A body that has lived is a beautiful thing, not necessarily to behold, but it is beautiful nonetheless. Once, when it might have been beautiful to behold, I hid my own, never believing I could bare much of it to the world, or, to my small world of people. Even among my much younger (and fitter) sisters, I was cautious, making sure I had a dressing gown coveration when departing the shared bathroom or the shared bedroom. I was never shy, not that, but I had to be fully clothed to allow the ‘not shy’ in me to fly out into a room. I could do legs and loved mini skirts of the Mary Quant/ Carnaby Street era, but watched others bare cleavages and bellies and just knew I was way out of their league.
It didn’t matter, long term, much as nothing of vanity matters, long term. Eventually we get to realise that it is who we are to others that does last, that matters and sticks. Beautiful bare skin is nothing, after all, if the owner is a pain in the aspidistra, flaky, selfish, insincere. Now, to the body perfect. This body survives endless knocks and bumps, asks and denials, flak and cruelty and yet it works with a spirit to rise into another day, and another. And, the spirit is thankful it does and is ready at every point to help. Two parts of a whole, like an apple.
This body has adapted to endless demands, birthed children, kept itself awake throughout extreme exhaustion and still kept going. How did you do that? I ask, my spirit asks, because I could not have done this alone.
Well, says the body, you wanted me to and that is enough for me. I obey your command.
But what about the many times I didn’t care for you as you deserve?
I managed. I knew you loved me really. You were just distracted.
Yeah…..for decades. How is that ok?
It is as it is. Still is btw.
Even now, even now that I see the papery skin on my gnarled twiggy fingers? Even as I see you sink downwards? Even as you sometimes find it tricky to get out of bed without a grunt, or to lift from a chair, or when you are extremely cautious on hillsides? Even then?
Even then. We work together.
But when I am afraid of falling, of sickness, of living too long, of dying, are you?
No, I am always alert. I may obey your commands but I am way ahead of you when it comes to getting older, or more papery, more gnarled, more afraid of hillsides.
I think that reassures me. I think.
Listen, we have worked together for 68 years. Do you really think I am leaving now? Just look at what you have achieved, just look. You moved like a dancer through the demands and rejections, through the depressions and joys of an extraordinarily adventurous life. You held and nurtured five wonderful children. You lifted them into the world and set them free. You cried a lot. You doubted even more than a lot. And yet you, ditzy brain, crazy reckless dreamer, free spirit, risk taker, mistake maker, you stuck with me too. You didn’t, as I sometimes thought you might, head off the rails and into the wasteland. You are still here with me.
So I am. How wonderful, old body. Thank you.
You, my best friend, are so very welcome.
Shall we continue?