A Body (guest post)
by Abbigail Baldys
i don’t know how to write a blog or have a body
since i’m borrowing (perverting?) kaeli’s blogspace, i suppose it’s mildly appropriate that i begin with kaeli herself. i met kaeli—following fashion of all my favorite beings—in a poetry class in undergrad at UPitt. i admired her talent, intelligence, brilliant t-shirts, & self-haircuts (please tell me again how you manage that, darling). & as i’ve read her blog, i’ve noticed something more to admire. kaeli is brave in all the vulnerable spaces. & it makes sense to me—what good is a cowardly sensitivity? & maybe it’s some cultural fallacy i’m following when i write that emotional transparency is brave, but i imagine that fallacy has made legitimate too many poets, authors, & artists for it to matter.
despite my rampant (& somewhat insane) support of transparency, i’ve been a public- emotion coward. most notably, my cowardice nestled in the poetry i wrote (& write—old habits fuck hard—wait—no–): i created cryptic syntax. i redacted lines. & while i’m not a proponent of radical transparency, (some things still should remain sacred—the secrets held in bodies don’t always need to write themselves out), i am on the side of good-intentioned personal honesty. &, in this space, kaeli has inspired me to be honest.
i’ve had body dysmorphia since i can remember. i didn’t obsess over it, & i never even identified it until high school was tucked neatly into retrospect. i attribute my late-onset to the gift of distraction: from 5-22 years old, i purposed my body through athletics. my collegiate soccer experience forced me to accept a forfeit of my body independence—i was to understand that my body needed to perform certain functions at certain times; i must gain mass; i must have a low percentage body fat; i must eat only what maximizes performance. & in calling all this attention to my fat & muscle & skin & bone, i suppose collegiate athletics tipped me further into body consciousness.
& as much as i’d love to completely blame my disorder on collegiate soccer (which is some odd form of prostitution, to be honest), i’ll admit that my genetics don’t boast the prettiest tendencies for mental stability, so i’m always kind of walking the craggy edge of fuckery/sanity—although, really, there’s not much of a dividing line.
after i retired from soccer, my body owned—bit by bit—more of my consciousness. by the time i graduated college & touched down in Berkeley for a summer writing program, food & body became obsessions. & as much as i wish i could pin-point what went wrong & how & when & exactly what mildly fucked up things i couldn’t entirely process from my childhood & from what in particular my body-obsession was distracting myself & whatever whatever (obviously i made it to therapy), i feel like my body un-doing was more of a slow unravel. i won’t catalogue what happened in Berkeley because my body is more than what i’ve suffered. if what they say is true—that we’re made of the same stuff as stars—then i’m much more concerned with our radiance & triumph than void.
i arrived back on the east coast weighing roughly twenty pounds underweight. i was constantly lightheaded, i couldn’t walk two miles without feeling like i was going to pass out, & i spent most of my time in bed. i started going to therapy. i got a puppy. i began eating again. i gained weight. i still had a secret scale & weighed myself a lot & mostly cried. but things got better. i could run again. i could think about things that weren’t food & my body-disgust, & i could write much more coherently. i gained more weight. i got a shitty job in retail. i wrote letters & marveled thunderstorms & moved to Richmond.
i’ve been here almost 4 months & haven’t weighed myself in almost that much time—thanks to a note on the scale from my particularly fantastic boyfriend (something along the lines of “you weigh gorgeous pounds and beautiful ounces; don’t let a number dictate how you feel”). i don’t own a full-length mirror. i cook & bake cookies & work in a florist (i know too much about flowers & how they mold) & most days i’m still genuinely fucked with my body perception. & part of what i’ve learned about sensitive minds is that they’re often their own undoing— & although i’m sure we’ve heard this all before too too too many times, it never hurts to say it again—our most scathing critics are often ourselves, & as keepers of our realities, that makes life pretty fucking hard.
& while i’ve been able to meditate a lot on bodies & their functions & interpretations (no boring, odd theoretical lecture ahead), i think what i’d like to share most about my disorder is this:
1. being disordered isn’t pretty. you feel like shit, you look like shit. [& people told me this & provoked more body shame (thanks, fuckheads), but the scariest thing is that some people told me i looked good. & i’d like to raise a giant middle finger to all the people who said ‘wow, you look amazing’]. & i owe too many apologies for tarnished relationships, & i struggle now to be stable with my current boyfriend—but when you find someone who really loves you, they stay.
2. & staying brings me to this—you’re never alone. when you allow those you love to help you (especially those with four paws & wet noses), the world begins to feel gentle again.
3. you’re not your enemy. to paraphrase my therapist—“there’s nothing wrong with you. there’s nothing you need to change about yourself. there are just parts of you calling for your attention, & they’re asking you to listen to what they’re saying. it’s hard. but when you listen, you can learn how to answer back.”
i’d like this little written profession to be an invitation for & celebration of honesty. our struggles are tailored to ourselves, but maybe part of my recovery will be a stitch in someone else’s—and wouldn’t that be nice—if perhaps we’re all sewn in one big ball of beautifully fucked up minds—i don’t know. maybe the fault lines in our palms are really logograms for the poetry of our skin—perhaps everything we touch becomes poetry—perhaps bodies are the most immediate way of experiencing art & that’s why we have them—& maybe you & i should revere ourselves in the most incredibly gentle ways. we’re stars, after all. we feel so much. we explode so fine.
abbigail baldys lives in RVA with her german shepherd, blaze. she’s an unknown poet, tea-cup collector, simple songwriter, & half-artist. you can write her a letter or send your teeth addressed to: 3122 W Clay Street Apt#10 / Richmond, VA 23230