Thank You, Body

This week, again, was spent working in my classroom so what I planned to write about got a little derided. However, I think the things I’ve been thinking still apply. So, here we go.

Even though I’m female and I’ve been raised in an American culture that encourages girls and women to be their biggest critics — and even despisers — of their bodies (too fat, too skinny, too tall, wrong hair, wrong skin, blah blah blah) I love and appreciate my body so much, especially in weeks like these.

My body has been my lifelong companion. I mean, duh, obviously, but really — think about that — your body is the only living thing that will be with you your entire life. Not your parents, your siblings, your spouse, even friends or pets. Maybe a tree or a sea turtle, but for argument’s sake let’s just say it’s just you inside your body. And the fact that your body is alive and functioning means you’re alive and on this planet, living a life. Your body is your host and home for the life you’re living and simultaneously it’s a living organism with needs — just like any other living organism. And the profound thing is that this body is yours — and my body is mine — and that body goes with me and does pretty much whatever I ask it. Get up at 5:55am everyday? Okay. Walk briskly and stand in lines and carry heavy boxes and lift bins overhead and climb a ladder and get down from a ladder? No problem. Go five, six hours without food because you’re busy? Well, why not. And in some ways this is an everyday miracle. The fact that I can do and do and do and think and do some more — all while nearly forgetting about my body, having my body be a transparent tool that does whatever I want it to do, is a tiny miracle. And I am so grateful — my body is strong and loyal.

But loyalty reminds me — I have to be loyal, too. My body, my beautiful, miraculous, ever-giving body, needs some loyalty and care, too. Just like any other type of companion or friend, the relationship I have with my body needs maintenance. The basics, yes, like sleep and rest, nutritious food, clean water, a good dose of rigorous exercise — but also love and appreciation. I really do believe that my body, just like any other living organism, can feel the energy of love and appreciation and flourish in that love — and conversely — the energies of dislike, disappointment, frustration, irritation, shame, disgust can bring a body figuratively and literally to its knees. So why not just do it? Feel love for the body — for your body.

Because even when the body gets sick, when the body gets tired, when it falls short in some way that you deem, it’s still there for you, working for you and doing its best to keep you living — so that it can be the tool you need to live the life you desire. What’s not to love about that?

Creative Spaces

This week I spent most of the week driving around Illinois for the solar eclipse, celebrating my wedding anniversary, and also putting my work space together.

Over the last three days I’ve spent about 20 hours setting up my work space, my classroom. Every year in the late summer the room starts as a fairly blank canvas, all the furniture needs to be moved around, books and materials need to unearthed and a place found for them. Lots of thinking and rehearsing and trial and error goes into all of this; it’s not just about how I’d like the space to look and feel, but how 30 kids will like it, how they’ll feel in the space. I think about whether the placement of something is intuitive, too high, too far away, if a walking path is clear and uncluttered, if a rug’s location looks inviting, if I will be able to reach for something easily or I’ll have to hang over the side of a desk or bookshelf to get there, if the afternoon light will be too bright on a desk, if the room will be too gloomy on a cloudy day, if there’s a comfortable place for me to sit when I’m alone working, if there’s an obvious place for me to gather with groups.

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The room in its before state. There’s no after picture just yet.

Is all this necessary? No, not really, and I don’t mind. But I used to mind. Every August I’d start to dread going back to school. It’s not fair, I used to think. I’m not getting paid for all this work, all these free hours. But something this summer shifted. I’ve realized — embraced, really — the fact that even this kind of work — moving books and hauling furniture — is creative. I’m creating a space that will stage all kinds of further manifestations of creativity:  ideas, discussions, projects, posters, friendships, experiments, and more cycles of trial and error. This time of year is my chance to create and curate another part of myself — the physical space that hosts my professional life. So I go back to work knowing that creativity has many faces, that I can let go a little more, and get lost inside my creative process in an old space that, this time around, is feeling brand new.