Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Love Your Body

Giant Goddess! Nana Sophie [and Kitti, 2006]

Sophie is one of three "Nanas" created in 1974
for permanent outdoor display near the town hall in Hanover, Germany;
by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 - 2002)

"Why, I say, should I ever have bitterly blamed [my body] for such trifles as I have blamed it for: for having too much flesh in this spot, too little muscle in that, for producing this wrinkle, that sag, that gray hair, or this texture? Dear body! My dear body! It has gone about its incessant business with very little thanks." ~Janet Burroway

One day last year my friend Diane came across this quotation in a magazine and sent it on to me, adding by way of conclusion: "I loved this, and felt very humble upon thinking about it." Yes, humbling is a good word for the healing realization that you cannot live against yourself.

For more on the topic of body image, please visit my book blog:

"Love Your Body"
Here are some excerpts from today's post, "Love Your Body":

Around the same time, I was reading Her Blood Is Gold: Celebrating the Power of Menstruation by Lara Owen. This is a book I've been meaning to read ever since Sam was born and finally got around to it last year -- that's how long a book can stay in the "hopeful" stack beside my bed -- haha! But see, there really is hope, if you don't mind waiting for over a decade. Anyway it's also very meaningful menopause reading, so the delay doesn't matter all that much and is, in fact, rather timely. Here's what Owen says about PMS & feeling depressed:

"My breasts are tender and so is my heart. Everything hurts more -- I watch a movie on the television and weep, I cry myself to sleep, I worry about the world. I feel colder than normal, and vulnerable in a raw and aching seemingly never - ending way. I have felt this feeling so many times in my life -- and yet here I am, warm and dry, with food in my kitchen, clothes on my back, in a better situation for survival than most people on this planet. Yet nonetheless . . . I am weak and anxious . . . I find myself in more self - doubt at this time. Am I making a great big mess of my life" (140 - 41).

During these low, unhappy times, she tries to reason with herself and move on with her life. Her period comes, and she "goes easy on herself," knowing that this is a temporary hormonal depression that will go away when the hormones shift gears once again. Menopause can also be a huge hormonal shift that causes these same feelings, but the problem is that menopause lasts a lot longer than PMS or a menstrual period.

I was so excited about this book that I had to keep updating my family (all boys except for me, oh well) about it, chapter by chapter. During one of these conversations, my son said, "Mom how many times do you have to say menstrual cycle; can't you just say it? I just laughed and said, "No, in fact, that's the whole point of the book." Of all the things that do bother me in this life, saying menstrual is not one of them. Luckily my husband joined me in this little consciousness raising exercise: "Mom is right," he said, "those are just words to describe a fact of life."

In The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler makes the same point about the word vagina: "What are we saying about our bodies if we can't say vagina?" (150). One of the women interviewed in the book reports that she "said VAGINA at least a dozen times a day for two months" until she was able at last "to reclaim it as a word" (159).

Ensler points out that if our culture could normalize and fully accept female sexuality, then there would be so much less violence toward women. Likewise, in Her Blood is Gold Owen says: "Ignoring or despising menstruation is one of the ways that misogyny manifests itself" (159). She suggests that instead of being turned off by a woman's period, men should "bow to it from every cell, with deep feeling" (130). Over and over, she says, just imagine how different the world would be if this were so. How long oh Lord, oh Goddess, oh Nana?

Okay, that's my sermon for the day.

Nana Caroline. Coming or going?
The Nanas look jubilant from all directions!

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