Tag Archives: bodylove

offering kindness to our healing bodies

graffiti on a wall, surrounding a door. On one side of the door, a green-blue hummingbird hovers over a pink rose in full blossom. On the other side of the door, another, smaller, hummingbird hovers, head upright, wings outstretched. Good morning good morning. Outside the day is thickening into itself. Outside there is something to make yes of, and maybe. Outside the hummingbirds match the hummingbirds in the living room. We make flowers out of a glory hole. Yesterday you said, what is that bird? and I said, that’s crows doing cartwheels in the fog, and you said, write that down.

This morning, while waiting for the tea to steep, I go to do my sun salutations, and for the first time since I started this morning routine, my fingers went all the way to the floor. The loosening does happen. The tight places can relax, can come to trust relax. The tight places can lengthen you, allow you to lengthen. I thought about how I have valued a flexible body, wanted to be limber and loose, where others have valued strength and endurance.

I stretch, feel what wants to loosen in these muscles, feel what wants to relax. For the first week my back hollered at me each time I folded myself over at the waist, reaching hands toward the floor. At first my hands didn’t go much past my knees without my back complaining into tomorrow, without my back yelling no. So I just let my arms hang there, swinging a bit, feeling the pull in the muscles around my spine, where I have gone tight, where I hold things in.

The next day I do it again, and my fingers reach a little further down toward my feet. What’s the message in this? The patience, the waiting. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a body. But sure, it’s a metaphor, too.

Stretching a tight body is like building a new garden is like healing from violence. Patience, sustained practice, showing up, nurturing the soil the muscles the psyche, breathing deep into the anxiety, the place in you that says it’s never going to happen, we’re never going to see anything change, it’s always going to be this painful and this barren. Stretch again anyway, water again anyway, be easy with yourself again anyway.

The plot of land I’ve been gardening started out empty, a lot of it hard-packed clay and weeds. Yesterday I harvested cucumbers and zucchini and green beans (which in this case are purple) and one strawberry for a little boy who loves them.

There’s something about being limber, about being able to stretch backwards and feel where we were, about being able to stretch enough that we can ease into a different future. Maybe the stretch isn’t what’s the past, maybe it’s the tight that’s the past, holding muscles in, reminding us about fear and ache and pain. I try not to push my body too hard. If you pull too hard during a stretch and you are not warmed up, you can tear something, you can do damage. The body doesn’t need any more of that. She doesn’t need rough and hostile when she’s being asked to ease open, release. She needs tenderness, kindness, generosity. We’re so good at offering those things to other people. How often do we offer the to ourselves, to our own difficult and grieving and joy-laced bodies?

The stretching is about rhythm and routine. The sun salutation that I learned (from a book) is this: hands pressed together in front of chest, then press up, arms reach overhead, then lean into a backbend. Lean forward again, all the way over, hands to feet, to floor. Right foot back, lunge or whatever that’s called, then plank, then cobra, then downward dog, then left foot forward in lunge. Then back foot forward, hands on floor, again, then rise up, spine straightens, hands up and over the head and reach into another backbend, then hands part, arms swing down to the side. Bring hands together once more, pressed in front of chest. Thank you, morning. Good morning, sun.

This has been the fight for so long: How to keep going? How to trust that one more layer of healing will come soon, that the stuck parts will loosen, that you will continue to grow? What is the part of the universe you want to clean up, you want to help make better?

How to center, to take deep breaths, to ease into something you love, to be in the moment instead of in tomorrow or the day before yesterday. to promise to write, to love in the right now, to believe you deserve to be in that love, to trust the sun and the growth of plants. The garden reminds us about the long work of healing, and the fruits of our patience. Watch what grows, what doesn’t. Notice the places where nothing seems to be able to grow. What does that soil need, what nurturance, what promise, what nutrients? Then offer those things to the earth, to yourself. Trust the process, just for this minute.

What nurturance, what promise, what nutrients, what rhythms, what practices, what trust can you offer yourself this day? Write into that limbering, just let the words flow, practice releasing them exactly as they want to arrive onto the page. Thank you for your patience with yourself today, for being as easy with you as you are with others. Thank you, too for your words.

morning fragments

Good morning good morning. I like these dark hours, reaching for the keyboard when my eyes are still half-closed and I am yawning, my body and mind not quite yet awake. Everything is drowsy yet, still percolating. What do I want to say? I’m drinking some nettle tea to help with the allergies that have flared since I got back to CA. It’s darker now than it was at this time of day just a month ago — the light has already changed, the sun shifting backwards in her cycle (of course that’s only how it looks to those of us stuck here on earth, where we believe we are the center of everything), and coming up later and later in the morning.

