Category Archives: Body

On dependence

So I just read this excerpt from Critic of the Dawn, and had an epiphany.

And I don’t know why I hadn’t had it earlier, because it’s been a topic I’ve been circling around for the past year or so, in multiple places in my life.

Because here’s the thing: what the excerpt says about dependence and independence and disability and ableism is all completely 100% indubitably true: we are all, each of us, dependent on other people. You can go off into the forest and live naked and only with what you make or grow or find yourself, and you’ll STILL be dependent on the people from whom you learned these skills, and you’ll be dependent upon them when things go wrong (or you’ll be dead). And what determines whether we call a given dependence “normal” and part of “independence” depends, entirely, upon whether it is typical for a “normal” (read: nondisabled) person.

And the thing is, the thing is: this is true for emotional and mental dependence, too.

Because here are things I know:

Every single person depends upon other people for emotional equilibrium; some of us depend on others more. I am bipolar. The only thing, the only thing, that has kept me out of the hospital at times has been my lifemate, the fact that he was next to me, that I was able to stabilize myself in relationship to him. Every bipolar friend of mine who has been hospitalized has said the most important part of their hospitalization was when a nurse was able to come and sit with them — just be with them — when things were hardest. (Meds and rapid access to MD attention and lack of access to tools of self-harm have also been cited as helpful, of course.) We all experience emotions in relationship with other people; some of us depend upon this more, and are called crazy.

Every single person depends upon other people for executive functioning; some of us depend upon others more. My child is ADHD. The only way he gets anything done sometimes is to have one of us standing next to him. We don’t even need to do anything, we don’t threaten him or nag him or yell at him, we just need to be there, be a brain for his own brain to regulate off of, for him to function at capacity. And although I didn’t know it for years and years and years, this is exactly a function I serve for my lifemate, as well, who is also ADHD. Sometimes I help him with systems and memory (generally without even noticing I am doing so); mostly I help him just by being with him, whether in the room with him or in this life with him. We all function at the executive level in relationship with other people, we all need reminders and deadlines and accountability and responsibility; some of us depend upon this more, and are called dysfunctional.

Every single person depends upon other people for identity; some of us depend upon others more. My favorite fictional character1 is highly emotionally sensitive, vulnerable, open, permeable, however you want to put it. The only way he knows who he is is in relationship with other people. And we all do this. We all form our identity by finding “our people”, “our tribe”, by joining (or rejecting) communities, by recognizing ourselves in others. Some of us depend upon this more, and are called codependent.

And of course, there are ways to be in relationship that are highly unhealthy. There are ways to be in relationship where you lose yourself, your stability destabilizes, you are never allowed to be centered in your own you-ness. It does not, therefore, follow that those of us who know who we are most thoroughly in direct relationship with other people, and who know this, are unhealthy. Because there are ways to be dependent on relationships, to be healthier and safer and saner and more functional in relationships, and this is… not a bad thing. It is the opposite of a bad thing.

And yet, when words like “codependent” are used, not to try to describe unhealthy relationships (and there are huge, significant problems with using the word for unhealthy relationships at all) but to label any relationship wherein one is dependent on the relationship, upon the other person, as pathological — this is wrong, factually, morally wrong, and it is ableist, reliant upon ideas of “independence” that are used solely to marginalize and discriminate against people with disabilities.

Emotional dependence is not inherently wrong. Mental dependence is not inherently wrong. Identity dependence is not inherently wrong. Dependence is not in and of itself pathological. Dependence is not inherently wrong.

Stop saying it is.

  1. Not the Doctor! *gasp*

Back fat remix

(Because there was more to say about my sixteen year old body, apparently. Whatever, I ain’t questioning the muse.)

When I was sixteenish, I lost a significant amount of weight. I didn’t do it on purpose, and I didn’t notice until a classmate made a big to-do about telling me to turn to the side and then proclaiming “Ah! Where’s Arwyn? It’s like she disappeared!” (I did not thank him.) I weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 100lb less than I do now (I don’t know my current weight, and only vaguely knew it then). I’m supposed to pine for that weight, that body, because I was sixteen and svelte and sexy, or something.

Except I was also getting migraines multiple times per week.

Except I was still “too fat”, still mocked and attacked in the halls, still told by my entire culture I was ugly and lazy and unfit merely by existing.

Except I was so anemic I couldn’t walk a mile, much less run it, not because I was “out of shape” but because my muscles were suffocating, demanding oxygen I couldn’t give to them because my red blood cells were too small or nonexistent.

Except I lost that weight by accidentally not eating, by having nothing but three giant Mountain Dews at school (thanks defunding of public schools, for making overpriced undernourishing vending machines the only way for our district to buy textbooks), near passing out in Drama after classes, eating whatever I could find as soon as I got home, barely eating at dinner an hour later because I was still stuffed (my stomach too-small from nearly 24 hours with nothing but liquids), and doing it all again the next day.

And this is the body I’m supposed to be nostalgic for, am supposed to think was “better” than the fatter, flappier, floppier, fitter one I have now? This is the body people call “healthier” just because it had less mass?

