The day after my ex husband told me he was leaving I painted my toenails. A lovely reddish brown color called Flirt graced my piggies and it didn’t even begin to make me feel better but had distracted me for a good ten minutes. Months and months later I sat in the hot tub at the gym and realized that the very last of the polish was chipping off and then it occurred to me that soon that nail would be gone entirely and I wouldn’t have any nails left on my body that I’d had when last we’d last made love.
I shaved my head a few days after that – with the knowledge that the hair growing back would never know his hands. This may seem dramatic, but to me it was real – it was my daily life trying to figure out how to breathe again without him.
It occurs to me now, two years later, that so many of my cells no longer know him and that soon enough, maybe none of them actually will – that what I bring forward into my future are only the stories I tell, that the only memory my hair has of my life before is what I share.
My skin does not remember my assault, but it has heard the story. My eyelashes did not feel the tears I shed after my first daughter was born, but the echoes of my weariness and excitement and awe resonate from my past to their tips.
I tell my stories often and thoroughly. It’s important to me to use my voice in this way, it’s how I cope and heal and grow – but it’s becoming more and more important as I grow for me to be cautious with the story, honest and genuine always but aware of the tone I bring.
The whimper of weakness teaches my left pinky I am not strong. The sharp edge of judgement and regret reinforce fault and shame in my lower belly just as the firm warmth of reassurance and confidence bolster my earlobes to feel pride and curiosity.
How I tell my story leaves a mark on how I remember it and how I feel about myself remembering it. So much of the world will be cruel and thoughtless and critical, maybe I can be honest and thorough and kind. Maybe I can be gentle.
Featured Image “The Blossoming” (2018) – available here.