How do you feel in your body? At home, absent, at war, at peace, comfortable, uncomfortable? I ask this because, since my fiftieth birthday back in September, I’ve discovered that apart from doing a whole bunch of stuff that I used to think impossible (see my post about that here), the most remarkable change over the past two years is internal.
It’s not just internal in a psychological way. It’s more than that. Feminists talk a lot about our embodied experience. And lately, I feel that my triathlon training — all that running, swimming, and even the detestable biking (sorry — still not loving it) — have altered the way I feel in my body. For the very first time in my life, I have a sense of my physicality as belonging totally and 100% to me.
I own these activities–every endurance run, every early morning workout in the pool, every struggle on the bike. They’re mine. I do them for me. Not for you or for my parents or my partner or because someone else/society/my employer/Oprah thinks I should. Nope. None of that. No one would blink an eye if I never did any of this stuff again. And yet I do it anyway because they’re things I want to do.
How is that different from what I felt like before? If you’ve been a regular reader of the blog from the early days, you’ll know that despite my repeated attempts to let go of the need to look a certain way, I’ve experienced my share of challenges in the body image department.
I know it’s kind of big yawn for lots of people when small women with average sized bodies who can easily buy clothing off the rack at any store say they don’t like their bodies. But it happens and it’s painful and — anyway, I stopped blogging about it awhile back because I too find it tiresome.
A couple of weeks ago Canada had a shock when a well-respected and popular radio host from CBC radio was let go by the broadcaster because, in their words, they had learned something that made it impossible for them to continue their relationship with him.
As the story unfolded in the days following the announcement, numerous women came forward with allegations that the host had sexual assaulted and/or harassed them. For a few days, news about the firing and subsequent allegations was only thing that showed up on my newsfeed.
And for the first time perhaps ever, Canadian news was dominated by discussions of sexual coercion and the importance of consent. We also had a national conversation about why sexual assault goes unreported so much (like this and this one, “I didn’t report because fuck you”). In every paper. On every television broadcast. On all the radio stations. On Facebook and twitter and in the hallways of workplaces, conversations over lunch, telephone calls with people who lived in different parts of the country.
So what does this have to do with a new way of being in my body? Well, you know, it just made me realize the extent to which it’s a rare thing indeed when a women feels confident ownership of her body — like she doesn’t owe anyone anything and she gets to say “no” and let it mean “no” (not “maybe” and not “let me talk you into it” and not “are you sure?” and not “maybe later” but “NO”).
And when we don’t feel that confident sense of ownership, it’s hard not to feel insecure about choices that may upset people or make them angry or, heaven forbid, disappoint someone or not meet their expectations. And hence the level of coercion and coaxing that lots of women endure (by the way, said radio host’s alleged actions were a lot more serious than coercion and coaxing).
And so to discover a domain where that shit doesn’t happen is like a small miracle, like finding an oasis in the desert or something like that.
And that’s what diving in with both feet into some athletic activity that I love has done for me. It’s like hello. Who’s been keeping this big secret from me?
Has discovering a physical activity you love changed the way you live in your body?