Like many women, I've spent a lot of time harshly criticizing this earthly vessel the gods have cursed me with - i.e., my body. Nine thousand people could tell me I'm pretty, and I won't believe them. It seems like I find something new to hate about my body every week, especially now that I'm almost 40. I'm fat. I don't like my nose. My vision is getting worse. My back hurts. I have warts on my face. And a few weeks ago, I asked someone, "What's a 'snaggletooth'?" I'd heard the phrase a lot, but never knew what it meant - she told me what a snaggletooth is, and I was horrifed to learn that I think I HAVE one.
It's not that I'm not grateful that I am, for the most part, able-bodied. Members of my family have had to deal with devastating physical disabilities and mental illnesses from which I've been spared. I can walk. I can see. I can hear. Yes, I have a thorn or two, as do most people, and I spend too much time feeling sorry for myself about those relatively minor faults.
I wish I knew how this happened, but today a new thought popped into my head. If I treated a child the way I've treated myself, if I talked to my daughter the way I talked to myself in my head, I'd be arrested for child abuse. I've been downright cruel to this body of mine, not just in criticisms and verbal barbs, but in years of mistreatment and neglect. Those close to me know the mistreatment of which I speak; I won't rehash it for the world to read. But the bottom line is, I should be sick. I should be dead, even. There is no logical explanation as to why I still have a healthy liver or functioning kidneys.
It's really incredible, actually. Our bodies are so resilient. Yes, there are many illnesses, injuries, disabilities, but considering how many dangers there are around us, even in the air we breathe, it's amazing what we can live through. And what I've lived through, specifically. When the evidence suggests that I should have died from what I did to myself, yet I'm still alive, I have to believe that there is some important task I have yet to do on this earth, so I was protected.
For all the years I've called her ugly, weak, defeated, and worthless, my body didn't listen to me. It has refused to become what I've told it to become. She is a survivor, this body I live in. She survived. I'm a survivor. That's just what I am, and even when I don't feel it, the physical evidence is hard to deny. And when you're a survivor, you survive. That's just what you do. You survive - not just one thing, but all things. I'm not indestructible, but I'm a damn sight stronger than I've ever given myself credit for.
I wish I knew how this happened, because if I did, I'd write down the specific directions and keep them. Because I'm sure this pride and strength I feel now will pass in a day or two. For today, though, I'm a survivor.