The stories our bodies tell. The stories we wear
By Hattie Arthur

Whether we like it or not, our bodies tell stories.
My ten-year-old’s ankle tells the story of his two-year-old leg getting caught in the workings of a bicycle.
It tells of a father’s panic, borne out of love and unmerited guilt, and of a stranger’s kindness and care.
Of a journey aborted and a session missed.

The stories our bodies tell. The stories we wear

It tells of a morning spent, just me and my son, a morning that I would not have wished to have changed.
The stories our bodies tell — the stories we wear — are not just tales of events, for they are reminiscent, too, of times and of places and people.
They speak of how we felt and of relationships we had. They remind us of who we were and they tell of who we are now.
Our stories are our stories.

They are there.
They are fixed.
And they cannot be changed.
Or can they?

My story

Let me tell you just now about the story that my body told. It was a story of confusion and of a search for a missing identity.
A story of isolation and of fear.
A story of a little girl who felt she must grow up too fast, who in doing so, locked herself away, and didn’t even know that she was trapped.
The story was complex, with its many twists and turns. The strands entwined and diverged and become a tangled web, a maze impossible to follow, a ball of wool, with untie-able knots.

The marks of this were there on my skin.
Internal chaos, written out with a knife.

For years, I believed that my story could not change. That chaos would win and there would be no happy ending.
The scars were my safety. The only narrative to the otherwise un-narratable. A way to communicate what I didn’t know how to say.

A story of loathing had been spelled out by destruction.
A plot line of invisibility was made visible in red.
The scars were not there to be hidden. They were there, a desperate grasp at identity, telling people who I was and what I had become.

I was broken.
I was needy.
And I wanted to be nurtured better whilst simultaneously remaining in all that had become secure.
I wanted to be seen, whilst I hid from the demands of perfectionism; demands that could never be met.

My tale began to change

But whilst my story was still being written on my skin, my tale also began to change.
There was no cataclysmic moment.
No Damascus road vision.
Just a painfully slow journey of progress and relapse.
A slow waltz out of an anorexic death, a dance that will continue until the day of the death that is to be mine.

So I danced my way into faith.
Into marriage.
Into parenthood.
And whilst still creating the story of death, a new story — a part two — started to write its way into my being.

This new story, composed oh so slowly, was one of grief and of mourning for what had been lost.
It was one of anger for what had been taken.
It was one of realising what I could never get back.

But more than all of that, it was one of finding. It was one of locating the lost little girl and of telling her that it was okay. That she was okay.
It was a finding of the Divine Smile, the Smile that I’d thought was reserved for others.
Of tracking down the scattered pieces of self, and of trial and error as they were cobbled together to make a whole.
It was one of healing in the fullest sense.

The new story

And this story, like the first instalment, could not be written with words alone but it required flesh and blood, for it was being penned at the very core of my being.
It was a story that could only be alluded to by prose.
And it was one that didn’t wish to co-habit my skin with the marks of the First-Half-Of-Life.
The new and jealous story needed to consume, or it would have been no story at all.

It refused to room in with that of the past, for it knew that a choice must be made.
So, whether by my own choice or by Another’s design, this new story, this part two, grew in me and I in it.
And it came to pass that the story I wore, so neatly yet chaotically written, no longer spoke of the fullness of my tale.
I wore one set of themes yet was learning to live another.
My body told of Death but I craved for it to speak of ever increasing Life.


Belonging and hope

So with a Holy foot stamp against that which could have destroyed me, a solution was found.
And now, there are new marks on my skin. These are marks written not with blades, but with needles and ink.
These marks do not erase those of my part one, and nor should they.

But they complement.
They add to.
They speak of more.
And they cause me to recognise myself.

Because my body now tells of belonging to the One who writes my name on His hand, and of beauty brought from the ashes of a troubled mind.
Hope and glorious liberation are there in watercolour, with an unknown future painted on in pink.

My story is not complete, and nor will it be until the end of Time.
My story will not make sense to all, but that lessens it none.
Because the stories our bodies tell, the stories we wear, are not simple tales of events, but they are reminiscent, too, of times and of places and people.
They speak of how we felt and of relationships we had. They remind us of who we were and they tell of who we are now.

Our stories are our stories… my story is my story.
Whilst our stories are there, they are not fixed.
We can change our stories.

I am
And I wear
Colourful proof.

Reproduced with permission, originally posted on mermaidsandink

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