living in a body

distorted image“It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.”  – David Foster Wallace

Our theme this past week was ‘living in the body’ based on Joyce Sutphen’s poem of the same name. The first line reads, “Body is something you need in order to stay/on this planet and you only get one…”

I challenged the women present to ask themselves, “Which version of yourself do you see when you look in the mirror?” This is a question that few of us on the outside have the time to stop and consider on a daily basis. But the women present within the circle pointed out that they have nothing but time to contemplate just such ideas. As we continued to talk about the different ways we tend to view our relationship to our bodies, a theme emerged: the image we hold of ourselves in our unedited mind’s eye vs. the image others see.

When I watched E.B. read her words aloud, I did not see the person she described in front of me…..

My body of armor is what I see to hide all the scars of my broken past. In the mirror I see long smooth legs, soft caramel skin without track marks or bruises, perfectly straight eyes – that haven’t been touched by a surgeons hands. Strong healthy arms that can not only hold myself, but others as well, nails show color of different shades, not bleeding broken skin from my anxiety within – This vision I long to see is who I used to be. But I let drugs and negativity get the best of me. I cannot pull the wool over my eyes and pretend to be something I’m not.

I have these scars to remind me of who I am and the journey I’ve been on.

I see me. I am real.


reach for more

'Winter Beauty' hybrid honeysuckle

‘Winter Beauty’ hybrid honeysuckle

As is my custom, each week I create a ‘found poem’ from lines written the previous week by women participating in the writing inside circle. This is a particularly interesting challenge for those weeks when I am not present as facilitator. Reading these lines ‘cold’ and out of context simply prompts me to find the thread that will tie them together. Perhaps the result is a narrative, or perhaps, a mood-setting vignette of condensed and coalesced memory. Either way, I am as eager as the dozen or so expectant faces turned toward the reader of those combined lines to gauge the pulse of the resulting piece. Did I capture something? Does it speak to them? Does it resonate with their original intention(s) or distort their individual voice so much they cannot even recognize their own words?

It is important to understand that, for these women, this is much more than an exercise. It is an opportunity for them to shine; for their words to mingle into a mixed message of hope, longing, despair; for them to see themselves, through their words, as part of something bigger than their own thoughts and feelings, to become part of a communal tapestry of experience. A slice of life, if you will.

So when a long-time writer with the group pronounced the following ‘found poem’ “just beautiful” as she asked to read it last Thursday, I listened with extra attention to sense how it would hit her sister writers, now prepped to receive with her assessment. What I heard was the gentle hum of mmm’s around the table as they recognized both their part and the whole they had become part of creating, a brand-new expression of love, loss and longing that started with individual’s writing on Valentine’s Day one week prior.

Hear the clock –  tick, tock –
it’s time I must go
retrace the steps of everywhere I’ve been:
the drugs, the crazy nights, the binges;
back to the 15-year-old version of myself
I was taught and shown in a strange way.
If I were able to erase all the scars,
I’d be able to open my eyes and see
we outspent the repercussions. Continue reading