My Body, My Stories

giantess on Cape CodWhen I hug someone I tend to reach out with my right arm and offer a gentle squeeze.  For really close friends (or very poignant moments), I’ll  hug with two arms, but it’s rare.  My reason for the one-armed hug isn’t because I’m reticent to hug people, but it has to do with nerve damage to my left shoulder, the scars from my long-ago chemo treatments that left that area rigid and sore.  For many years that shoulder has been curled in slightly–because of the tightness from the scar tissue across the front and because I was somewhat subconsciously protecting it from being exposed.

So this is on my mind as I consider where I am today, as someone whose body not only bears the stories of my cancer treatment and surgeries, but also the indelible marks of my life as a mother (those stretch marks across my lower belly and breasts that hang lower from nursing) and many years being married and sexually active with the same man.  I’m somewhat resentful that all of these experiences are tangibly inscribed in the contours of my body in ways that they aren’t on my spouse’s body, which makes me even more conscious of the sacrifices I made as a married woman who bore children.

And this brings me to the point where I wonder if I will ever want to be body-intimate with anyone again in that same way I was with my spouse.  Will I want them to touch my shoulder and the other places that hurt or have painful stories embedded in the skin?  Will I want to be vulnerable and open, after having been hurt so terribly in the process of this divorce?  Will I ever feel that someone could savor a body like mine–that has experienced so much?

Or perhaps more importantly, will I ever care about someone else enough again to want to hear the stories of their body, and be ready to hold those in my heart?garden love

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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8 Responses

  1. EmilyCC says:

    Beautiful post, Jana. When I was a teenager, I remember my mom and another woman talking about their spouses. The woman said, “You know, if Mike died, I think I’d just be done and wouldn’t remarry.”

    I didn’t get that at the time, but now, I often wonder the same thing myself. It’s a lot of work to allow someone the level of intimacy that’s required in a marriage, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If divorce or death separates me and Nate (particularly divorce), I don’t know if I’d be up for opening myself up to another person.

    Blessings on you and your body as you continue on this journey.

  2. Matt says:

    Jana, I wasn’t aware. Just wanted to say that you and John both have created beautiful things, together and apart. Whenever I’ve looked in your direction, all I’ve ever seen is beauty. Thank you.

  3. x2Dora says:

    The question you ended your post with resounded with me. I’m single and actually hunger for connection. I’ve wanted to care and be cared about in this manner. But it’s just never been quite right. Sometimes it’s me. Sometimes it’s … not. It brings to mind a line from Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. Something along the lines of, “I loved him. But I loved my freedom more.” Someday, I want to be able to love someone more than my freedom.

  4. Stephanie2 says:

    I’m somewhat resentful that all of these experiences are tangibly inscribed in the contours of my body in ways that they aren’t on my spouse’s body, which makes me even more conscious of the sacrifices I made as a married woman who bore children.

    This is a powerful, painful statement on mortality.

  5. Jessawhy says:

    Great post, Jana.

    In the past, I’ve felt like my body was the all-purpose family-use machine.
    Beginning Zumba for me has been a way of reclaiming my body. I use it to dance and people don’t see my children or my husband (of course I’m too far away for them to see the stretch marks), they just see me. I love that. I love using my body for good that is beyond my family, it is very fulfilling.

    But the idea that the marks left from life as a wife and mother are “tangibly inscribed” reminds me of Jesus’s marks. I’ve never made the connection in quite the same way. Thank you.

    I wish you all the best now and in the future.

  6. Stephanie2 says:

    But the idea that the marks left from life as a wife and mother are “tangibly inscribed” reminds me of Jesus’s marks.

    This is a powerful comparison.

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