Dear Bodies: Letters to ourselves
As a companion to Trust Tending’s body theme, this page is designed to hold and honor letters that readers write to their bodies. I hope it becomes a source of healing and inspiration for those of us yearning for greater peace and connection with our bodies.
If you’d like to add your own letter to this page, please email it to me at kristin t noelle at gmail dot com. Feel free to request that I post it anonymously, or to include your name and website address.
Much warmth to you, where ever you are with your body,
i can’t whistle
I’ve started this letter a few times now, and realized that I am so out of touch with you that I do not even know where to begin.
The last time I wrote I was trying to love you in spite of all of the changes you’d gone through carrying a baby at the age of 43. I was bemoaning my lack of elasticity even as I realized what an amazing job you’d done – holding, nurturing and, finally, releasing a new person into the world. But you had changed so much I felt I did not even know you.
Now here we are, months later. I find myself taking you for granted. I do not recognize the strength you’ve built, holding this bigger and bigger baby with one arm while zipping up pants, or the million times we bend over and stand and how amazing it is that that still works.
So I want to say this: thank you. Thank you ancient knees, even as you serenade me with creaks and groans and ominous crackling noises. You bend and straighten, hold my weight and then some. Thank you back, for holding weight you did not sign on for – for letting me twist and straighten, for letting me hold myself up, and let myself lie still. Thank you fingers for learning how to sweep banana from chins, for checking diapers, for stroking cheeks. Thank you heart, perhaps most of all, for being strong enough to keep trying when there was every reason to stop, for being so open to something so terrifying as parenting, for being willing to be a beginner in every moment, for embracing this new life with a cautious attention that I hoped for but dared not expect. And thank you, too, for opening to a love bigger than I could imagine. Thank you head for shutting up more often than I thought you could, to let me feel my way through this, to let myself not know.
Never have I been so humbled.
And to my belly: yes, you may always look like a stranger to me now, and not a stranger that I like very much. But as I sit and put my hand on the soft squishy foreign land, I am beyond grateful.
Journey Back to Self
Dear body of mine,
I wanted to first say I am so sorry for the way I have been mistreating you over the years. I go from being really aware of all your flaws to completely ignoring you all together. We have been on a bumpy ride the two of us, never quite comfortable together. I know part of this was no fault of ours but now it is time to get back on track and learn to live together in a healthy and loving way.
I want to say I love you to my upside down bowling pin legs, my over 40 belly, my bumpy toes and old man lined hands. I want to say forgive me to my smile for neglecting it for fear of judgment over a front tooth which is crooked due to a beloved niece knocking her head into mine.
I want to promise you that I will try to always fill you with nourishment and love and forgive me for those days when only grilled cheese and chocolate will do. I want to start moving with you more, getting into the flow of an active life. And though we may have some health concerns to deal with I will do my best to keep us as healthy as I can and respect and love you as I would a dear friend.
But most of all I want to say thank you for always being here for me even when I felt unsafe and unloved. May we have many healthy and happy years ahead of us.
How do I begin to thank you, to sing your praises for all that you’ve done for me and do for me daily? You. You. You amaze me. You astonish me, with your strength, your resiliency, your dappled beauty. I don’t think I’ve told you this anywhere near enough, but I adore you. I am deeply grateful for what you do so effortlessly: breathing, digesting, nourishing, getting rid of what I no longer need, repairing, resting, giving me so much good input and insight. You keep me safe, and you protect me. You allow me to feel and taste and touch and smell and see and hear. You make it all possible. You. You.
You gave me my two beautiful beloveds. You birthed them so beautifully, so efficiently, so well. Thank you. And you allow me to experience them so deeply now—to touch, caress, cuddle, hug, kiss, smell, gaze at, tickle, snuggle, pat, tuck. Thank you.
You get me where I’m going. You accomplish so much. You do intricate work—like writing these letters on the page—and you do expansive stuff like running and dancing. You stretch and sweat and generate energy and replenish my resources each and every day. Amazing.
