Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Body/Brain Disconnect

Image found here.
As I lay in bed this morning, I was chewing on some deep thoughts about relationships and intimacy. I want to be closer to the Best Husband Ever, as well as people in general. I tend to be very closed off in terms of relationships, be it with co-workers, friends, or family. I stay guarded and, while that might keep me from experiencing much of the hurt than sometimes accompanies close relationships, it also keeps me from experiencing the beautiful parts of relationships, too.

The other day, I checked out a book from the library on the Best Husband Ever's recommendation, A Magic of Twilight by S. L. Farrell. Flipping through the novel, I landed on Farrell's dedication page. It said:

For Denise
You are in everything I do

I was floored. Clearly S. L. Farrell and Denise are very, very close. Perhaps they are spouses, lovers, or simply share a deep friendship. Whatever their relationship can be classified as, these two people are obviously intimate and vulnerable with each other. What's more, I realized that I can't say that anybody I know is "in everything I do" (not even God, really), and that fact makes me incredibly sad.

As I lay there in bed, thinking about this first brush with Farrell's novel, a memory rose to the front of my mind. Several years ago, just before I met the man who would become the Best Husband Ever, I was walking downtown with a close friend of mine. This was also around the time that eating disordered thoughts were beginning take hold of my brain. I remember being hungry, and telling my friend that I rather enjoyed the feeling of being empty. The fact that having no food in my stomach also made my belly look flatter was a bonus.

Reflcting on that obviously misguided comment I made four years ago, a new idea occurred to me. The most intimate relationship I have is with myself, with my body. I live with my body. We all do, of course. We can't get away from our secretions, our smells, our physical abilities (or lack of abilities). We experience the world through our bodies, using sights and sounds, smells, and tastes, as well as deeper feelings like when a handsome boy makes girl's heart beat faster.

I know that I am not my body. My identity is more than what I look like, more than my physical form. But . . . my body is my closest companion. If I can feel my body telling me it is hungry, and then willfully misinterpret its message as I did that day while walking with my friend, how can I expect to experience healthy relationships with other people? If I can't have a good relationship with the inner workings and needs of my own flesh, why do I think it should be easy to be intimate with a whole other person?

I don't know if this post makes sense, or if it's even accurate. But I am flaggergasted at this [probably not-so-new] realization -- that I don't know my own body. After nearly thirty years, this skin is still a stranger to me, its inhabitant and daily user. And that knowledge is more sad and disturbing than all of my other relationship-related lacks.

What are your thoughts on the matter? I am eager to hear other perspectives. Or, in other words, help!

Check out photographer Jodi Bieber's Real Beauty project, an extension of the Dove campaign, which I randomly came across while writing this post and found to be very powerful.


  1. Wow. Those are some very powerful and personally meaningful thoughts. Thank you for sharing them. I allow others only so close so I won't be betrayed, disappointed, abandoned - all deep wounds for me. This has led to multiple relationships that failed in part due to my not allowing myself to be reasonably vulnerable and transparent. Instead, I sidestepped deep intimacy, hid from it, or just plain ran. With counseling, coaching, and support, I've grown and become so much better at deep intimacy. Yet you help me wonder, how am I doing with allowing *myself* into myself? If that makes any sense. A deep loving intimate relationship with myself is something I've deeply yearned for - yet, until recently, never knew it. Embracing my self *just as I am*, as God does, wow. Amazing thoughts. I feel like a baby who's just discovered it's toes. Look forward to the continued conversation about this.

  2. fm -- Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Like you, I pretty much had my mind blown by this realization (although I like your comparison to a baby so much better!). I am eager to hear more of what other folks think.

  3. A lot of intimacy is perception. Just because someone dedicates a book to someone saying "you're in everything I do" doesn't mean their intimacy is any greater or less than yours and Best Hubby. It's just the authors perception of their intimacy. Who knows what their real relationship is like, they might fight like cats or dogs. But you are very wise to evaluate constantly your relationship with yourself. You'd love a book by Nathanial Branden titled Six Pillars of Self Esteem. It talks a lot about the questions you raise and has some great exercises to do to explore your thoughts. He talks a lot about how your mind works, not just "love yourself" kind of platitudes.I don't think you should be sad about the knowledge you found. Turn it around and figure a way to use the new found knowledge to your advantage, maybe. If you are thinking of these things, you are growing and that's a great thing, right? At least that's what I tell myself when I'm going through periods like that:)

  4. yogiclarebear.comJuly 30, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    From BKS Iyengar’s Light on Life: “We all identify with our bodies. This is inevitable. If an elephant charges toward us as we cross the road, we do not cry, “My God, my ego will be crushed!” At that moment, we are our bodies, which jump out of the way. This is largely true when we are ill. Good health banishes body identification to a degree nothing else can. We accept that, in the long run, we are not our bodies. Body parishes, we hope we will not. But you cannot tell that to pain. We may know that body is not our enduring identity, but that knowledge is theoretical. In health we forget our bodies; in sickness we cannot. How much simpler life would be if this were the other way round. In relation to the body, this means that we are not our body in any permanent sense, but for all practical purposes we are our bodies, because they are the vehicles through which we perceive and can discover our immortality. This is why yoga begins with the body.”I appreciated how Iyengar acknowledges how difficult it is to NOT identify with our bodies…especially in sickness. And Beth, your body has been through a lot, just as your emotions have. It is perfectly right to want to identify with it in a healthy way. God gave us these bodies, like Iyengar states, as vehicles of our souls. We should identify with them by caring for them and loving them the best and most balanced way we can. It is good to feel this and want this for yourself!


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King