Today is a day when I chose to stop my plans and just love my body and follow what it needed. My teachers were our cats Billie and Sassy who were having a cuddle and a nap in the sun on the bed, washing each other’s faces. I lay down next to them, and took a few photos with my phone. Sometimes, even in this desperately wounded world, we must honor the demands of our bodies, first of all. This I what I am learning about illness or whatever it is that has taken hold of my body. My own tendency is to want to figure it out and fix it. But some things can’t be easily figured or fixed. And so we are faced with other choices.
When my partner Margy and first I got to know each other, she had been dealing with chronic illness for a long time already. She has been my teacher in what that means, and how to cope, how to live in the midst of it all. But in that process, I took on the role of the “well” one, the one who would carry things when she could not. But now, I also have some sort of chronic illness, and it’s a new chapter for us, a new chapter for me. I haven’t really ever identified myself as having a chronic illness, because that was her identity. I know that sounds a bit illogical, but it never seemed that I had it bad enough to call myself ill.
But then there are these days, more now than before, when I just can’t follow my plans, can’t work in the garden, can’t go to the beach. When I ache all over, or feel weary and slow. As I said, mostly my impulse has been to try to figure it out–what did I eat? what did I do?–that might have triggered all this. What can I do to make it better? But today, I thought, just follow the lead of the body, just love the body and do what it wants to do. Rest, lay in the sun, watch mysteries on the television. No shoulds.
I am remembering Paula Gunn Allen writing about this, and I found the quote, an excerpt from “The Woman I Love Is a Planet; The Planet I Love Is a Tree,” from her book, Off the Reservation. I love how she links our love of the body to our love of the planet–even when we can’t even go outside.
Our physicality—which always and everywhere includes our spirituality, mentality, emotionality, social institutions, and processes—is a microform of all physicality. Each of us reflects, in our attitudes toward our body and the bodies of other planetary creatures and plants, our inner attitude toward the planet. And, as we believe, so we are. A society that believes that the body is somehow diseased, painful, sinful, or wrong, a people that spends its time trying to deny the body’s needs, aims, goals, and processes—whether these be called health or disease—is going to misunderstand the nature of its existence and of the planet’s and is going to create social institutions out of those body-denying attitudes that wreak destruction not only on human, plant, and other creaturely bodies but on the body of the Earth herself….
Being good, holy, and/or politically responsible means being able to accept whatever life brings—and that includes just about everything you usually think of as unacceptable, like disease, death, and violence. Walking in balance, in harmony, and in a sacred manner requires staying in your body, accepting its discomforts, decayings, witherings, and blossomings and respecting them. Your body is also a planet, replete with creatures that live in and on it. Walking in balance requires knowing that living and dying are two beings, gifts of our mother, the Earth, and honoring her ways does not mean cheating her of your flesh, your pain, your joy, your sensuality, your desires, your frustrations, your unmet and met needs, your emotions, your life.