Refined By The Fire
I do all my best thinking in the shower. The sound of the water drowns out distractions and lets my mind wander as it will.
A couple of days ago, I was doing just that. I was busy wasting all kinds of water, watching it course down over my torso and around my bellybutton, and I got that strange feeling you get when something is dawning on you, and you look up and to the left and try not to lose the thread before it hits you.
And then I got an eyeful of water.
But, after I rubbed the water out of my eye, the feeling was still there, and, miraculously, it finally hit me: As we age, as our bodies change with babies and illness and surgeries and years and whatnot, we start to view them as remnants of our former selves rather than whole in their present states. We start to view our bodies as what remains from some former, better versions of them.
I have never been fond of my body. I don't mean that I have never liked it aesthetically; I mean its very existence has been bothersome. These meat suits we wear are awfully uncomfortable and demanding and prone to becoming even moreso over time. They get dirty easily and injured easily and create a lot of mess. To me, they've always seemed like pretty awful vessels to have to ferry ourselves around in for decades on end.
And then I also had to go and get cervical cancer and have a hysterectomy three years ago, which, while managing to save me from cancer, also managed to further screw with my already messy sense of physical coherence.
I realized that, since then, I have been subconsciously thinking of my body as the thing that remains, as though the essential and true parts of some better and younger self were gone from me. Essentially, I have been subconsciously believing that I am akin to garbage, that I am leftovers, that I am merely what remains from all that has been stripped from me over the years through the many trials that life has had to offer.
This realization led to a second, and much more important realization. There is no ideal version of our physical selves that has ever, or will ever, exist. I was no more ideal at 7 or 18 or 31 than I am now. There is no measuring stick to measure how this particular version of Schmutzie is faring against any other versions of Schmutzie. There is only this one now, this one me. The earlier versions of me — the one who was yet to be molested, the one who was yet to experience suicidal depression, the one who was yet to get cancer — are not better or more whole. They are merely different. My previous incarnations did not possess some aura of wholeness that was taken away.
I am not less good or less whole for the negative things that have happened to me.
I am changed.
We cannot necessarily alter the series of events that brings us to certain points of change, but once those things have occurred, once we have been through the fire, that is when we have possibility restored, that is when we can choose what that change will become in us. We are given such great opportunity to grow and become within ourselves in the aftermath of negative events, and it is a terrible thing to lose any of that because of the false belief that the best in any of us has been worn away.
My body is not a degraded and leftover thing. I may not fully embrace it, and it might still be a weighty meat suit to me, but it is whole. It is what it is. It belongs to no other self but me, the self who bore it through these times to find a new whole and to be spurred on to discover what that means.
Difficult times are the fire by which I am refined, and I have found my mettle in it.