Every week in the month of October, I will be sharing some reflections on the Very Scary Things I’ve had to face in 2020 — emotionally, physically, spiritually. This is the first in the series.
The first scary thing I’ve faced during quarantine is arguably the source for all of our sensory experiences — the body. Specifically, the changing of my body in response to inactivity, external terror, and normal aging. I haven’t been able to hit the gym as religiously as I used to before COVID, and the loss of this intense physical activity was a huge blow to my sense of self. Outside of the catharsis I experience in a gym — through the panting, sweating, lifting, squatting — I enjoyed marveling at the fruits of this labor. Particularly, loving on my pronounced muscles. But months without this intense strength training means that my body is getting softer; I feel my muscles atrophying away slowly. This was expectedly sad, but unexpectedly, a little scary for me. My muscles and fitness were literally part of me. To see the evidence of this dedication fade away was, in my mind, like death to a cherished part of my being.
Along with losing muscle, paranoia about COVID and unbearable stress of racism + fascism in the country launched my insides into disarray. During the height of stress (around June), my stomach and intestines were in knots. My head perpetually ached in varying degrees. For months, I’d lost motivation to do much of anything physical besides occasional yoga.
And throughout all of this, my body softened, and I gained fat in places I wasn’t used to. I have begun to think deeply about my relationship to food throughout my life. If you are one of the handful of people that know me well, you’d know that having a voracious appetite is a core tenet of my personality. Since I was a child, my parents always joked that I had a tapeworm. I could finish any plate; I saw eating the most as a challenge to live up to. Being active gave me a fast metabolism, so for pretty much my entire life, my big appetite helped to give me energy to live the life I was living. Now, barely leaving my house and returning to fitness in a less strenuous iteration, my body can’t seem to handle the portions it used to. I am confused when I try to listen to my body; eating as much as I did 8 months ago makes me physically uncomfortable (I suppose it did before, but I ignored it more), but eating less leaves my tummy growling at inconvenient times. I want to change my relationship to food to invite balance, satiety, impulse control. I am weary from letting food rule my life; my relationship to it as it has been no longer serves me.
I’ve looked at my body and felt self-loathing, perplexity, even frustration in the last six months. My body is evolving in ways that are challenging and unfamiliar to me. It is difficult to tell if this is because I’ve officially entered my late 20s or a cause-and-effect result of various external factors named above. My boobs are less firm. My ass is bigger (okay, not complaining there). My belly feels gelatinous. My digestive system is irritable. I don’t know what the fuck is going on.
Living in a changing body is a part of life. In talks with my therapist, I am learning that different doesn’t mean bad. Just because I feel like I’m in a body that is not my own (my “substitute teacher body” as I call it) does not mean I cannot be welcoming to this physical incarnation.
It is strange, though. As disruptive as my body has been to my default way of living these last six months, I have still found moments to love my body for helping me survive this critical moment in history. I’ve thanked my body for welcoming new spiritual and holistic practices like yoga and meditation; for finding strength in new places. Despite its “acting out” in my mind, I am thankful that I’ve held compassion for it all the same.
Spiritually connecting with you body is scary. So scary. And I’m still scared. Yet, I trust my body to show me the way. My body is home. It, like me, is doing the best it can.