Your body is your home.

I’ve wondered for a long time whether it was useful to think of the body in a sort of Cartesian dualist way. Most of us certainly seem to, without reflecting on why we seem to, why that’s the semi-default mode of thinking about the body (body vs. mind, body vs. soul, body vs. personality — whatever. You get the idea.) And I’ve always disliked this. Because it makes the body sound like something outside of yourself, a piece of machinery that you can tweak and control and bring under your submission.

Well, as most of us have probably figured out from hard experience, bodies don’t dig that kind of stuff. They fuss. They rebel. They infiltrate your mind until they get their way, one way or another.

And given what we now know about brain structures and neurotransmitters affecting emotions and thought and judgment, it seems more sensible to really see the whole thing — us — as an organic whole. Not one of those Star Wars AT-AT walkers with, like, a dude inside manipulating the controls and shooting at stuff.

Pew, pew, pew!

No. Rather, your body is the space within which you exist. It’s the material assertion that you have the right to exist in this world, that you have a place in it. It’s the concept of ‘home’ — not a house, a thing to be remodelled at whim, bought and sold — but a cherished, adored, childhood home comprising memories both sad and sweet. Something you will lovingly tend to and care for over the years, give fresh paint and make repairs to when needed, but whose fundamental essence you would never hope to obliterate — imperfect, even broken, as its assembled parts may be.

It’s an extension of yourself — not your whole self, but definitely an irreplaceable part of it.

And that is why we’re so sad when things change. If our bodies were just machines, just external armour, why would we care so much about suddenly looking different? Hell, I sometimes cry when I get my hair cut, and I know that shit’s growing back.

So, to bring this around to something resembling a point — why does it matter how we think of our bodies? Well, in my experience, treating my body like a machine has not ended well. Treating it like an expensive outfit designed to impress other people has not ended well. Treating it like an unruly child or pet who needs to be reckoned with and brought under submission has not ended well. And I’ve lived for long periods of time where it was as if my body and myself were no longer on speaking terms.

The only thing that seems to make sense, that brings some kind of contentment to my relationship with myself — my eating, my moving, and my relationship with the great big world around me — is to appreciate the thing that I am. This warm, pink, mammalian flesh gives me all the tools I need to negotiate a pretty spectacular and time-sensitive existence. I see, hear, taste, and feel, both tactilely and emotionally, entirely at the discretion of my architecture. It doesn’t just mediate my interaction with the world — it creates that world. It is the stuff of my existence. And it’s the one place I can always return to, when weary or tired, to recreate that existence.


So, we look out for each other. I keep its structure sound, and it provides the world to me. My body is far more than the circumference of my thighs, the completeness of my shaving job, or the size of my appetite — it’s my home. I carry it with me.

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  1. Ann
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I’d never questioned my mind vs. body assumption before, but I totally do that all the time. I think intuitive eating is a great way to start turning that around. Great post!

  2. meerkat
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Gratuitous AT-AT yay!

  3. HeatherJ
    Posted December 20, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I love this!

    Thinking about my body as my home immediately makes me feel at peace with it. I need to write this out in big letters and stick it somewhere highly visible.

    It may help with the long, hard slog that is learning to stop hating my body.

  4. Elizabeth G.
    Posted March 24, 2010 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    I know, I know, I’m commenting on an ancient post, but what you said here about how our bodies assert our right to exist reminded me of a sort of… hypothesis I have. You know how the” ideal size” for a woman seems to keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller? I wonder if that’s an expression of a subconscious desire in our culture for women to… take up less space? Assert ourselves less? Forget about that right to exist? I especially wonder about the obsession with the stomach area. Why are we ashamed of this particular part of our bodies? That’s where the uterus is. It’s where we grow children. It is a source of womanly power. Pregnancy is the one awesome feat of a woman that no man can ever hope to replicate. It is not the *only* awesome feat of women, but it’s the one thing that’s uniquely ours. So why are we so afraid to show evidence of this? Why isn’t it okay to have a tummy? These are the thoughts that run through my head sometimes when I’m looking at my own tummy in the mirror, though I’ve never really admitted it “out loud” before. Why is that roundness shameful? You’d think it would be symbolic of womanly power.

    Hmm. It’s a thinker. Maybe I’ll put it in my own blog…

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