What will we embody? Hate? Hope? Fear? Love?
For the past several years, our Saturdays mornings or afternoons were spent in north Portland, squeezing in a parking place among minivans, SUV’s, and the occasional Prius, unfolding the chairs and cheering on the girls’ soccer team. Delta Park was filled with soccer parents and students and coaches, sometimes playing in the rain and sometimes playing in the glorious fall.
This past Saturday morning there were no soccer games; COVID-19 took care of that. But the park was cordoned off with concrete barriers and police cars, waiting the arrival of the hate group, the Proud Boys. To the best of my knowledge, they assembled and then left. But I wonder what they embody. I wonder if they sense they carry hate in their bodies. I wonder if they sense they carry fear, too.
On my walk this morning I was listening to Brene Brown’s podcast conversation with Sonya Renee Taylor, author of the book The Body Is Not an Apology. (Listen to the podcast here.) I discovered the book last year while preparing for a retreat I was leading on women and their bodies and fell head over heels with Taylor’s message of radical self-love. There’s too much in it to capture in a few sentences here, so go find yourself a copy and get ready to work and to love.
Anyway, Brene Brown discovered Sonya Renee Taylor when one of Taylor’s quotes exploded in social media and was misattributed to Brown. Like so many others, I found the quote a sort of call to arms – calling our arms and all of our bodies to take seriously this time we are in, and to take seriously how we are being changed, body and soul, by this pandemic.
Here’s the quote: “We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”
Last week my friend Leslie died. She was a quiet, warm, bright, compassionate, shy woman whose body grew cancer cells in her bladder. I hate that she died; I hate that she died from cancer, and I hate that because of this damned virus I didn’t realize that the last time I saw her would be the last time I would ever see her. She embodied an honest and lumpy faith, and a sensitivity and empathy borne from the things life throws at you. I don’t know if she felt like her body betrayed her with those errant cells. She embodied so many things that I cherish, and I feel that her body betrayed her.
In the early days of COVID-19, I too took up the call to bake away and, with hardly any effort at all, put on five pounds. That was not good, especially when I learned that one of those mysterious “underlying factors” that make COVID so lethal is obesity. So I’ve been working on the scale going the other way, and have lost thirty pounds. I’m enjoying this rediscovery of my body and its shape. Let’s be clear: I will never be a bikini model. Scars from a C-section and a hip replacement ended that option. In this time, I had a big a-ha, especially for someone who has probably lost over three hundred pounds in her life (not all at once – in my many attempts at weight loss.)
The a-ha: maybe walking every day and eating healthy things is pleasurable and not a drudge. Seriously, you would think I’d’ve figured that out. But no. Reframing that has really improved my outlook and has been a good coping mechanism during pandemic and the surge in demand for racial justice and the political dumpster fire in which we find ourselves.
What will we embody when this is all over, when there’s a vaccine, and an election, and (please, God) a peaceful transfer of power? What are we embodying right now? I know that I carry fear in my shoulders, and hate in my throat. I also carry hope in my calves and love in my hands.
I think we have a choice about what we carry, and I’m not proud that I carry hate and fear, but to quote Michelle Obama quoting Mr. Trump, it is what it is. To let go of those things, to choose not to carry them any more, would seem to be about letting go of control and power too. I know I embody those things as well.
I’m one of those Christians who is irregular in her theological outlook. I don’t read the Bible literally but I do believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus which prefigures the resurrection of human beings and the redemption/resurrection of the whole of creation. I believe that God created the physical world and called it good and meant it. I believe we were created to embody joy and care and wonder. I believe the world would be a better place if we did embody joy and care and wonder.
Meantime, let’s stitch that new garment Ms. Taylor wrote about. A dress of the softest, drapiest fabric that enhances all that we embody. Sweatpants unseen in the Zoom meeting that ready our legs to go walk the walk. A garment worthy of royalty for the likes of you and me. Embodied and adorned – that’s what we are. That’s what we will be.