My right knee is aching this morning, something popped while we were running yesterday afternoon, and now it hurts. the muscles in my right calf are fluttering, like just after a spasm, chattering, and my right shoulder is tense, too. Time to finally find a doctor. The pop happened just halfway, or not even quite, through my run around the lake yesterday, and I had to walk the rest of the way. I felt frustrated and disappointed with myself, my body: really, body? We finally found our way back into a desire to exercise, to move and sweat and feel and inhabit this physical container, and now we’re going to start falling apart? Can’t we have just a few years of joy and adoration in the movement, touching back into how we felt when we were small, in the time of Before? Is it really already too late?

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I have been thinking about the fact that it’s been 21 years since the last time my stepfather had his hands on me, when I was 21 years old. I have lived a lifetime, as long again as I’d been alive up to that point, and still I am blaming him for how my life has turned out, for the fact that I didn’t graduate on time and didn’t have any confidence in myself and took a left turn away from the road of success because I was afraid of money, of having something I cared about that could be taken away from me, could be used against me. And here I am still battling with that demon, still afraid to live fully, still he has won all of these years later.

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“Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same sort of tack I find necessary when writing a novel. I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed-and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

These are the morning thoughts. Take a deep breath. Focus. Let the words come. Turn to the novel and get some work done there before the sun has quite yet opened her eyes. Everything wants to get in the way of this one simple goal. I am finding this morning momentum again.

Radical self care as upheaval (part 4) – slow walk with paradox

keep going(In this series of posts about radical self care and/through major life change, I am finally taking some time to find the words for what I’ve been dealing with over the last month, since the birth of my nephew. I am thinking about how and why we choose to survive and how much effort is involved, how and why we choose to take care of ourselves, and how to allow ourselves to walk with all that life throws at us with even a modicum of grace and celebration.)

I remember they said it would be hard. I scramble
by luck into a little pocket out of
the wind and begin to beat on the stones
with my scratched numb hands, rocking back and forth
in silent laughter there in the dark—
“Made it again!” Oh how I love this climb!

This is what’s true: You can’t force a rhythm. When things are out of sync, you have to let them find their own way back into togetherness. Today I am going slow. I am listening to the birds outside, the spring birds, the ones just waking now, the birds hiding in the slowly-flowering apple tree, the ones that sit in the narrow pine at the back fence. I am listening to the candle flame flicker in its glass enclosure. I am listening to the puppy shudder in her morning dreams. I am listening for what wants to happen next.

This writing was supposed to come on Monday, but it didn’t. After a very full weekend, the writing went quiet, and so I didn’t force it. I wrote in the notebook, things not meant for public display, and I found poems for this space. Today I’m going slow — I’ll write, work in the garden, bake sourdough bread, and, while the sourdough is working its rise, I’ll work on a copyediting gig I’m in the midst of.

Sourdough is a thing that needs time to do its work, even more so than conventional yeast-raised breads. Sourdough bread is old bread, original bread. It’s a fermented product, just like pickles and sauerkraut and yogurt and  kombucha — there are probiotics in these foods that our bodies need for digestion and better health. I’m going to use sprouted wheat flour for the bread, which is supposed to be even better for you.

(I’ve started to look at un-fermented breads the same way I look at candy: I go into the cafe and look at all the candy lined up on those pastry shelves. That’s exactly how my body reacts when I eat a conventional croissant or bagel, something made with processed, bleached, enriched white flour—it’s just like I’ve eaten a half-a-bagful of jellybeans.)

I have started listening differently to my body — again. After the terrible depression I struggled with last month, I am listening again. For about a week now, I’ve been taking a new set of supplements, and have cut back on my sugar and dairy and gluten; while I will be going to talk to some different practitioners about how I can best manage my hormones and take care of my body, I got started with the information on this webpage. Please note: I’m not initiating all of these supplements and herbs at the same time! I started with things I’ve done before — multivitamin, fish oil, nettle and dandelion tea — and added the vitex, evening primrose, probiotics, and b-12. I’m starting with low dosages, letting my body acclimate. This is the time of the month when I’d usually be deep into my difficult mood, the big depression, the hard pull down. I can feel it inside me: the spikes of anger are there, I can certainly feel the flares that say, oooh, girl, you’re premenstural. But I don’t wake up deep in despair. I am paying attention.

