Body of Gratitude — Reprise

gratitude

I wrote most of this blog a year ago. At that point, I wrote about the previous year, and the journey I had taken out of heartbreak. Most of the 30 blog posts leading up to last Thanksgiving’s blog were stepping stones to healing, taking me closer to moments of real happiness. I have come to realize that happiness is, though an aspiration worthy of us, a bonus, like when the champagne pops or they move you up to first class for no apparent reason.

Today I am with my family. This whole week, actually. My entire family, which includes not only my children, but also the father of my children, once so estranged from me that we divorced. There is no accounting for how the heart’s GPS will take you. Eventually you end up where you are meant to be. And for that, I am grateful this Thanksgiving. The rest of this blog is the same as it was before. I liked it then, and think it worthy of another Thanksgiving. I hope you like it….

Some people have a body of work to represent a lifetime of creation. Today, I find that I have a body of gratitude that represents a lifetime of blessings.

Head. Inside my extra-large head there is a brain that works well, most of the time. I have always trusted my brain to get me through. To be smart and capable. It is a quick thinker, and I’m grateful it lets me keep up. I may not be able to remember a lot of life’s details (see my blog on memory), but I remember enough. I remember falling in love with books, acquiring my baby sisters during the dark night of childhood, feeling happiness like bubbles that would surprise me on a Friday afternoon as I boarded the crosstown bus home from school. I remember dancing on the bar, skinnydipping at dawn, road trips at midnight with the friends of the moment. I remember the people I have loved and cleaved to for life: true friends. My head has gotten me into plenty of trouble, don’t get me wrong. I can overthink, overanalyze, the usual roadblocks of a writer and reader. But my brain has always been secure for me, and my friend. I am grateful for my head and everything that goes on in there.

Eyes. Thank you, universe, for not making me blind. I am as close to it as a person can be without actually being blind at all. My vision is appallingly bad – once estimated at 20/1800 by a surprised ophthalmologist I went to. But thanks to modern technology I am corrected to about 20/35 and have seen Swan Lake and The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. I have seen the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean and the Atlantic. I have seen a giant humpback whale staring at me from 20 feet below, as she popped up beside my boat. I have seen the faces of students look at me with disbelief, gratitude, pride, exhilaration, realization, frustration, desperation, love, joy, and the thrill of epiphany. I have read books, love letters, and the poetry of my gifted daughter. I have looked down from the top of the Eiffel Tower at the lights of Paris and have looked up at Arenal—a live volcano in Costa Rica, as it spewed truck sized globs of magma down its sides in glowing rivers. I have seen the look of love on the face of a few good men. Best of all, of course, I saw the faces of my children still smeary and blurred with the exercise of birthing. I saw them open their eyes for the first time to look at me, their mother in this beautiful lifetime. I am grateful for my eyes.

Mouth. What is life without the taste of fermented grapes, roasted coffee, or aged cheese? How can I ever describe how thankful I am for deep soft kisses?

Ears. My son is a musician. That alone gives my ears meaning. My father gave me his love by sitting me down in his study to listen to Sibelius, Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Puccini. Etc. The music of my life, from Joni to Aretha, poured through my ears and filled the spaces inside me like custard in a mold. Soon enough, the music was me. What about the sound of the surf, distant lawnmowers on a summer’s day, the swish of skis on groomed snow, the crackle of a fire, or the song of a mockingbird? Yeah, all of it.

Throat. The chakra spins. Having a voice. To speak, to be. I think with my head but I write with my body – my throat where my voice lives, and my hands that know how to get it all out. I am grateful for my throat.

Heart. There is no real explanation for why the heart works the way it does. I don’t mean why it pumps blood and oxygen to all the other parts of the body (grateful or otherwise)– scientists have that figured out. I’m talking about The Heart – the metaphorical seat of feeling. How does anyone know how to love? How can even the most damaged of souls have a heart of love inside them? I am grateful that loving has always come easily to me. Not necessarily trusting or sharing – but love, yes. My heart does not hold grudges. I loved my sisters on sight and that feeling has never waned. I love so many friends who could ask anything of me. I love my uncles, aunts, cousins galore, without reservation. I have loved a few men in my life. Not many. Enough. That love does not go away any more than any other love goes away. When someone is gone, the love just hibernates in the deep cells of the body of gratitude. I am grateful for those loves. The love a mother feels for the human beings grown in her body, fed from her body, nurtured on her body. Well, it seems obvious and effortless but I suppose it is not. Did my mother know that love? Hard to say. But I am grateful that I do.