I have more pains now, and less energy, it’s true. But that’s aging (and an old roller coaster injury and endless parenting) doing its work on me, and is to some extent inevitable. I also have more skills, and fewer mood swings. Less anemia, and a broader palate. Two children, and an amazing lifemate. Fewer hang-ups, and more orgasms. More strength, and less fear of asking for help. Less self-hatred, and more compassion for that small, hurting, hurtful voice inside that calls me ugly. I have hands that soothe and heal, legs that take me wherever I ask them to, arms that carry my children no matter how big they get, a brain that’s clever and mostly kind, and scars from skin that’s stretched to protect me when I felt I would burst from the crazy, when my meds fucked me up, when I made two babies, when I fed two children, when I learned to run, when I relearned to walk, when I lived and lived and lived.

My body was never “perfect”, never acceptable by my society’s standards. My breasts grew in pointing down, my skin scarred silver stripes just from becoming a teen, and I have always, always been called fat in one form or another. I learned so early I had a choice of how to feel, give in to labels of “freak” and attack myself, or say “fuck you” to the entire flawed and too often fatal system. The idea we have to love our bodies, no matter the pain or difficulties they come with, is as oppressive as the one that says we can’t because we are “imperfect” for whatever of ten thousand supposed reasons, but we can, we CAN, if we choose, if we want — and for me, for fat and finally healing me, it feels revolutionary.

And even better, it feels fabulous.

Flappy arms and back folds and I don’t mind

Why would I buy the lie I could look like I did at 16 when I’m 30? Like I do at 30 when I’m 50?

Bodies change. I have carried two babies, breastfed two children, gone crazy and come back, gone to hell and physical therapy, burned, birthed, loved, lived, changed how I ate and moved and carried myself through it all. I will never look the way I did at 16 (hot) again; I will no longer look the way I do now at 30 (hot) in ten years, twenty (probably still hot, but maybe I won’t care anymore).

There was nothing I did then that I could replicate now to have the body I did at 16; I was, simply, 16. I could do what I did then, stay up all night and sleep in and not eat until dinner and have sex five times in a day and flirt and flirt and fight and flirt and I still won’t look like me then, not even if, for a short time, I weigh like me then. Like a teenager. Like someone who doesn’t know better, hasn’t learned better, doesn’t care for herself better.

And that’s fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine, and it will be fine, and I have no obligation (though every permission) to love or even tolerate any part of me, but I find little point in believing the delusion I can be as I was, either.

Maybe you see that as fatalist, defeatist. I see it as radical acceptance, of who I am, how I am, when I am. I could waste my energy trying to be who I am not anymore, I could. Or — what a miraculous word — I could be who I am now, fully and freely, spend my energy figuring that out, fleshing out the possibilities of me-now.

I choose me.

Postpartum periods

I’m on vacation with my family, both the one I was born into and the one I birthed, and I am bleeding. Vulva Baby is ten months; with the Boychick I had fourteen, a difference that might not seem hugely significant until faced directly with that half-year difference. I have with me one menstrual sponge — “just in case”, proving either precognition or paranoia — and not so much as a preemie cloth diaper else. I am surviving on simple tasks and stolen Tylenol.

So regale me please, in these my days of need, with tales of YOUR first postpartum periods. How quickly did your menstrual cycle return? Were you expecting it or were you surprised — pleasantly or otherwise? Were you across the continent from your pads and place and pieces of comfort? Did it return and bring with it body dysphoria? Do you long for the perfection of uterine transplants so you can discover their joy (or not) for yourself?

Tell me your stories, that I can curl around them like a too-hot rice pack, soothing and slightly too much at once, and so be comforted.

Dear RMB

Dear Raising My Boychick,

I’ve been cheating on you.

It’s not you, though, it’s me, really. I’m too tired, too time poor, too unable to write long pieces in short bursts in the five minutes at a time I have most days.

(OK, it’s a little bit you, too: you’re just too good. I’ve built you up over the years into something beautiful — if I may say so — something hard to live up to, and some days hard to live with.)

So I started playing around. Just a bit, at first, just for fun, very nearly on a dare, almost just to see what would happen. And, well, I didn’t mean it to, but things got a little serious.

Not a lot, though. One of the things I love about this, let’s say “side project”, is I don’t have to be too serious. There are a lot of quickies.

And, not that I don’t still love you, but this “side project” really gets me, and doesn’t mind that my interests are a bit different, what with the baby around. I keep wanting to talk about food, and you, well, you’ve never given me the feeling that’s something you’re into. Sure, I can bring it up every once in a while, and you’ll let me natter on, but, I get the feeling that you’re sitting there thinking “I hope she doesn’t expect me to be like one of those blogs.”

I don’t want to leave you, though! You’re still my first love, my one true blog, but I hardly have time to sit down with you these days, and, don’t hate me, but your phone interface is… a little clunky. I’d rather just sit and think by myself than bother, sorry to say.

I really think that if you’ll spend some time with the “side project”, you’ll see how much you have in common, really, and how you two can fit together in my life. We all care about gender and social justice, about bodies and parenting, about finding our way out of kyriarchy. You and I, we’re just about all that through the lens of raising the kids, of surviving as a queer fat crazy woman with children. So let’s keep doing that.

But I’ll also be spending time thinking and talking and caring about food and surviving in a rather more daily-need sort of way with Feeding My Boychick. She’s made me so happy in our brief time together.

I hope you’ll forgive me, and that we can grow stronger together through this. I’m sure when we get a chance to sit down and think it through, we can figure out how all three of us can live together in joy.

Your blogger,