It’s been windy in the city. Not cold, not wet, just windy. Yesterday I left work in the evening, as the wind was picking up, and struck out for Union Square. I was going to buy a dress for a holiday party. I wanted something sparkly.
The trees along Market Street were already twined with tiny lights, and the high-rises with their big windows were dappled with fluorescent light from within. I walked, with the wind blowing my hair into my eyes and mouth, and suddenly I had a bell-clear thought:
It feels good to be living in my body tonight.
And then I realized: it’s been over ten years since I’ve even allowed myself to think that way.
When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, two months shy of my fourteenth birthday, I didn’t know what to do. My body was breaking down, in a way that seemed to negate the brand-new femininity I’d only just started to grow into. I had always been the weirdo at school, the nerd, the gawky girl who sucked at dodgeball–now I would be the fat virgin on birth control, too. I didn’t fully understand what was happening, but I did know one thing: I didn’t want to live in a broken body.
So I moved out. I don’t know how else to explain it. I packed up all my thoughts, my emotions, my talents, my flaws, and shifted them to a place outside my body. My physical being–heavy and hungry and plain–went vacant, and I started living in the air just alongside.
When my jeans stopped buttoning around my hips, I reminded myself that they weren’t really my hips, just dead weight that might slough off altogether someday. I hated the the roaring sugar cravings that woke me in the middle of the night, and sent me scrabbling through the kitchen cupboards for something to sate them, because they were a constant reminder that I wasn’t fully free from my unruly body. I felt like I was dragging an empty barrel around, and that my real body–thin, perky, girlish, delicate–would eventually shake free and take me with it.
I lived this way through high school and college. Then I graduated, came home and decided to take my health by the hair. I started a new medication, cooked fanatically, biked 10 miles a day. The insulin-fog in my head cleared; I learned what it was like to go through a day and not be violently hungry or full-body exhausted. I began losing perceptible weight, at a safe and healthy speed, for the first time in my life. I met a man–a wonderful man–who made it abundantly clear that he loved me because of my body, not in spite of it.
The timing felt right; I began moving back into my body, in stages. I started feeling out the cobwebby corners, trying to piece together experiences I’d missed. I was cautious, unpacking slowly and haphazardly, but I was surprised by how good it felt to settle in.
Then I got a full-time job. I stopped exercising. The medication lost its edge. I gained the weight back, felt the old symptoms creeping in. And I’ve spent the better part of two years in a quiet real estate negotiation with myself, trying not to give in to the temptation to pack up and move out again.
Yesterday, walking down Market Street, with wind in my hair and electric lights all around me, I realized I’d won.
I didn’t end up buying a sparkly dress. The styles this season are all wrong for my figure. But that’s fine; the window dressing will come later. My stuff is unpacked, I’m finding places for everything, and my body is my own again. Imperfect, unruly, still a little broken, but mine.
Living here feels good.