Breasts. It took me a long time to be grateful for mine. As a young woman, I resented their asymmetry (which is remarkable and no I won’t put up a picture to prove it), their perky girlishness (was I insane?). Now I think my boobs kick all kinds of ass. They fed two very hungry babies who grew at record breaking rates. They have gained character and given me and others pleasure over the years. And at this stage in my life I am most grateful that they have retained their shape and… uh, elevation. Good job, breasts. Thank you.

Uterus. What can I say? I’m a goddess, as is every woman who contains within her the power of life. I fell in love with my body for positive sure when I grew a person inside me. And then again when I pushed it out with the power of all the love and gratitude any mere human can muster. And then I did it again.

Vagina. The magical mystery of being female. The vagina is a way out – for blood and/or life. Everyone starts life through that flowering exit. And it is the way in—to the center of a woman.  It is a mystery that everyone ponders, some fear, and some love. I am grateful for my vagina. It has given me joy, pleasure, glory, pain, and myself.

Legs. I am grateful for my legs and how pretty they have always been. How they let me dance. How they let me be tall. They ache now and then. My knees creak. But I can still boogie my ass off and hike a mountain and ride a bike and that’s awesome.

Feet. I am not always fearless. In fact fear has overcome me at times in my life. But I have guts. My feet, they walk. I do what I need to do. I go where I need to go, and work as hard as I need to work. Most of the time, my feet don’t fail me. I am grateful to my feet for carrying my body of gratitude through five decades of living. I am also grateful for pedicures.

There is not much in my life I am not grateful for, come to think of it. I even love the pain and heartbreak – how else could I be me without it? And I have food, clean water, health insurance, and a home I am not in danger of losing. I can use my head, my heart, my voice, my legs – to make a difference however small. I can go. I can come. I can say yes. I can say no. I can embrace. I can push away. I can stand tall. I can lie down. I can stay silent. But I probably won’t.

 

 

 

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Asymmetry

Jacqueline Rocque by Picasso, 1954

Jacqueline Rocque by Picasso, 1954

I am asymmetrical. Though no one is perfectly symmetrical, they say, I am close to the “odd” end of the bell curve

At certain times of my life, the fact that my two halves are not mirror images of one another has caused me some consternation. Especially in my young years, growing into maturity in a world that values perfect symmetry as the epitome of beauty. Wikipedia puts it clearly: “More symmetrical faces are perceived as more attractive in both males and females, although facial symmetry plays a larger role in judgments of attractiveness concerning female faces.”

I’m not sure why human beings want both sides of an object to match each other in every particular. That desire may be encoded in our DNA. After all, nature designed the animal and plant kingdoms to have bilateral structures. At least on the outside. Nobody actually looks like Jacqueline Roque (whose picture is posted with this blog) in real life.

All the same, I’ve come to love the way my two halves don’t match. My left eye is smaller than my right, and my right eye has a smaller lid than my left. My left lid droops a bit over my eye, too, especially when I’m very tired. My left breast is almost half the size of my right. My nursing babies were not as happy with it – perhaps it gave less milk. My left foot, now that I am no longer so young, is aging more quickly than my right. Its toes curl a bit, and it’s falling apart (literally), whereas my right foot looks as youthful as ever.

The age old prejudice against the left side makes me feel protective of my less idealized left side. The words “gauche” and “sinister” – coming directly from the French and Latin words for “left” – diminish the quirky loveliness of the “other” side.

Not many people comment on my asymmetry. Though noticeable, it does not scream “FREAK!” I have had many men find me beautiful and desirable, something I have always enjoyed. As hard as I can be on myself and as difficult as the aging process is for me, I have always found myself striking to look at and, since my youthful and highly insecure years, have embraced my lack of mirror imagery.

Funny story. Once, a doctor said to me upon doing a visual exam of my breasts prior to the more painful, but much less awkward, touch exam – “Did you know your breasts are not the same size?” His voice was a bit shrill and he sounded quite taken aback. A medical professional no less. Seriously?

I looked him in the eye (not easy to do when your boobs are out) and said, “Why yes, I did.” He quickly covered his tracks, saying that it is not at all uncommon for breasts to be different sizes or even shapes. “Really, now, doctor. Are you saying that this lack of symmetry [I gestured to exhibits A and B] is common?”

“No, not really.”

I am unique! Maybe one side is my “best side” and one isn’t. Maybe I’ll dedicate the two sides of myself to science. I’m not quite ready for the freak show, mind you. Just a quirky Picasso-esque woman with two of everything.