Don’t you wish that our brains had a magic “off” button? One that you could just hit when you wanted to sit in silence and just be without the stream of thoughts rushing by? For some reason, my thoughts always take the persona of the New York Stock Exchange in Times Square — digitized digital words flying by faster than I can put them into sense. Digital is so much more…severe than analog. Letters lose their curves; words lose their softness when they are forced to confine to boxes; pixellated particles of thought.
Sometimes, usually at the worst times, my brain just turns on and won’t stop – I can’t make the thoughts slow, or change, and as soon as I break one thought’s downward or side-ward spiral, another one takes over and sweeps me away again.
But aren’t my thoughts what separate me from my body? What forms the bridge between the two? Without them, would I be able to engage my body, ask it to move, or stretch, or breathe deeply?
For me, associating with my body is somewhat…painful. Difficult. Irritating, to say the least. For as long as I can remember, I don’t remember my body every really working the way it was supposed to work. Looking the way that it’s “supposed” to look. Fighting against illness the way that my mind wanted it to.
The challenges associated with my body led me to take medication that poisons it — it was working too well, fighting against itself. Failing to recognize the “good guys” from the bad, and putting up equal ammunition against both of them. The overachiever inside me given flight.
In reality, my body functions, albeit not at full capacity. It does what it’s supposed to do (slowly), absorbing nutrients, creating new cells, discarding waste, pumping blood, taking in oxygen, releasing carbon dioxide.
It does what it’s supposed to do.
But it doesn’t explain why my best friend, mother, and husband still need to stop me every once in a while to say, “Ani Lo Guf.” I am not my body. I am thought. I am air. I am something divine, taking up space in a protected shell. What I am does not have physical confines. If we could just take off our bodies like we do our shoes…..
It would all make sense.
The Torah tells us that Adam and Chava didn’t have skin or bodies the way that you or I do. They had light. Light covered by a sheer substance most clearly resembling our fingernails – but not adult fingernails. The soft, malleable, baby fingernails that bend and shine and reflect light. They didn’t require tissue and muscle and blood to keep the light in their eyes alive — they were souls wearing shoes made of translucent fingernails.
I’ve spent the past few days grappling with what it means to be a soul wearing a body. To dissociate myself from the size of my thighs or stomach and to realize that I need to feed my soul more than my body needs to be fed at the same exact time. And to feed my soul, I need to realize what it feels like just to occupy this space. To get to know my body from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. That looking in a mirror won’t teach me what it feels like to let the light leak out.