this is my body
I just got back from a week in Texas where I spent most of my time holding a baby or arguing good-naturedly about the sacraments over beer, two of my favorite activities.
To close out the trip, Joshua and I went and got matching "WRONG SIDE" tattoos. As I slowly add to my collection, I've been thinking more about how tattoos are helping me with the mind-body connection, and body image.
I tend to think of my body scientifically, abstractly. It exists. It is my responsibility to clothe and feed it and drag it places. But I, in my mind and spirit, do not always feel connected to what I've jokingly started calling my "flesh-husk" - I thought it was just me until I did a little Enneagram research and discovered that no, this is a known problem for 5s.
If you can sort of encapsulate yourself, or value your intellect, knowledge, and capability above all, it's not hard to get confused about what the body needs and wants. It's also not hard to just ignore the body. This goes all ways: eating too much. Eating too little. Working out too much. Not working out enough. Dressing carelessly, or neglecting grooming. People describe out-of-body experiences: I feel like that much of the time.
You'd be hard pressed to find an adult woman who didn't have some weird feelings about her body, or twisted ideas about body image, no matter how well adjusted. I'm working on it. Some days I stand in front of the mirror and am annoyed by what I see: loose skin here, pants that don't fit there, a blemish that won't cooperate with my plans. Other days I feel good, and I rejoice that my body is mostly strong and mostly healthy and that most of the time, it does what I require of it.
Sometimes the flesh-husk I inhabit doesn't feel like mine. Sometimes it doesn't look like mine in the mirror. (I lost a chunk of weight a few years ago and continue to chip away at it slowly, because going too fast makes the confusion about "who is this in the mirror" much worse. I am still adjusting to the fact that I fit into spaces and clothing differently than I have most of my life.) Putting tattoos on my body HURTS. It demands that the mind and body pull in tandem for a while. Looking in the mirror, or at photographs, and seeing those tattoos reminds me: this is me. This is my body, and yes, that is my blood leaking everywhere, mixing with the ink. I don't mean to be flippant by borrowing Christ's words here: I think about them a lot and sometimes I literally have to look in the mirror and say to myself, depending on the day,
THIS is my body
this IS my body
this is MY body
this is my BODY.
Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist become part of mine. And I am part of Christ's body, the church, which we know triumphs in the end, no matter how our individual bodies decay and die. We need each other, we need all our parts, we need connection. This flesh-husk is already decaying: since I never had a flawless body, most of the time I'm not sad about the wrinkles and the (STARK) white hairs. I struggle with anxiety and depression, the mind fighting against the body - it feels like they resent each other and I have to suffer two sets of wounds. This body will die, and be burnt or buried, and be resurrected again and made new. I don't know if it will be the same, if I will still have my tattoos, if I will finally be as skinny as the government standards say I should be for my height. I don't care: what I'm looking forward to is the absence of disconnect, because then we will be whole and well in a way we never have been and never can be in this timeline.
I'm not going to get into the theological arguments for or against tattoos. You have to figure that out for yourself. But for me, there is an element of grounding that takes place: the pain is both cathartic and centering. I am here, now, in this body, and having some art and words carved onto it, which hurts and costs money and takes time, reminds me to be here now. Body parts I would otherwise be self-conscious about? Now they have something lovely on them. Pain demands that you show up, and showing up is a conscious decision for 5s. Because the choices are show up, or run away. I'm gonna keep showing up. Memento that mori.