Like many people, I’m mid-journey. Not only am I working my way past hazards and potholes in my holiday season, but I’m also in the process of making my way fully to unconditional, unapologetic love for myself. Like a lot of people, I find that the holidays compound the dangers and detours that I feel I need to be watchful of.
Many times, we white people feel a sense of guilt and shame about racism. But in my experience, when people of color talk about racism, it’s not a call to guilt or shame. It’s a call to empathy and action. When all is said and done, it was my mother’s empathy for the other person that got me to see that I was living in a world of suffering, and that all of my good intentions would not be enough to heal it.
Kids don’t get a choice in what faith or culture they are raised, and they don’t get a choice in how we frame dress and religion to them. It is our job, as responsible and loving adults, to frame it correctly for them.
When, as women, we say that women should not lift weights because we get bulky and ugly, that we can’t do pull ups because we need pretty hands, and that we can’t sweat because sweat is “gross,” then we make the gym an unsafe space. Not all women look the same, sweat the same, or have the same body shape. All bodies should be okay.
Our society tells us fatness is not beautiful. Blackness is historically, not beautiful. So even while battling weight stigma and reclaiming size diversity as beautiful, the presence of Blackness complicates the narrative.
So far, the strategies I’ve been outlining all follow an “outside-in” approach: physical activities I do to regulate my inner systems. And they are all useful activities. But at one point, I found that this approach wasn’t quite enough for me.
I was conditioned to be the smaller one, the one to be dominated, the one to be taken advantage of and tossed aside. And where were all their sorrys? They didn’t have to be sorry because I allowed them to use me and I apologized for them. I started saying sorry for things I hadn’t even personally done. I can’t let that go any further.
In my last post, I talked about exercises that help put pressure on my muscles and joints to regulate my nervous system. At school, it’s harder for me to find a place to do the kind of stretching or heavy work I can do at home, so I have a slew of smaller activities that I use to try to stay regulated. The OTs I’ve talked to call this collection of activities a sensory diet.
There was something magical about that afternoon, about that moment of being seen and trusted by a little kid who knew me to be like him. It made me realize that, for many years, I lived my life feeling that there was no one like me in the world — and when you feel that way, you can give up and stop looking, and that’s an awful place to be. This little boy hadn’t given up that there are people like him in the world, which is such a beautiful thing. It means that he will always find his people, because he will always be looking.
The thing that I’ve come to is that all bodies are strange bodies, all bodies are queer. We are all kinds of shapes and sizes and we have all kinds of desires and worries. No one’s bodies fit our expectations. There is something “wrong” with all of our bodies. In fact there’s so much wrong with human bodies that you could say that abnormality is what’s normal, what’s human and, ultimately, what’s powerful and beautiful.