I’ve actually had a surprisingly good relationship with my body. Now don’t get me wrong. I didn’t always treat her right. Heck, I still don’t if eating sugar and fried foods are still considered bad for you. However, I love my body. Can it be better? Heck yes. It could be more toned, more flexible, have more strength. But is that what is best for me? My mom, COVID-19 and Pam Grout helped me to view my body differently and helped me view what I do for my body differently.
At age 15, I got gallstones. When the doctor was prepping me for surgery to remove them, I overheard the nurse telling him the patient had sickle cell. I immediately started crying and asked for my mother. I thought they’d switched my chart with someone else, and I was not about to get the wrong thing operated on. Well, come to find out that my mom had lied to me. Lie is such a strong word especially for my mother. I had to say falsehood until I was in high school. Still, she did tell me a bold-faced lie throughout my entire life.
On several occasions, the mother of one of my friends who was a nurse would ask me if I had sickle cell because she noticed the whites of my eyes were yellow, signifying jaundice. I would ask my mom and she would say, “Traci, you don’t have sickle cell.” I remembered going with my mom to a clinic where we had been shown a movie when I was five or six and I reminded her of this, and again, she would say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t have sickle cell.”
Well, cut to moments before my surgery with tears streaming down my face, and my mom finally admits that yes, you have sickle cell and we’ll discuss it after your surgery. I’m sorry, what? I personally think I willed myself to live through that surgery purely for the ensuing conversation about what would come to be called the Sickle Cell Cover-up.
Barely conscious and pumped full of pain killers, I proceeded to demand more information on why she felt the need to lie to me all these years. I wanted to know why when I asked about it and told her about our trip to watch the movie, she responded as if I was crazy. And just when I thought her response was going to be completely insufficient and unforgiveable, she drops, “I never wanted you to think you couldn’t do something because you had sickle cell, so I chose to keep it from you.” Mic Drop. What? My mom was practicing the As A Man Thinketh That Shall He Also Be philosophy on me, and by God, it worked.
I have had only two recognized crises in my life as someone who has sickle cell anemia not the trait. I’ve been told by doctors that this is because my body still maintains a high amount of fetal hemoglobin. Guys, I’m over 40 and I’ve still got baby blood in me. You know what I mean. Blood from when I was a fetus in my mom’s womb. This was my first lesson in recognizing how powerful my body was. It was the first time I saw myself as a bit of a super human. I think it’s also why I generally have a positive outlook on my body.
Next up was COVID-19. Being in quarantine was stressful especially for someone who is technically “immunocompromised.” However, I was intent to enjoy the experience and given the fact we didn’t know if it truly was in prepared food, I was relegated to preparing my own meals, so that meant that my snack game had to be at an all-time high. If I’m not able to change up what I’m eating regularly because I only go out to buy food once a month, I better be able to have some variety in my snacks. So that resulted in Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pies, popcorn, Spree, Jolly Ranchers, Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears and Gummy Worms, HEB’s Trail Mix, sunflower seeds, various types of chips such as Lays, Doritos, Cheetos, and Fritos, and ice cream and ice cream confections like ice cream sandwiches or Drumstick cones.
Oh, and I felt absolutely no guilt in eating any of it. In fact, it became a form of self-care for me. In these times of chaos, I could come back to my snacks to help get me through, and get me through they did. I was an expert at rationing until I could make my monthly grocery run. Throughout my time in quarantine, I haven’t gained any weight from it either. I personally think it’s my mindset and the lack of guilt, which leads me to Pam Grout.
Pam Grout wrote a wonderful book called E-Squared in which she detailed how our minds can affect our bodies through an experiment in eating foods without guilt and then, weighing oneself to see where the scale goes. In the experiment, you are not to change what you eat, only how your mind thinks about what you’re eating. Well, I did the experiment and lost 3 pounds in the 3 day period. The experiment confirmed for me why eating all the junk food was not affecting my body. I had no guilt from eating it. In fact, I saw it as nutritious for my well-being and therefore, it was.
So, I’m not so sure anything shifted in how I saw my body, so much that I recognized the gift that my body has always been. I recognized it from a young age thanks to my mom, and that has carried forward until today.
Now, my face, that’s a completely different matter and a different story for another day. But hey, I’m working on seeing it the same way as my body. 😉
This post was written in response to a journaling prompt from Suleika Jaouad’s 10 Day Challenge in her The Isolation Journals group.