Updated: Jun 25
“I am Word through my body. Word I am Word.”
Talk about getting stuck. Word through my body? Do I have to be? This body? Can I be Word through a better body? Perhaps if you have also struggled with your own corporeal vehicle you’ll understand my struggle. You might even share it. This body of mine has endured nearly 20 surgeries, some leaving scars so pronounced other kids would cross the beach to ask what they were. This body has never been slim. This body hurts a lot. Word, huh?
Our culture has hung some heavy baggage around our shoulders (waists and thighs, too) with all the marketing, images, messages, and downright mockery of those whose physiques fail to conform to the contemporary ideal of beauty. The body can be a potent vessel for shame, and it is that very shame that can keep someone from moving forward. And I will put it out right here and now, for many of us, it drives a deep desire to not be seen.
Word through my body? Augh.
As today began, I stumbled upon a New York Times article about the late artist Laura Aguilar with a stunning photo: Laura Aguilar Turned Her Searing Lens on Herself, and Shaped the Future. To quote the caption: “Laura Aguilar in one of her candid self-portraits, ‘Grounded #111’ (2006) at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art. She was alone, her face often hidden, her prone body aligned with and echoing landscape contours and rock formations.”
The photo shows Laura sitting naked in the desert, back to the camera, head down, her ample folds on full display. She was a big woman. The photo is gorgeous.
As might be expected, the picture (who knows how many read the story) immediately drew ridicule and utterly cruel comments. Lots of them. And yet, you see, that was undoubtedly part of the narrative she was sharing—using herself to create a photo so dynamic it practically functions as an art installation. It also provoked compassion and empathy. For me, it was one of the most moving things I have seen in a long time.
Oh Laura. You were, and still are, so much Word through your body. If you could do it, maybe I, in my own way, can too. Talk about being seen, sister!
This topic—being Word through my body—has haunted me since I began blogging for this site. It’s stuck with me in such a persistent way, wanting to be expressed, yet never quite informing me of what to say. I hold the affirmation—I am Word through my body—close and use it every single day, often with an expansive feeling, standing on my back porch overlooking dogs, yard, pond, and forest. Yet it has always been something I have done not with knowing but with the confidence that someday maybe I just might get it.
Through repeated months in a children’s hospital, I grew up with experiences that have molded me to my core. What I saw, heard, and learned brought me understanding of others I may not have found any other way. I learned to walk a second time when I was six years old and, yes, I was bullied for that. My shape has left me hating shopping. I’ve been posing for photos behind people and objects all my life. My fear of walking away from a group and being laughed at has even kept me home. And yet …
Here I am. When these broad hips brought two amazing humans into this world, this body sure was Word. And with each person I embrace with my comfy arms and puffy bosom, well, I am just so Word. If I have moved you with this piece, I am Word. If I have angered you or disgusted you, I am also Word.
I started writing this piece with no idea how to resolve this, no clue on how my idea of universal perfection could be expressed through flesh so clunky and strange, a shape that has drawn derision and challenge all my life. But maybe a brave and brilliant artist has inspired me to see it in a different way.
I get it. Right now: I do. Our bodies bear a primal code for our experiences as we continue to race around the sun. They are the earliest building blocks for what we see, who we become. My shape has given me a view of life and of humanity that someone whose figure I may have long envied may never see. It’s unique; it’s me.
Nobody said it would be easy, but we’ve been promised it is right. I think perhaps that is so.
Word I Am Word.