I’m afraid that, up to this point, I haven’t given you the pleasure you deserve. I intend to give you an abundance of delight from here on out. Your loyalty, your steadfastness, is not lost on me—I appreciate it immensely. And I intend to celebrate you in every good way, to make you feel AMAZING on a regular basis. Tell me what that is. Show me the ways to delight you, and I promise I will deliver them.
I know some of what you like: the scent of vanilla extract, cool tiles underfoot, the sound of bells, the sight of lighting bugs, and gazing at the moon. But I ask you to show me more. Show me ALL of what delights you. Show me everything you desire and I will give it to you. I want to do this. I want to reciprocate for all the love and loyalty you have given me in this life. I commit to your true pleasure, to your real joy. I want to learn to make you not simply happy but ECSTATIC. This is going to be so much fun! Big time sensuality. At last.
Thank you for waiting for me to get to this point. Thank you for your patience. I will say it, I will shout it: You are beautiful. You are perfect. And I love you.
Words from Camilla
I have always hated you, even when you were thin. I want you to be thinner than you are now. The irony is that you used to be too thin, and even then I wanted you to be thinner. Now that you are overweight, I still long for you to be thin. I think, if only you were that thin again, I would be happy. But I wouldn’t be. I’d want you to to be thinner. To weigh even less.
Men find you attractive. I wonder what is wrong with them. There must be something wrong with them, if they desire you. I do not find you desirable. I do not enjoy the pleasures of you, my body.
Feeling beautiful is about more than thinness and a number on the scale. I need to learn this lesson. Commit it to heart. Literally, to heart. To love you.
It is time to have a healthy attitude about you. To eat properly, to exercise. To take joy in your strength and stamina. If I love you, truly love you, my body, and treat you with the respect you deserve, your beauty will shine through, and I will see it too.
Dear Physical body,
It’s not that dislike you, it’s just that I don’t care to think about you very much.
Which is odd because one would think you’d be one of the most Undeniably Real and Present Things in my life. I can see you, touch you, hear you and (thank you very much) smell you. You are my closest partner in life. I have a voice and a face and a presence on Earth because of you.
God, thank you.
In most ways I Am you, and yet most of the time I feel behind you. Or alongside you. And pretty different from you. Is that why I don’t like to think about you very much? Do I think we’re at odds? Do I owe you money? Is there something we need to talk about?
Why is it I so often neglect to even think about what you’re like, what you want, or that you even exist? Am I fantasizing about the possibility of a disembodied life, like an angel with amnesia? My friends who subscribe to reincarnation say we’ve all had dozens of lifetimes with all kinds of bodies. Have I gotten snagged somewhere?
If I think about it, most of my adult life I have been taught conflicting beliefs about you. I’ve heard it’s bad to be self-centered, so in some seasons I’ve tried to ignore you, your desires, your drives and appetites. I feel sorry about that and what we’ve missed out on together. I’ve also heard that a body is one of our only assets in this life, so in other seasons, you’ve been in my thoughts with deadly serious disciplines of eating and exercise. Those days I’ve had “Should” notes on the fridge and lists on my dresser which have brought me feelings of guilt.
Thinking back through 44 years as a man, though, I’m not sure if you have cared much either way. I think you’ve only wanted me to enjoy my life and to be kind.
You know I like to think of myself as a fairly enlightened person. It’s humbling to be confronted with blind spots. As strange as it seems to me that I’ve either thought way too much about you or deny you completely– kind of like insurance– it Does makes sense for only one reason I can think of:
I think I’m a little afraid of you.
Is that possible?? What’s that about?
Maybe you seem so powerful sometimes that I am scared of embracing you fully. Or rejecting you fully, for that matter. [Deep breath] What would happen if I gave myself to you all the way? What would it look like for me to be All In for this lifetime. With This body. Just as it is now, and as it will change. (That’s a question.)
