Holy Places

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

*This whole post gets a trigger warning for body shame and trauma.*

Last week I listened to my body for the very first time.

From morning to sleep, I asked her, "What do you want today?" Her needs were simple yet specific. More rest. Warm wheat cereal for breakfast. Water. Deep breaths. Though listening was new for me, I never refused. What I received in return was a deep, unwavering sense of wholeness and a mantra that has stuck with me for days.

I am a holy place.

This affirmation is medicine for my aching body that for so long I have believed to be gross, unclean, dirty, broken, dark, and empty. For a long time I thought these feelings were the product of my OCD. But after a 6 month period of feeling increasingly numb and sad, I decided to go back to counseling and do some digging around. To no one's surprise, the intense feelings of grossness were rooted beneath the OCD, sometimes even beneath my conscious awareness. In fact, what digging has revealed makes me doubt the accuracy of my OCD diagnosis. I am beginning to lean strongly toward an alternate diagnosis of C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). Though I am unwilling to share details of what I am finding, I will say this:

I have hurt since before I remember remembering.

I have been told a hundred cruel, dehumanizing lies about who and what I am during a time in my life that I was forming critical, fundamental understandings about myself and my body.

I have been afraid my.entire.life. Every breath feels like a rebellion.

I have never felt like a child of God because I was told he hates unclean things.

The wound I carry is the deep, festering amputation of spirit from body, of heart from mind. It is the weight of a carefully severed self.

Knowing this, it should come as no shock to hear that this peace-starved body of mine has lived on crumbs and street garbage for 28 years. Choosing to feed this body breath, love, and safety now is honestly unfathomable. To believe "I am a holy place" is to tie myself to a hot air balloon and hope it takes me somewhere new.

All my life I've heard at church that my body is a temple. That I should dress it modestly and keep it clean from drugs, alcohol, men, and my own self because this body is a gift-on-loan from God and it really belongs to him anyway.

I was also taught that men are special because they get something called "priesthood" which I was taught is God's power on earth.

My own experience has taught me

that this power and authority
makes some men believe
they can lay their hands
on me
whenever they want
and I'm supposed to trust
everything they say and do.

I also learned
this body isn't mine anyway,
its a gift (on loan) from God.
(I better treat it with respect
even when no one else does.)

Its only mine when its broken in,
when no one wants it anyway.

All these lessons about my body
all the measuring of my skirt against the length of my legs
all the rules about "shoulds" and "can'ts" and not once
not a single time

was I ever taught about autonomy
and sovereignty.

Every LDS temple I've been to has a gate around the property line that can be locked. I can't go inside the temple unless I have a recommend. Sometimes the recommend is limited to allow only certain activities. There are acceptable attitudes and behaviors at the temple and though its never happened to me, I'm sure people have been kicked out before for not acting appropriately.

If my body is a temple, I can have the same boundaries. I get to decide who has an all-access pass to my life and who gets locked out of the gate entirely. I can give and revoke them at my own choosing. I have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I can receive my own revelation. Above that, I have intuition and I can listen to my body. Those things give me both the right and the power to say "no" to people who have or would hurt me. There is not a power on earth that has the right to override those decisions about my body, my home, my heart, and my spirit. No blood relationship, no friendship, no male privilege, not even priesthood can override sovereignty when it comes to these holy places.

If my body is a temple, it deserves regular cleaning, maintenance, and re-dedication as needed. It deserves honor and protection. It deserves to be prayed in and prayed over.

I deserve u n c o n d i t i o n a l  love.

If someone picks the gate lock, kicks down the front door, takes a dump on the threshold, and spray-paints the inside of a holy place, NO ONE blames the holy place. It is the thief, the intruder, the unsanctified presence that begs the wrath of their own angry God for their actions.

Let this be my message to the world right now:

I am done making justifications
and exceptions
for people
who spit on hallowed ground.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.