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Lines of a Story

The beautiful essay "These are the lines of a story" by Mary Martin Wiens tells of her body's changes over the years, with aging and carrying children and all the other stresses and accidents of life—and how the changes first troubled her, and then how she came to accept and embrace them as a history. It begins:

Throughout my twenties and thirties, I was able to gain and lose pounds with the best of them. But, I was always proud that the front part of my belly stayed flat and muscled ... a nod to the thousands of sit ups I did as a gymnast when I was a girl. But, having babies, particularly the twins, changed my flat belly forever. Like someone who has lost a hundred pounds, the skin does not go back again. My stomach hangs low. I can gather my belly in my hands, moving and shaping it like the sweetbread dough I make with my mother at Christmas. And then there are the stretch marks covering the whole front of my midsection. They are a hundred rivulets of red rain streaming down a window, pooling at the sill of my C-section scar in half-inch wide scars that look, to me, like burns.

... and when her three-year-old son asks about the lines on her tummy, she realizes the meaning of those scars:

We journey from a seed in our mother's womb until we are planted in the grave with ever-changing bodies. Time scratches out its passage across my looks and the looks of all those I love. All our lives, our bodies manifest evidence of an existence marked by gains and losses. We gain and lose pounds, muscle, bruises, teeth, and hair. We lose elasticity and gain wrinkles. We gain scars. Our bodies process and carry our experiences, not without complaint, but with an unfailing perseverance that is worthy of both gratitude and honor. And one of the very great privileges of this life is to cherish the bodies of those I love through all their gains and losses for as long as I get to have them. We do not get to have those we love forever. In that final losing, every turn of the head and expression of the face becomes poignantly precious. So, may I have eyes to see them now.

... and Mary Wiens concludes:

The healing in this story is not that I have wholly accepted my body or that I will never again attempt to change it. It is that now when rejection rises in me against my body—how it looks, how it feels—I have a fuller answer. I can call up the sounds, smells, movements, scars, wrinkles, and dimples of my dear ones and look at myself through the lens of that incomparable beauty. This gives me access to a programming deeper than my culture that reminds me that my being here in this world in a body matters. The touch of my hand on a shoulder, my hug, the soothing sound of my voice, and the warmth in my eyes are irreplaceable to those who carry me in their hearts. Our physical presence here matters, no matter its shape.

(cf. Shul (2011-06-11), Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), Mantra - Stand By You (2017-10-06), ...) - ^z - 2017-11-28