a true pioneer of kindness – your vulnerability is a blessing.
Thank you, Ellen. I so appreciate your encouraging words. I miss you, my friend!
Oh, I know that feeling! My Mother and I struggled every time I had to have new clothes. I was quite heavy in high school, but In college I lost 50 pounds and managed to keep it off and loose it between children. But a new work schedule and age has allowed me to curb my fighting and I carry that weight again. So it came as a shock to me, thinking I was done with that battle, when I stood before a mirror in a ladies clothing store and the words “You will always wear old ladies clothes; things that look frumpy…” in my Mothers voice stabbed my 64 year old heart like an arrow. I teared up a little and the sales woman who was helping me asked if I was okay. I shared a little of the problem. She stopped me mid word; took my hands in hers, looked deeply in my eyes and said, “You are beautiful, and we are going to find just the right outfit that will let that beauty shine through.” They were new words of courage and grace to my body. I will forever think of them when I look for clothes. God spoke to me through the touch and the heart of a woman who understood my feelings and crushed the lie. I am grateful.
Kathy, I, too, am grateful for the kind words spoken to you that gave you courage and grace. What a wonderful gift that lady gave you! I love the honesty of your heart. Thank you for reading and responding to my post.
You were my leader at couples week right as God chose to invite me deeper into my story with my body. There were good gifts for us in our together journey. But much more striking was the impact of your honesty and the kindness with which you spoke of your body.
Thank you for your encouraging words and I, too, remember you. I’m glad that honesty and kindness were present. Know that I appreciate it that you read and respond to my post.
Thanks for being so transparent. Wish we were closer through the years. My story is a bit different…but still a struggle with food. It became my comfort as my dear father suffered manic depression. My mom would call me home from college to get him out of bed. This week is the first time I will tell much of my story at an older ladies tea. Pray for me on Thursday. It also includes our cross-cultural marriage challenges. Pray for me on Thursday.
Thank you for writing, Judy. Bless you for your willingness to share your story. You will encourage others. I am praying. Keep your chin up and give others the goodness of your eyes.
Thank you for sharing so beautifully. I have just begun the journey of learning to embrace and love my body after 30 years of at best ignoring it, at worst utterly hating it. God keeps bringing things up about body everywhere I turn. There’s so much in this article that is shifting and changing things in me. Thank you, thank you!
Sarah…you are so very welcome. My hope for you is that each day will bring you closer to the woman you desire to become and that those days will be filled with kindness. You deserve so much goodness in that body of yours…take it…love it…and live!
Oh yes…your gut. So thankful that you continue to engage here friend. Love you!