There’s something here that’s important. Maybe you have a word for me about this. I will be listening.
To close, I thank you for 44 years of faithfulness in this marriage of mind + body + spirit + whatever. I am grateful for you being with me through so many years and seasons. You are my most wise teacher and partner in this life. [A deep bow to you.] Thank you for all you’ve led me into and followed me into.
Life After Benjamin
You are a miracle.
I have spent my life alternately connecting with you deeply and ignoring you completely. Sometimes I’ve done both at the same time, in different ways. We learned to work together early on – me telling you to stretch and bend, plie and pirouette, leap and glide and you listening, learning, growing stronger and more expressive by the day. You were beautiful and I had no idea. I found you imperfect – too tall, too muscular, too earth-bound. We grew into each other, discovering our likes and dislikes. I pushed you to limits and paid the price. I let you off the hook. We danced together, feeling heart and spirit soar.
You knew touch too early – the touch that should be reserved for consenting adults. You did not consent. You absorbed guilt, shame, and pain. You sensed sadness and took that on too, holding it so far inside that even when I looked, I could not find it. You discovered a loving, gentle touch but the shame was such a part of you that unfettered joy was a distant dream.
You were admired, adored, worshipped, lusted after, held, hurt. You began to speak to me – in dreams and in waking. Sometimes I listened. Often I did not. We followed one path, then left it to pursue another. We got closer. I discovered that you held memories, voices, feelings, and thoughts. You had your own clear, powerful voice, different from the one I used to speak out loud. I sought to access your knowledge, mining it as diamonds and gold. We practiced our craft – you and voice becoming the expression of heart and mind. And still I found you lacking. I opened you up in one area only to shut the door in another. I allowed you to be over-full, to be hurt, to be overworked and under-loved.
We earned money together you and I. We danced and sang, posed for pictures that would fill photo albums all over the world. I numbed your ache with alcohol and drama, even while demanding you perform at your highest level. We spent a decade in and out of sadness and self-loathing, weight loss and gain, new experiences and old pains. We went to therapy, you and I. You sat cross-legged as I told my story and tried to understand.
Another decade is almost done and here we are. Still together. Still exploring. You’ve known heartbreak that made you feel as though you would shatter but you didn’t. You ached from the trauma and still, you carried me through. You came to a point where you could have given up, could have surrendered to the tug back home but you didn’t. You began to heal. In your desire to stay alive and mine to find joy, we have grown closer than ever. I’ve learned how many secrets you’ve kept hidden away, how many hooks were buried deep. The scars are more elastic than the skin that they replaced, and I can look at them with love for the first time. I have watched you change so many times and I am finally beginning to see you with the eyes of acceptance. The space between your cells is vibrating at higher rates and life is changing at an astounding rate. I feed you differently – both with food and activity. We are relearning pleasure, relearning joy. You are shedding the weight you no longer need to hide behind. I am imperfect – still finding ways to make you wait, still learning what you need to thrive. But you, dear sweet body, you are perfect. Holding my hands over my heart I bow to you with tears in my eyes. Thank you for carrying me so well, for so long. I’m sorry. I love you. Let’s dance.
We’ve been together a long time now—you certainly deserve a love letter. Where do I begin?
I love how you love the earth—birds so delight you, the ocean deeply speaks to you, your joy in encountering wild animals, your satisfaction in gardening and preparing food from it in season. I love this beautiful earthiness about you—that you love being outside and come so especially to life when you’re outdoors, especially in wilderness and sunlight. This is so beautiful about you—that you connect with the land and her waters and delight to learn about the trees and the plants, the geographies and geologies and human-cultured histories of connection with the land, the rocks and the birds and the animals and bodies of water. You educate yourself about the world around you and delight in being better and better acquainted with where you are and where you lived. I find that so beautiful.