Have you seen a Möbius strip? It’s one of those things kids get shown when adults want to demonstrate the concept of infinity, and paradox. They take a long strip of construction paper between two hands, twist it once, and then tape the ends of the paper together so that you have a loop with a twist in it. Then they say, Now look: if you drop your pen at any point and start making a line along the length of the paper, you’ll end up drawing on both sides of the strip without lifting your pen — how is that possible?

I remember being delighted by Möbius strips when I first discovered them, and made bunches of them, amazed every time that the strip of recycled paper from my dad’s old dot matrix printer had a line that traversed the whole surface of the paper; I never had to pick up the pen to get to the other side — this two sided piece of paper had turned into a loop that appeared to only have one side. How was that possible?

Sometimes our new topologies just don’t make logical sense to our old eyes, our old ways of thinking. We have to meet the paradox with curiosity — at least, that’s what I’m trying to do right now. Wonder and delight aren’t always easy when the boundaries appear to have moved indefinitely and I’m walking and walking on this new path with no end in sight, and those footprints next to me on the sand look an awful lot like my own. How can I slow down when I’ve got so much to do? Haven’t I been here before, in this place of major transition? When will the ground get stable under my feet again? When will everything make sense?

My intention right now is to go more slowly — on all fronts. Less multitasking, more hands in dirt and dough and changing diapers and holding the pen. What if this got to be a good life? How do we go slowly enough to be able to listen to what the birds were trying to tell us, or to discover that the path that we think keeps changing is actually the same one we’ve been traveling all along?

the gifts of radical breaking

graffiti of a hand emerging, strong and full, from a just-cracking-open eggGood morning this Monday morning. Outside my window the thick grey fog is just beginning to lift, and the song birds have returned themselves to my feeder (now that I’ve replenished the seed stock). I’m back in the saddle today, even if the saddle has shifted, even if I am sitting in it a bit oddly in order to accommodate the pain that’s still wrangling with me. I’ve got the tea and the candle, I’ve got the quiet apartment (outside chainsaws and jackhammering notwithstanding) and I’ve got the pull into these words.

How are you rising into your (creative or other) saddle today?

This morning I am thinking about how different this month turned out from what I had originally planned. After leaving my day job back at the beginning of the month, I fully expected to erupt into busyness. There was so much I needed to do, now that I was my working hours were going to be devoted only to my writing and to writing ourselves whole: I’d opened conversations with many folks around the area about new writing workshop ventures; I had promotions work to do for the workshops scheduled to begin in January; there are two (just two?) books to write; I needed to figure out my weekly schedule, exercise every day, calendar lunch/coffee dates with friends and colleagues, run the puppy, go go go go go.

And then guess what happened? I’ve spent the month recovering/recuperating from a back spasm that hit me on the fourth day of my new life. Instead of continuing on with the busy that I have built a worklife and work-identity around, I was forced (allowed, allowed) to find a new way to interact with my work as my body took full-on precedence in my every day. Continue reading

the soul’s own home is breaking open

Swadhistana Chakra, water colour by Vamakhepa

This morning I wrote into the fog of the day with this tea, this candle, these fingers on the keyboard. I’ve been writing this post all day, needing breaks to stretch, to walk, to nap. Maybe eventually I’ll get it done enough to share.

The pain in my back flared up again after I got back from Atlanta. I was worried about traveling, afraid that something would torque badly when I lifted my bag into an overhead bin or sat for so long in one position on the plane. Overall, though, my back seemed to be at ease when I was back east, and did not complain the way it is now. Could there be something about being back in Oakland, in the space I am creating for my writing work, that’s sparking this renewed spasming? Continue reading

the poetry of the soul’s home

(here I am listening to some of the brilliant writing shared on Sunday)

Good morning on a Tuesday. This morning is bright sun, warming my chilly apartment, is homemade oat & oat flour Irish soda bread, is a happy puppy settled into a sunspot, is the steam from the green and mint tea flourishing into the sunlit space before me. This morning is Cheb i Sabbah radio on Pandora, is time for morning pages at sunrise, is settling back into home after three days in Atlanta. This morning is Rumi and Minnie Bruce Pratt — this is a morning for poems.

What is this morning for you, so far?

I want to tell you about Atlanta, about the home-ness of it for me, and about a quiet Sunday morning in one of the last feminist bookstores in the country, and inviting a group of Atlanta writers to ease–through their writing–into their bodies. Continue reading

what’s at our backs?

stencil graffiti: "Et Apres...?"Good morning this good morning. Barack Obama is still our president this morning, isn’t he? They didn’t take that back, did they? Let’s hold him accountable to his commitments once again. We welcome the news this morning, and we move back into our work together.

