I’ve been running more often lately. Well, that is to say that I’ve gone for half a dozen runs in the past month — four of which occurred in the same week — which is a half dozen more than I’ve done since starting my job last November. It’s easy to forget during the breaks between exactly how hard it is, though no matter how much time passes my body always somehow seems to adapt to the challenge presented to it. I still operate at a steady crawl, of course, and I look forward to the day that I can hit the trails for half an hour and barely break a sweat once again, but for now it’s nice simply to possess strength that wasn’t there before. To relearn my body again.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what that means lately. I’ve been traversing this transitory period of my life for quite some time now; one that began last summer when I first decided to get tattooed, and has culminated in finally rolling up my sleeves for all to see. I haven’t done much outside of wearing what I want around the house, but I’ve been walking and running around my neighborhood in short sleeves, and the other week I even introduced myself to one of my Dungeons & Dragons group members with my scars visible. It doesn’t always feel easy, but it does feel right, and although it’s only been a few weeks I can already feel the change. As though a tremendous weight is being lifted from my shoulders, one chip at a time.
After five years of hiding under layers it’s been a long time coming. And as I watch my future unfold, as I plan out beach trips and weekend getaways around my work schedule; as I surround myself with the people I love, and who love me in return — as I indulge in the worldly pleasures that I once so vehemently denied myself — it hits me that this, this is what freedom feels like. This is the feeling that I’ve desperately craved for so many years, and I want to bask in it, to sink my jaws into its flesh and never let go like an animal starved. And the more I surrender myself to that feeling, the more that I choose vulnerability over shame, that I choose love over fear, the more the gap between the person I was and the person I am widens, and the closer I become to the person I want to be.
I thought for so long that the opposite of shame was pride, but it’s not. I thought that to show my scars would mean to bare them as badges of war, but it doesn’t. It’s only over the past couple of months that I’ve come to realize that the opposite of shame isn’t pride, but acceptance. Accepting what I’ve done, accepting my body for what it is, and giving myself permission to live my life regardless.
Finally, after so many years, I’m learning to be okay with the skin I’m in. Finally, I am truly coming home to myself.