My hips no longer sway, their Samba rhythm exchanged for a flat key on a piano out of tune because my body doesn’t want any more attention. It does enough screaming and crying and pleading from the inside that goes nowhere but to my brain where I try and soothe it and speak to it like I would a child. But my mind is not strong enough to convince my stomach to stop churning, my chest to stop constricting, or the tissue lining the most delicate parts of me to breathe and calm down.
If I were a statue on a pedestal in a museum and you could look up at me, study me, trace my naked lines with your camera, you would see beauty. A freckle here, a mole there, wrinkles that reveal my age but not with scorn, only experience. My arms are thin, my knees knobby, my belly wide but full with memories of children.
If I were on a dance floor and you could watch me Waltz across it, you would see strength. You won’t know how old I am because my ability to glide with such ease and balance across the ballroom would defy my age. My arms are lithe, my legs powerful, my core engaged but stretched with memories of pregnancy.
If I were on a hike with you and we would climb to the top, you would see endurance. My lungs expand with each big breath and I’ll make it to the top with little trouble. I always make it to the top, with the time spent heaving and mourning and hyperventilating hidden from immediate view.
I don’t wince at the outer part of me. But the mirror knows that it’s all wrapping. I’m hiding behind the smooth skin that doesn’t bleed. There are no blacks and blues and reds to be horrified by, to be pitied. I stand in front of you and there is nothing to prove any different. No evidence. You could even stare into my eyes, thinking you can look through as you would a window. But all you will see is your reflection of what I’m unwilling to let you know.
I possess two bodies. The physical I present to you daily, and I am unashamed of the imperfections I’ve earned, how my elbows and hands and neck give away my age. The wrinkles on my face don’t get in the way of my daily yoga routine, my love of dance, the evening laps I swim in the pool.
It is the other body. The internal. You don’t see it and I don’t see it but I feel it with every tinge and toxic memory that travels at the speed of light from my thoughts to my stomach without mercy, without end. This body stops me from dancing, from hiking, from swimming, from being able to even stand on some mornings when all my plans for the day are ruined because I need to spend the hours in recovery instead.
I love my body like no other. I nurture her, cuddle her, talk to her, and I dedicate these words to her. She is my poetry that I create each day when I sit down to write — in and around those days I can’t sit down and keep my writing in my head until the pain subsides.
I’ve been to the doctors, I’ve taken all the tests, I’ve been an active participant in my own wellness to the point of possessing an incomparable expertise on my own body. But x-rays and MRIs are unable to find that place in my soul where memories of the darkness are kept, where waves and reactions and impulses might reveal how the cells within me attack their own when I am confronted with shreds of that darkness from my past once again reappearing in my present.
My mind has outpaced my physical body. While my emotional detachment from the past is near completion, and my confidence and self-worth are at an all-time high, still these bones and organs and tissues of mine are like naughty children who don’t listen to their mother. If I could take a picture of the chaos on my insides, I would post it on Instagram right next to the picture of me doing a tree pose on the beach in California.
So don’t be fooled by looking at me when I’m dancing or hiking or jumping into the air on my 50th birthday. I am both that woman who is strong and capable and can assure you that I got this. I am also a woman who does not want nor need your pity. Only understanding, because I am also that woman whose body suffers from post-traumatic stress after a war of which I barely made it out alive.
Because of this trauma, I will continue to love my two bodies like I would my own children because it’s not her fault (the internal) that a little extra time and patience and love is needed.
You will not ever see the poems I write to her, that I devote to her in the hopes that one day she will return my deep love.
But you will see me dancing.