The first song I ever wrote started with these lyrics:
“Maybe I’ll turn into a skeleton
My guilt can fall out through my bones
Skip my heart, nothing to catch it on the way down”
That was around the time I became obsessed with skeletons.
You know those tricks people have in nervous social settings, like picturing everyone being naked? Well, my own trick is to picture everyone walking around just as their skeleton.
We all have a skeleton underneath this skin. No matter your skin color, your weight, or your ailments, those bones are there and I feel as though the world would have a lot less problems if we were given the chance to live out life without the messy stuff around the structure of our bodies.
Maybe guilt would even disappear through us… memories too… if the heart wasn’t in the way, pumping all that (now unnecessary) blood.
When I wrote that song, I was going through a period of time where the thought of being only made of bone was appealing. No more tears. No more blemishes. No more pain. No more self-doubt. No more nerve endings, reminding me of the comfort I didn’t have. I could hardly eat and I was losing weight- surely I’d reach skeleton status in due time.
And though this is a very bleak snapshot of time for me, there is beauty in this, too.
Someone very important to me recently said something along the lines of, “Without suffering we wouldn’t grow.”
Someone else also reminded me of the absurdity of life.
And lately I’ve been enamored with the thought: Bodies are so damn absurd. (And maybe suffering is, in fact, the most beautiful and poignant way to become who we are supposed to be.)
They are!!! We’re souls, and we were given a body. We didn’t choose our hair, our eye color, our teeth, our skin quality, our birth marks, our gender. As life goes on we can alter some of these, and some painful things might happen to our bodies. We might acquire attributes we never wanted. We might lose part of our bodies. We might even feel as though the body we were given is a burden; not beautiful at all.
In my own life, I learned that all of these things are okay, and that my body is beautiful. I learned it only because of the time when I wanted nothing to do with any part of myself that wasn’t just a skeleton.
And I can tell you one thing: boy am I glad I didn’t actually disappear. Now, instead of the withering away aspect, I look at the image of a skeleton in a way that gives hope. After all, in the most basic of ways, the last thing we’ll ever be is a skeleton. It’s the most sturdy part of our body. (science experts, even if this isn’t accurate, throw me a poetic bone here!) When I went into my most recent interview for work, I stood up straight and thought of myself as a skeleton… brave and somewhat unbreakable. My twin sister and I have adopted the skeleton theme in our relationship, based on a magnet I used to have with two skeletons holding hands that said, “Till death do us part is for quitters.” In marriage, maybe not. But in true love, absolutely.
AND TURNS OUT!!!! I’m so happy that I have skin, nerve endings, and even a heart. Somewhere along the line, after the suffering, I remembered my ability to feel and love. I don’t want to lose that. But I do want to remember how I got to this place… and the image of the skeleton is what symbolizes that path.
There’s hope for us yet. There’s the thought that maybe we’ll be held, maybe we’ll be cherished, maybe the f**cked up and absurd things that have happened to our bodies and self-image are okay- part of the journey- and maybe we can hold and cherish someone else. Surprises happen all the time.
And one more thought: I’m sure bodies are bit more fun to cuddle with than skeletons.
Though I’ll always think they’re lovely.
Lou (the bag o’ bones)
p.s. and here’s a very fitting song: my favorite Dr. Dog ditty.