My Body, This Blog, This Fire

[1] In keeping with my annual tradition, I’m sharing with the internet what is on my mind as one Gregorian year closes and another begins.

In some ways, my life changed drastically this year, but in other ways, it did not. It’s those lack of changes that trouble me as 2013 closes. Moving, changing my physical location, my job, did not change me much, because these things are external to me. I’ve always been very good at keeping to myself when the world changes around me.

But, I ask, who am I?

I have spent a lot of time resenting my body — that I I have one at all; that I have to take care of it, cut my hair, exercise, eat; that other people judge me for it, my perceived gender, my size, my clothes; that I don’t like the way it looks; that the older I get the more it seems to hurt and ache.

I feel trapped inside it. I feel weakened by it. It is a limitation and a hindrance.

I prefer to think of myself as filled with gears and lights and wires instead of fragile organs and bones and tissue that will eventually  wear down and die. As I start 2014, I am sick with a head cold that has knocked me flat, and I wonder if this is my body’s way of telling me something, telling me that it matters, telling me that resent it all I like, it’s still just as much a part of me as my sense of humor or my intellect or my friendships or the rest of existence reflected in me.

The point is, I can’t escape my body. I fear I have become like Socrates, viewing the living body as a sickness, something that gets in the way of contemplation. It might have worked for Socrates, but I’m not a dualist. I don’t believe in souls. I don’t believe that any personal part of me will continue on after my body dies. So it’s foolish of me to hold so much resentment toward the thing enabling me to live and to think.

If you know me at all, you know I can’t sit still. A good friend of mine once describe my behavioral pattern as: fidget, fidget, fidget, fetal position. And that description is spot on. I fidget constantly. If you’ve ever tried to take a picture of me, it probably came out blurry.

The thing I have seemed to forgotten is that I feel better when I move. I need to move.

I got rid of my car a few months ago, but earlier this year, I needed a repair. When it was ready, I walked in the rain to Central Automotive to pick it up. The mechanic took in my wet hair and jacket and told me I could have called for a ride, and my answer is what it always is — I’ve got feet. Now that I have to rely more on my feet to run errands and to commute, I’ve found I enjoy walking and relying on my feet, instead of my car, to take me where I need to go.

The banks of the Mississippi

The banks of the Mississippi

I also started jogging this past year. It’s an involved process of wrapping my feet (tendinitis), bracing both knees (chondromalacia patellae), and relying on a treadmill because I have difficulty breathing outside (exercise-induced asthma and allergies). I’m never going to win a race or make admirable time, but I am going to keep it up because I feel better when I move.

It’s been too long since I felt connected to the physical world in any real or significant way. I used to work outside, and I enjoyed that work more than almost any other job I’ve had since. I used to keep plants around so I could at least dig in the dirt a little. When I lived in Memphis, I would go down to the Mississippi River and sit on the rocks along the river banks whenever I felt lost or disconnected.

There’s a reason why “grounding” spans across cultures and traditions, and I’ve lost that along the way. I’m floating above everything instead of sinking in, and it’s hurting me, all of me. 

So as I go into this new year, I think connecting to my body is the first step.

[1] Title comes from Michel Foucault’s essay, “My Body, This Paper, This Fire” that appeared in the second appendix to History of Madness as a response to Derrida.

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