I love the earth that is your body. Long and lean, graceful and strong. I see it in your graceful, slender fingers that look like you play the piano and work days with hand tools—fingers that are so practical and so effortlessly artistic in their beauty. Your whole body is like that—androgynous—the body of a flowing female dancer—light, flexible beauty and grace, and the body of a teenage boy—straight and lean with strong little muscles and sharp bones and the awkwardness of having not an ounce of spare flesh on long limbs that are still arranging themselves. Your body is a mystery; a reflection of the universe and a reflection of you. And your eyes light it up—so clean and deep and often vivid with the vibrance and depth of your being. I love the way the beauty of your being is revealed in your body.
I love the silver in your dark hair, and the way you dance—so present to your body/the music/the moment/energy. I love your beautiful, graceful feet and the courage with which you meet new experiences. I love your smooth belly and the great consideration you give to your words. I love your perfect ears and the way you travel to get to know new places and discover what’s there. I love your sweet birthmarks, and the knack you have for working with what you have—making a card out of paper odds and ends, bringing together a lovely meal from the last of what’s left, wrapping a gift creatively without ever purchasing supplies. I love your gorgeous long eyelashes and the way you delight in multi-function items, like a Leatherman, or pants that zip off into shorts, or dishes that triple for baking/serving/storing. I love your sweet little butt, and your voice when you’re chanting, and the way you say “thank you” when you harvest a plant, your thoughtfulness, how generous you are with a kind note, the way you shop for clothes by texture, and the fact that you’ve stayed in contact with your dad over the years, allowing the connection to be uncomfortable and become more and more whole.
I love the way you dance. Present to your body, present to music, present to energy—exploring, moving, jumping, stomping, stretching, floating, gliding…earthy, ethereal, fast, slow, deep, bouncy. It’s amazing to see how you dance from the inside out, so present with yourself, how you dance free, journey, open your body and your heart. You’re up to something and you shine with your love of it. You glow with the joy of dancing your flow, your body, your truth. I think it’s amazing that all those years you faintly felt a desire to dance, and felt that somehow you could, but didn’t know how, and it turns out you do. What an amazing journey, courageous, raw, wild, and poetic.
I love your sweetness. You’ve unsheltered yourself from deeply ingrained beliefs and your own network of community, exposed yourself to the elements of being self-employed, an employer, and living well-outside what you considered the “norm.” You’ve already endured through most of what you thought impossible. You’ve carried stress in your body and become better acquainted with it. You’ve delved into deep internal darkness, lost yourself, and determined to find your soul and emerge stronger for it. And still, even with all this dirt under your emotional and mental fingernails, there is a sweetness in your smile, that may indeed be miraculous. May the child that you are know how precious she is, and the woman you are find the wholeness you seek. You are loved.
Carry it Forward
Dear Body of mine,
What comes up when I even think about writing to you is that I am so , so sorry. And so amazed that you are still here. In pretty equal proportions.
I am sorry that I didn’t pay much attention to you for many years. I’m sorry that I was so stuck in a pattern of dissociation that I didn’t even know you were there for a very long time. I am sorry about all the violence you experienced, and that I gave up trying to protect you – eventually. I’m sorry about taking you to doctor after doctor and letting them experiment on you – rather than see that you were trying to tell me that you needed attention. And why wouldn’t you?
I’m trying, now, to make up for lost time. I hope it’s not too late. I am amazed, and so very grateful, that you have come through so much so well. I know now that what you need is for me to love you, to accept that this is where we are right now, to rest as needed and to care for you in the way you have always deserved. I see you for the gift you are.
There is a place where we have always met, where I learned to inhabit you fully, where we find peace. Yoga has been our best conduit and connector for so long, and now I see that it is a way to honor you and my inner self, together. As I move, and you soften and respond, it just feels good. And right. And true.
I’ll meet you on the mat, every day, and we’ll see where that takes us.
I need to begin with an apology. I have always thought of us as one and, as such, blamed many of my short comings on you. For that, I am truly sorry.