I’m diving into a ten minute write with this quote:

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy” –Friedrich Nietzsche

Yesterday was a day with this body. We stretched and talked to friends about exercises, we let our vulnerability show. Today I’m conscious of how unergonomic my various writing locations are around the apartment, and, too, how much my body is trying to tell me. Continue reading

breathe into what tightens

sticker art of a turtle with one bulging eyeGood morning this morning. The light outside my windows today is warm and bright, and the crows are gathering on the other side of the fence to argue with a seagull about some tasty morsel. Today I am just in the moment. It’s all I can do. It’s what I get to do.

This morning’s blog is coming to you from a standing position — I’ve adjusted things in my apartment so that I can place my laptop on top of a bookshelf. I’m typing in between walking around my apartment and stretching, in response to a terrible lower back spasm. I’ve never experienced anything like this, and I’m scared. My body is talking to me in a new way this morning. How can I learn to listen?

Continue reading

results that aren’t results

This morning it’s late again when I sit down here at the keyboard and I remember that my body is always heavier, sleepier, more tired when she’s sleeping. We’re supposed to pretend like the blood doesn’t affect us, like everything’s normal. Well, everything is normal — this body is working extra hard during these days. Be unsurprised, ego-self, that the animal body has her seasons and cycles, has her rhythms and climbs, has her furrows, her sweet spots, has the moments when all she can do is lie down. Come and lie down with us. Bring a book. Now is the fallow time.

Last night was the Erotic Reading Circle at the Center for Sex and Culture, the monthly reading event I get to co-facilitate with the most-delicious Carol Queen. I am never disappointed at the ERC: last night we had stories about public-alley sex and masturbation and memoir about sex in SF in the mid-70s; we had the next installment of a fantasy piece, a story that taught me about the layers of exhibitionism possible at a nude beach, and D/s stories from both the D perspective and the s. The folks who come to the circle, both the regulars and the newbies, are without fail attentive listeners who are engaged with each piece being shared into the room — people pay close attention, give strong feedback, want to hear more. What a gift, to have a space where one’s erotic work is taken seriously. We meet again November 28 — maybe you’ll be able to join us one of these months.

Here’s what I want to tell you — the tissue around my microcalcifications came back benign. And today I go meet with a surgeon in the family practice department who will feel around where my primary care doctor originally felt around (and felt worried), and tell me if there’s anything going on that the mammogram didn’t pick up.

Continue reading

our bodies are not disposable

graffit of a tidal wave, painted in red on the side of a buildingGood morning good morning, my friends. This morning finds all the technology quieted because the batteries died in the night, next to me sleeping on  the couch on my back so that the (slight, ok, sure) bleeding would stop.

Let me back up. Yesterday, at about 9 in the morning, I got a biopsy in my right breast, after my first mammogram where they found a tiny gathering of micro calcifications and had no other photos to compare it to, no way to know whether this was a new gathering or a group that’s been hanging out together for awhile. And because I will be losing my insurance at the end of this month when I leave my day job, I decided to go ahead and do the biopsy now instead of waiting for 6 months for a followup mammogram and maybe having to do it then.

I woke up yesterday intending not to give the biopsy any energy at all. I didn’t want it to be a thing. I didn’t want to worry about it, because worry is negative energy and could affect the outcome of the tests. (What? This is what magical thinking looks like.) I expected to be in and out of there in under an hour, which the radiologist had lead me to believe would be the case.

My first clue that the day might not go quite that way was when someone took me back for a pre-procedure conversation that was meant to take half-hour. So that they could tell me about the whole procedure, again, and warn me about all the risks.


We sat in what had once been a procedure room, a room in some sort of midway state — machinery had obviously been removed, the walls were disheveled, and the floors not yet refinished. It felt furtive to meet in this room, like we weren’t worth an actual consultation space.

I have rants about the whole procedure, yet another in which a woman is supposed to position herself and then lie perfectly still while her breast is caught in a vise and people jab into it from beneath her, where she can’t see them. And about those goddamn gowns — don’t even get me started on the gowns. that’s what I expected I’d write about today. But I want you to feel that moment of transition when I understood that I wasn’t just in the doctor’s office to do some minimally invasive thing like get weighed or get a pap smear or get my blood drawn. The doctor here was drawing my tissue. From the inside of my breast.  I want to write about the moment I decided I wouldn’t go to work after all, that I’d go home and take care of myself (and let someone else help with that — which really is a whole ‘nother post).

