The only way out is through
July 10, 2024 1:12 AM   Subscribe

“At the end of every session it feels like there has been a weight that has been lifted from both of us,” Melamed continues. “It can be a very emotional experience. I love it. I feel fortunate that I am able to draw people out in this way and every time, I am able to learn something more and discover something more about myself. The healing always goes both ways.” from The exquisite joy of finding comfort in your skin [huck]
posted by chavenet (6 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
clicked through to the book, realized i'd never seen pomegranate growing until now
posted by HearHere at 1:35 AM on July 10 [1 favorite]

One thing I never hear about is how you can find compassion for your skin. We none of us will ever have a perfect body. While surgery and make up and training can change it to something closer to something we find heart stoppingly beautiful, they carry their own flaws - surgery destroys sensation by cutting nerves, make up washes off, training requires sustain effort and causes stress damage. And all efforts at changing your body can underscore the feeling that the essential self beneath requires sustained effort to be deserving or genuine or acceptable, and that can run up against an awareness that you can't sustain it for very long.

If you're not disabled already, then you're very young indeed, and very lucky or using denial to only see yourself as able. Finding comfort in your skin means not feeling repulsion for the broken parts. It's easy to love children, and comes naturally, the age when people have the most perfect bodies is the age that makes us the most protective and the most forgiving. It's harder to feel we deserve love and protection when we look in the mirror and see that we don't meet the media and social standards we want to meet. With every year we live we may become aware how much farther from what we wish we were. A metabolic disorder creeps in, or we became more aware of gender, pores coarsen, hairs sprout, opportunities to run and climb and and lift and work dwindle to the realities of attending school or working at a job, so that our muscles have to be sustained not by joyful play, nor by productive and creative labour, but planned sessions where we perform machine-like repetitive weight lifting.

And for everyone eventually things break down. Joints wear out, skin ages, injuries occur and leave their scars, at twenty you already know which parts have been damaged and are going to give you problems later in life, and which parts are slightly substandard. You don't think about that slight stiffness in your foot resulting from the bad sprain when you were twelve, because it appears to be almost fully back to normal, and you take it for granted that you can't eat spicy food, and that tooth on the right side sometimes hurts but not really when you wake up in the morning. It's much harder to perceive these things than it is to be aware of them. But that slight stiffness in your foot at twenty is going to make you limp into a shoe store when you are forty, seeking a pair of shoes that keep it from getting worse, and that sour stomach spicy food when you are twenty is going to mean that at thirty you get left out when everyone wants real authentic Thai because sure you are macho enough to eat it, but the two days of belly pain that will follow aren't worth it, you already casually pop antiacids, one or two a week after eating things that aren't even fiery.

In the Buddhist sense, the bowl is already broken. If you look at your knobby knee that gives you trouble on stairs you know that you've got a bum knee but it's your knee, and you can cherish it. And if you look at your elbow that is working perfectly still, that never gave you a moments pain or let you down at all, you can think, well, it's good right NOW, but one day you could catch it on a post coming around a corner and then it will never be good again. So your body is infinitely, infinitely precious and deserves absolute protection. It's the only body you have, it's your most precious possession and the only thing that really belongs to you and which you can't lose in a cross country move or if you have to run out of the house in a fire. It's the ultimate. You can tinker with it, and tend it, but you can't swap it for another one. It's your everything.

Your thigh is ripply with cellulite, but if you had a choice of losing your left leg, or losing your phone - you know how easy it is to replace a phone? - which one are you going to pick? So how can you not look at your wabbly thigh and your knobbly knee and your calf that needs to be shaved every damn time you want to leave the house bare legged, and your foot with the misshapen toes, and the stiff spot in your foot that will some day turn into a limp, and not love it fiercely and protectively and adore it? Three years from now you are going to upgrade phones anyway, three years from now you're going to see sun damage on your legs and start thinking of using moisturizer on them because the sun screen isn't enough. Your left leg is amazing. The right way to think about it is, I love it, I love it, I love it. With it you can get up and go pee without being aware that you got up and actually walked, all automatic motions. Without it you'll be maneouvering a crutch or remembering the balance exercises you got in physio, and you'll have to be aware of what isn't there anymore every time you stand up.

There is a song Sinéad O'Connor sings Nothing Compares 2 u - and that's exactly the right thought. Just look at yourself! Your knuckles are amazing. Your chin is amazing. That scar is amazing. That heart beat is amazing. Your eyelashes are amazing. That roll of fat is amazing, even staggeringly beautiful. Oh man, oh my God, the ugliest part of your body is just beautiful, so beautiful that it is heartbreaking, because it's just not going to last. And you contain multitudes. You just matter so much. But without that body.... you are... over. That's it. All the good and bad in your life can only be experienced with that body. Poor, fragile, decaying thing. So beautiful.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:23 AM on July 10 [38 favorites]

Very poetic and such, but my arthritic knee can go to hell in a hand basket...and take my shingles with you...I can barely look at my skin.
posted by Czjewel at 9:21 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]

Is that the earliest ever "well, no one's going to top that" in a Metafilter thread?

Like Czjewel, I can't say that in the moments of experiencing them I am glad for some of the unasked gifts that my body offers to me, but I appreciate the reminder that feeling comfort in your skin is a more beautiful gift than fixing all the imperfections could be.
posted by It is regrettable that at 12:35 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]

As a person with raging gender dysphoria, a wonky heart, weak legs, a rare genetic condition that's already tried to kill me once with colon cancer, and many, many other ailments besides, I regard my corporeal form as a necessary evil at best. My body is not so much a temple as a crumbling, haunted house where the words GET OUT keep appearing on the walls, written in blood. This fleshpile of mine really wants to die in hideous agony, ASAP, but it can go fuck itself.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:57 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]

And it's merely a temporary "temple"... It gets better.
posted by Czjewel at 3:48 PM on July 10

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