It is not your fault I don’t like the size of our clothes or the number on the scale. It is my lack of consideration that you look the way you do. I have to admit, I would rather sleep then wake up early and exercise. And how many times did I put food into you when you clearly were full? I am sorry I put my wants in front of your needs. I tried to convince myself that wasn’t the case, but now that I really think about, I have not been very good at taking care of you.
You have helped me to enjoy so much of life, so many adventures. Traveling to many countries, seeing so many of nature’s wonders. You have made motherhood possible. From what I have heard from other mothers, you sailed right though it. Two pregnancies, two natural births – one less then 10 hours and the other less then 5, each baby healthy and happy. You have given hugs and kisses, played basketball, wrestled, tickled and been tickled, taken ballet, done numerous hours of housework and you have not been aptly thanked or shown much gratitude.
For all that you have given me, I would like to begin giving you the respect you deserve. I will put your needs before my wants. I will focus on your positive attributes while minimizing your negative ones. We still have a lot of life and living to do, we need to work together to make the most of it.
love, you know who
Tracy Todd’s Blog
I’m sorry that I hurt you by breaking our neck all those years ago. I was young, with an arrogant attitude to life that I was invincible. I didn’t appreciate your youthful beauty at the time, I know, but I’ve since learned many valuable lessons. I know, now, that I have a duty to keep you healthy because you are the only one I can and will ever live in.
Believe it or not, I eventually grew to love you, despite being useless paralysed.
By the grace of God, with the love, care and support of my son, family, friends and community I managed to successfully rebuild a new, meaningful life with you. And for that, I am grateful.
I know that you’re far smarter than I am and that is why I have tried to learn from you. You have a wisdom which I lack. I’ve tried my best to listen to you and, more importantly, understand you. But, you gotta help me here a little bit more. I’m at a loss.
I’ve been really worried about you. I’ve felt you crying out for help with every fibre of your being. I know that I can’t feel the pain anymore. But, I do understand that you still feel it and that it hurts like hell. I knew with all our heart that you were in severe pain by the way you were suddenly acting. You’ve taught me well. I’ve learned to listen to you and I can recognize the signs of pain when you spasm or contract awkwardly. I also know how dangerous autonomic dysreflexia can be.
So, I did the right thing. Don’t you remember? I took you off to the doctor – the smartest guy I know.
Secretly, we rolled our eyes at his concerns of a possible bladder infection or bowel impaction. But, we can forgive him, because he doesn’t know how intimately I know you and I trust that he always has our best interests at heart because of his thoroughness. So, for the sake of peace of mind, we cooperated.
He immediately sent us for an abdominal x-ray, a sonar, urine tests and blood tests. Yes, I know that we hate needles but, sometimes it’s necessary. Our arm didn’t pull away too violently so it couldn’t have been that bad. At least the nurse was friendly and I thought it was really nice of her to visit us at home.
He told us that there was some faecal loading in our bowel. Well, we certainly didn’t need an x-ray to tell us that. Besides, we are all-woman and it’s our prerogative to be full of shit sometimes. Is it not?
So, I punished our poor tummy by drinking the most disgusting stuff in order to get rid of all the shit. I think our taste buds are still recovering from the shock. After excessive groaning, burping and farting, our bowels eventually emptied themselves much to the disgust of our oversensitive nasal passages. I have to admit that I felt really sorry for my care assistant as it was rather foul.
While we are on that topic, I have to tell you that you often make me feel humiliated. You burp and fart at the most inappropriate times. Have you forgotten that we are a lady?
Anyway, the emptied bowels didn’t help. Your right-hand side was still writhing around in pain, especially our right leg. I was convinced that there was something wrong with our knee or hip.
Our physiotherapists couldn’t find anything unusual. A friend sent her chiropractor over to check us out, and she couldn’t really find anything strange. We even had photographs taken of our entire body to establish if there were any hotspots as a result of a buildup of heat energy due to the pain. They didn’t even come up with a teeny-weeny, little hot spot. Nevermind. As far as we are concerned, we are hot, hot, HOT. Yes, and oh-so-sexy.
