By Carmelene Melanie Siani
I love this body of mine that has lived a life…
I love the lunar curve of my hips
shaped by various pregnancies,
the great curling wave of my buttocks,
my legs and feet, on which the temple stands.
Celebration of the Body, by Daisy Zamora
Years ago, when I ran all those marathons and lifted all those weights and shunned all those steaks and ice cream, I too had the secret hope that doing all that would help me keep my figure as I grew older.
My hope didn’t come true though. Other things happened.
Like my body dealing with a systemic poisoning that crushed every natural response to every natural thing I did to heal it. My nervous system became too jittery for me to sleep, my digestive system too weak to digest food, and my organs and muscles (and even my brain) went into a kind of, “Holy Cow This Thing Could Kill Us” coma just to stay alive.
So, when I modeled entirely nude for a well known photographer and she posted a picture of me with nary a thread of clothing covering my 200-plus pound body on her Facebook Page and I saw myself, I remembered that “I’d hope to do better.”
But then, better at what exactly? Better at how much I weighed? At how wrinkled I was? Better in comparison to what? Or worse, in comparison to whom?
When I finally got up the courage to dance naked with my own body at the photo shoot however, I had the realization I’d hoped for. I didn’t have to do better. I was fine—more than fine—exactly as I was.
“Welcome back you glorious body,” I said inside myself. “You’ve been gone a long time.”
She had been fighting for her life for four years and it had cost her. It had cost her gracefulness and comfort, mobility and balance. It also showed on her. It showed in even more sagging, even more wrinkles and dimpling and in an even greater accumulation of fat—everywhere.
Even if she wasn’t sick, she was also old—74 years old. That’s a lot of years. A lot of babies held, men loved, jobs worked, houses cleaned, dishes washed—and yes, French fries eaten.
“Who are you?” I would ask when I saw her in the mirror all those mornings when I was getting dressed. Who was this dimpled, wrinkled body that used to run marathons and lift weights and walk 5 miles a day?
I didn’t know her and how, at the same time that she was fighting to stay healthy and alive, I was grieving for who she used to be, all the while struggling not to abandon or reject her.
So when the photo shoot happened and while we were posing—my body and me—she came back, and she came back full of life.
I was so glad to experience her; to really experience her, exactly as she was. She was the keeper of my secrets, the teller of my stories, the witness to my struggles. She was my body, the friend of my life.
It had been a long road back to her and to the realization that she was no longer a thing apart from me that I reacted to or that I molded or pushed or tried to make “better” such as I had done all my life.
There was no way of getting around it. We were friends and I could live the rest of our days together loving my friend or not.
The photographer said that I had “body love.”
When the day came that I stopped disowning my body and embraced her/it/me in love, the day that I beheld my body—my fat, stiff, kinda’ in-its-own-way old, ugly body—as beautiful, my eyes also opened to beholding beauty everywhere.
I now know that how I view my personal bodies is how I view the world.
“Thank you for all you’ve given me,” I whispered intimately to my beautiful body as the camera clicked and clicked during the photo shoot. “Thank you for opening my eyes and for making me see that loving you—exactly as you are—is the most important thing of all.
Previously published in a different form on elephant journal.
Carmelene Melanie Siani is a 74 year old woman who began writing for publication on her 73rd birthday in 2015. She writes stories and vignettes about life and how life itself gives us the lessons, hopes and direction we need to put our feet on higher ground. You can find her writing at elephant journal, the Kindness Blog, and on her writer’s Facebook page.
Editor: Dana Gornall