The Body

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Photo credit Hans Braxmeier

I haven’t got the words lately.

Or the itch to grab my camera.

Or even the desire to Instagram.

I haven’t crocheted lately. Or embroidered. Or even doodled.

I bought myself a planner that has coloring pages within it. I colored one picture the day I brought it home. Since then it has remained colorless. Void of creativity.

Like myself.

Everything weighs so heavily on me. And I know a lot of that has to do with depression. But more so it has to do with the world and the ways in which it keeps closing in on me.

Every day, people talk about my body as if it isn’t real to them. As if there isn’t a heart that beats or arms that hug or eyes that cry when their proclamations spill down in toxic waves of cold detachment.

My body is regulated.

My healthcare choices. My birth control choices. My medication choices.

It can be grabbed and groped and leered at and then debated. People can decide if I deserved what I got and if I should wear what I choose.

What it looks like is for the benefit of others. Never for the benefit of me. I buy into notions of beauty and poise and aesthetics without even recognizing what I am doing. Another woman comes along and points out the absurdity of women being made to believe they have to have no body hair and I bite my lip. I lose what she says after that because my brain begins calculating the hours I’ve lost to shaving beneath hot streams of water, from ankle to armpit and everything in between, for years of my life.

And still to this day.

I won’t give up on it because of her comment.

There’s still a part of me that wants to have some semblance of control over my self. That wants to believe that a choice I made was really ever mine to make.

My body.

I want to feel connected to it. To have some type of ownership over it. I want to believe that I’m the only one who makes decisions about this body that I feel I know so intimately, yet view through lenses that someone else has fitted over my eyes.

I know it’s not just me. It isn’t just about my body.

Even more than mine, it’s happening to the bodies of women of color, trans bodies, the bodies of young black men.

And so there are no words or pictures. The well of creativity has run dry.

All the water it held is being used to put out fires.

Relentless, widespread fires.

Stoked by the anger of men desperate for power and fed by the bodies of anyone who challenges them.

 

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What the Fuckers in Congress Want You to Forget: You Already Pay For the Healthcare of Others

Image by Thomas Breher

 

I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

We met last year. Actually, our kids met and hit it off. But it wasn’t long before we did, too. She has a very calming presence about her that I like being around. We make each other laugh.

We were friends for a few weeks before I realized she was pregnant. I suspected it, but one does not ask a woman if she’s pregnant without first independently verifying she’s actually pregnant.

Unless you don’t really care to be friends.

The thing is, she’s so petite that it was hard to tell she was pregnant unless she wore a certain outfit.

Plus, she was so active.

Keeping up with her three daughters. Playing basketball with my two younger sons. Chasing my youngest and her youngest as she pretended to be a monster.

We talked about arranging their marriage so we could be family. Both of us agreeing nobody wants to deal with unpleasant in-laws.

I started teaching her to crochet. She found plans for a shawl she wanted to make and use as a nursing cover. I started making it for her baby shower.

We talked about names for her son.

Until just before Christmas, only 3 weeks shy of her due date, when she went into labor. She arrived at the hospital and they sent her across the street to her doctor. There they performed an ultrasound and informed her that her baby passed away.

She delivered her silent son later that day.

The new year began. After the holidays, spent explaining to her daughters what happened, and after the funeral, she did what any mother does in that situation.

She got up. She played with her girls, though there were less giggles. We didn’t laugh as much together. She seemed tired a lot of the time, but who could blame her? I couldn’t imagine the Herculean effort it took her, every single day, to just . . . rise.

But, as weeks turned into months, the low energy and sadness became pain.

Physical pain.

And I imagine in the beginning maybe she believed it just another symptom of grief. A tangible manifestation of the ache her heart felt for her son.

Until we all noticed.

I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

Of how she went from chasing down preschoolers to shuffling along like a grandmother. In hospice.

She became hunched. She had trouble sitting down and standing back up. Days went by where she couldn’t get out of bed.

She held her arms crossed in front of her chest. Her hands curled in front of her shoulders.

She couldn’t use them anymore.

I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

Especially the day she turned to me, stoic and quiet, and said, “I feel like I might die any day now. Because I’ve never felt so sick and I don’t know what’s wrong.”

We jumped to help her with the kids, even as we all, her friends, whispered behind her back.

What could we do?

Who could we call?

There had to be someone who could help.

She went to the hospital and they sent her home. She went to a doctor but they couldn’t track down the name of the doctor she’d seen in the hospital. She called another doctor and, after speaking with a nurse of her concerns, was told, “We don’t prescribe narcotics here.”

I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

The way she cried because she didn’t want narcotics.

She wanted to know what was wrong with her.

But that’s what happens in America when your husband is unemployed and you’re uninsured and you’re black and you’re female and you’re sick . . . take your pick.

She’s all of that.

She’s also my friend and a mother and daughter and she went from being an energetic 29 year old to being an invalid in a matter of weeks. She started swelling. Her ankles and fingers and face. We made her sit and put her feet up and placed bags of frozen peas on her ankles.

All the while feeling as if our hands were also curled in on themselves. As if we were powerless.

A national spectacle unfolds before our eyes. Government representatives who don’t seem human. Not for the choices they make, but for the way they repeatedly set themselves apart from the very humans they swore to represent.

They don’t know us.

They don’t even see us.

As we fret and care for our loved ones, they don’t even know we’re there.

I once saw posts from a page on Facebook devoted to crochet about one of the page founders having a serious medical event that required him to be hospitalized in critical condition. Fans of the page clamored to ask if a fund had been set up yet to help out.

The man’s partner finally responded, informing everyone that they live in Canada.

Crowd funding not needed. At all.

But that’s how we do it here. We hear of medical catastrophe and everyone starts sending money. Whatever we can to those who need it most. To those we most love.

“You don’t have the right to spend my money on other people’s health care!” I hear people yelling. They forget, I guess, that they do it all the time. That they donate to friends and loved ones who suddenly fall ill.

Today, the House voted to pass a shit storm along to the American people.

People they don’t see. People they don’t care about in any sense of the word, no matter what steaming pile of bullshit falls from their mouths.

And I can’t stop thinking about my friend.

Discharged yesterday, after a week in the hospital. Because her husband finally took her there when things got bad. Because someone there finally took the time to see her and said, “You’re not leaving until we get some answers.”

Once again, she came home with empty arms and a broken heart.

Along with a lifelong, debilitating disease that will require extensive physical therapy, medications, and specialists.

Those in power don’t see her.

But I do.

I’m sure we’ll crowd fund at some point. It doesn’t matter what fucked up political party you pledge your misguided allegiance to, you still pay for the healthcare of others.

Some of us do it gladly.

Because she’s my friend.

And I can’t stop thinking about her.

You’ll do the same for yours.