Hey, I even took you off to that drop-dead-gorgeous ear doctor to relieve the pressure in our ear in the hopes of making you feel better. I know our eyes enjoyed the visit. The candy gave them a much-needed spin. And as for our ears, well I think that they thought they had momentarily died and gone to heaven every time he touched them. Oooh… it was good.
Flesh is so contradictory, isn’t it? It goes on pleasuring and humiliating until the day we die. It would be nice if we could focus more on the pleasurable side of things, if only you would do your bit and play along.
The spasms got so bad that we were now struggling to sit in the wheelchair without falling over. You kept me awake night after night with your contortions.
You had me so worried. I feared the worst. I thought we’d gone and developed a syrinx in the spinal cord or something equally as terrifying. We went back to the doctor and neurosurgeon. We had a CT scan, a bone density scan as well as a cervical MRI. I know that it was a little cold and uncomfortable for you but it was bloody scary for me. After a nerve-racking wait for the results, they came up with nothing. I was relieved. But so, so, so frustrated.
We put you onto some special drugs to prevent spasms, which I hate, but anything to get you back to normal. They didn’t help. And I was getting desperate.
I took you halfway across the country, at great expense, to specialist doctors at a spinal unit where they told me, after many more tests and an isotopes bone scan that our trochanter (upper femur) had a stress fracture. The doctor wanted to know what I had been doing to you to break our bones. I can’t share all our secrets now, can I?
I know that I was extremely joyous at the news. It wasn’t that I was celebrating your pain and injury. It was just that I was relieved to finally have an answer so that we could treat you and get you all better. So, after a week in hospital, we went home. Doctor’ s orders were to take it easy and I was to make sure we take all the medication. No more swinging from the chandeliers either. You sure know how to spoil a girl’s fun, don’t you?
I was very good about taking the medication and I treated you really well. Our poor tummy ended up with an ulcer because of all the anti-inflammatories and pain medication. I had to do something as it was becoming unbearable and your behaviour was getting out of hand.
You must still have some sort of charm about you because you managed to get my doctor, the orthopedic surgeon and his lovely wife, who happens to be my friend, to do an after-hours housecall.
So, back we went for another full MRI scan and CT scan. Now they are not even sure if your leg was ever broken in the first place. That’s nice. How do you think I feel? Well, let me tell you. Like a complete idiot.
As a last-ditch attempt, the physiotherapists have agreed to see me everyday for the next two weeks to see if their intensive treatments and acupuncture will make a difference. At this stage, I think my physio’s are the only ones who still want anything to do with us. But, don’t push your luck.
The doctors are at a complete loss. My medical aid is depleted. I have stopped all the medication which seemed to be doing us more harm than good. I have done everything within my power to try and help you.
Three months on and you are still behaving just as badly, preventing me from having any sort of life at all, keeping me housebound. Is this really necessary? Don’t you remember that we are social beings and need to see other people? Do you care that I’m feeling lonely?
I feel as if I am constantly at war with you. I don’t want to be mean but, you’re holding me back, confining me and, quite honestly, irritating the hell out of me.
You’re humiliating me and making me feel awkward and insecure. I worked so hard to rebuild my self-esteem, self-worth and self confidence and you are compromising that at the moment with your bad behaviour.
I know that you don’t agree with me, but, walking is really overrated. Seriously. All I want is to be able to sit in my wheelchair without making a complete freak show of myself. Is this too much to ask?
I take full responsibility for turning you into a quadriplegic and for that I have apologised over and over again. Who knew you would be so unforgiving. And relentless. Is this your revenge? I probably deserve it but will I ever get a break?
I feel like screaming at the top of our lungs: Hey, Universe, when is it my turn?
So, Body what exactly do you want me to do now?