I started to cry, just a little, in the mammogram room — we were doing follow up images, my sore and bruised and bleeding breast lifted into the compression machine again for two more pictures. I held my breast in between the shots, felt where she was numb, felt where she was beginning to hurt. I cried because it was a tender and radical thing to do, to just go home, to treat my body as though it had actually been invaded. Because it had been. This was not a little nothing procedure. This was a big deal. Not surgery, sure, not the most invasive thing ever. But something to pay attention to, and take care of myself after.

The puppy is standing sentry; she is worried about me. She came out to check on me often last night, wondering what I was doing out here n the living room instead of with her in the bedroom. It was bedtime after all. At nighttime we go here, mom. What are you doing?

This morning my heart is still pounding and I am still scared — not about the results, but about a life that doesn’t have any room in it for illness or emergency. Last night I wondered if I’d have to go to the emergency room. All day, my wound leaked a little blood. Not a lot, nothing at all excessive, but enough to register on, and then make its way through, folded pieces of gauze, then into the fabric of my bra. All afternoon I applied compression in 10-15 minute sets, jamming my fingers down into flesh that was already bruised and sore, trying to get the bleeding to stop. I was supposed to be wearing an icepack every hour for ten minutes or so, to help the swelling go down, but I didn’t do that very consistently until the very end of the night, until after my sweetheart finally had to go and I’d finished my bollywood movie and watched hours of silly tv, lying there flat on the couch. I’d done no work all day, left the email alone and piling up. I cried finally because the wound wouldn’t stop bleeding and I might have to go to the emergency room and I didn’t have time for that. I didn’t have time to take care of myself that way. I didn’t have time to take another day off of work; plus, I don’t have the sick time. I have a lot to do today, and all of it depends on my physical stamina and wellness — I have to clean the house (which includes vacuuming) and take care of the dog and prepare a meal and get to and from work and read and respond to many emails from people. I have work to do. I have no time to be sick.

What does it mean in our culture that most of us don’t have time to take care of ourselves. We treat our bodies as if we/they are as disposable as the rest of the packaging around us. We act as though once these bodies wear out, this part or that part, we can just go down to Ross or Office Max or maybe the Goodwill and get another one, almost as good, not quite as used up as what we’ve got now. Maybe you don’t behave this way toward your body. It occurs to me, now, that I have been.

I count on my physical capacity. Yesterday I met what lives on the underside of that assumption, the idea that I will always be able to handle everything that needs handling, alone if necessary: I can lift the heavy things and walk the pulling dog and clean the house and make the food and do the writing and walk myself back and forth to work. The life I have constructed revolves around the understanding that my body can accommodate significant physical demands.

Something had to give yesterday, and it turned out to be me. It turned out that my perfect schedule with all the moving parts meshed exactly right, that was the part that had to break open to let the pillows and soreness in. I would never have assumed that after a procedure like this, scheduled for 8 in the morning in order to accommodate a working schedule, that I would just go home. I felt weak, doing so, like I was giving in to something. To my body, I guess. Where does that idea come from?

No one at the doctor’s office told me I might want to take the day off from work after my biopsy. They just assumed I’d be going home. But who can afford that?

No one said, listen, your breasts are the site of a lot of trauma — especially your right breast — and now you’re opening that site up for strangers to handle and puncture into. Don’t be surprised if some loss and sorrow drops out. They don’t tell you about how to deal with that aftermath in their biopsy aftercare mimeograph.

I spent yesterday holding on to my breast, holding on to this place of pleasure and wonder and grief. I took acetaminophen and applied gauze and ice and ate easy food.  I needed help, and got to receive it. I can’t imagine what the day would have been like if I’d’ve gone to work, acting as though nothing had happened, that a giant needle hadn’t just been poked into my body and a bit of tissue carved out.

My breasts are heavy, and the puncture site from the biopsy needle is on the underside — gravity spent all day yesterday doing its thing. The bleeding finally stopped, and I am nervous about being upright all day, afraid that it will start again. It’s normal, I think, if I do. It’s normal to need help. It’s normal for our bodies to need to slow down, need rest, need care, need nurturing. How long before this idea becomes easier to handle?

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So, as a prompt, I wonder about giving 10 or 20 minutes to this idea of our bodies being disposable, that we can just run them into the ground and expect them to keep working, at the same capacity, forever. How do you (or your characters) relate to this idea? What comes up for your writing self? Start writing from those associations and then follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for honoring what care your body needs, even when it feels so hard to give it. Thank you for your generosity to self/-ves, and thank you for your words.