Posted by: rebeccajrobare | July 18, 2013

So Close!

I am 20 calories of carbohydrates over my goals for today. Eating is a basic animal function, and I am a member of a culture that does very badly at it at this point in history. I managed to miss the gym the past two days, too, but at least that’s because I’ve been working late. It feels more legitimate than skipping because I don’t feel like it.
Today’s body/weight revelation: like many women of my culture, I dislike my body’s appearance. Like some other proportion of women, I think I should embrace my body for what it is. Part of the body image and health stress I have is over that cognitive dissonance; I keep telling myself I shouldn’t have a particular emotion. That’s never helpful. Next step, then, is to try to generate compassion for myself, for feeling this dissonance, for wanting to embrace my body, for disliking and sometimes hating my body. All the feelings can exist as they are and be as complicated as they need to be, and they can just be my feelings; I don’t need to identify with them.
(In related news, I need to get back to the meditation habit, because that training is standing me in good stead these days.)
A surprising number of people read my last two posts – it was very flattering! Thanks for looking in. I am quite happy to write for myself, but it’s nice to think that other people get something from it as well. A little more story tonight, I think, to round my day out.

The University
My four years as a squire in the Library were marked by hard but satisfying labor. Daily we were given lessons on mathematics, anatomy, natural history, and all the other building blocks of knowledge. In addition to these classes, of course, we worked, bringing books from the stacks to scholars and returning them to their proper places; dusting the lesser-used volumes; ensuring the proper working of the pneumatic tube system that brought messages all over the library; and guarding, always, against the danger of fire.
I thought nothing at all of the day when dusting a collection of genealogical records brought on a fit of sneezing that would not stop, nor the day when the heat in the Library’s upper reaches sent me into a faint, followed by a headache that lasted for a day. I was young, and even if sickness was frowned upon, certainly no one suspected that I was displaying some sort of systemic weakness.
After four years of squiredom, I received my emancipation, and I immediately applied for entry to the University. There was no question of my success; I had spent four years immersed in scholarly work, and it was easily thought that I would soon produce my own.
The squires of the Library and the Army are expected to be under the direction of older and wiser individuals. Scholars and soldiers are a somewhat different matter. As a scholar, any failing or weakness would render me unfit for the honor being shown to me by my city-state. In being permitted to study, an investment was being made in my education that I was expected to repay, by developing knowledge important to Greycliff. So I was told when I swore the oath that enrolled me in the University, and I agreed eagerly, thinking nothing of it. I was sent to apprentice under an anatomist, whose area of specialty was the brain, and I labored under her direction for several years.
Little did I know, she was already in disgrace. She was ill, often, and though she sent messages by tube and her dissection theatre was capably managed by another scholar, the other scholars had little patience for her weakness and no tolerance for her students, who often needed assistance for lack of better mentoring.
One morning, as I was leaving my home in the southern part of the city of Greycliff, I noticed that everything around me seemed oddly bright, as if the objects of my daily life were glowing from the inside. I dismissed it as a trick of the light, for the sun was shining directly into my flat. I left as usual, to head into the city’s more elevated northern area where the University was located.
Fifteen minutes later, I was doubled over in pain, quite blocking the stone pathway on which I had been walking. Someone shoved me from behind, and someone else made a rude comment. I straightened, pulled myself together, and walked the rest of the way to my tutorial, where I sat with my hands over my eyes and my head on the table while being drilled on the structures of the brain. Another student put his hand on my head and said helpfully, “I hope you don’t have a brain tumor.” Of course, beneath that I heard “But if you do, can I have your brain once you’re dead?” Even though he didn’t say it. I returned home once my exam was over and spent the next day in bed.
I recognized the symptoms, of course; after all, wasn’t the brain my area of study? The pounding pain, just on the right side of my head, the aversion to light, the edge of nausea. Hemicrania. But all I felt inside myself was, “Weak! Unable to take the pressure!”
I lasted six weeks before finding a physician, who prescribed a compound made of ergot that eased enough of the pain that I no longer missed one lecture out of every three. If I needed this drug then I would take it gladly, as long as it let me keep up the appearance of strength. No one needed to know how weak I really was, and as long as I was thought to properly embody Greycliff’s fabled strength and dedication to duty, then what did it matter that I knew myself to be less than perfect?


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