My Body is the Original Calendar

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Breathe. Pay Attention, Tell the Truth.

Maxine Hong Kingston

My Body is the Original Calendar

How does a year come and go in a matter of seconds? 10, 9, 8… It doesn’t. We go. We go back to the ancient calendars, and there is more than one, no longer exact, but originally calculated using a woman’s body. My body. Not this one here and now, but the long line of female bodies I come from. Bodies with clock like cyclical bleeding that taught us to begin the counting of days, weeks, months and seasons which became years, which became science. From these first calendars chipped away on small sticks and rocks we learned of our connection to the moon, the tides, the harvest. Our bodies and the body of the great mother that fed us spoke as one. We used to know and understand this, we have forgotten, but we are remembering once again.

As I bleed my way out of an Old Year and into a New Year, I think: my body is a calendar. This thought fills me with a hard won pride that has had to shake off centuries of shame and the voices of my beloved female lineage saying things like, “No diga eso muchacha que esas  cosas no se hablan delante  de la gente.” I cannot be angry that they taught me body shame, it had been handed to them like a death sentence. Instead, I can follow my instincts toward the truth. A truth they hid inside of me like a tiny heirloom seed so that it might survive and someday, under the right conditions, bloom again with the proper care.

The right conditions have arrived. Traditions are in transition. My body, quiet and bleeding, is deeply aligned with the tradition of releasing the old year in the most literal of ways possible. It remembers and honors a long line of women whose bodies taught us how to tell time, how to enter and exit cycles, and how to understand that none of them can last, but mostly they do return. Honoring what I have learned about my body, and my own cycles, this year I didn’t participate in the frenzied cleaning traditions of my culture. I did clear spaces, light candles, burn incense, but this year the hampers were not empty, the sink was full of dishes and the floors were not mopped. I love these traditions of women sweeping away the debris of a year now gone with all of its good and bad. I love the wisdom and the physicality. I am not vowing to never do them again. I also know that sometimes traditions become prisons, places that trap you in half-truths or flat out lies. It is up to each of us to examine how traditions serve and protect and how they imprison, and by doing so work toward the liberation of all of us at once. This year I woke up to a sink full of dirty dishes, and that does not mean my life in 2017 will be a mess. It means only that I have learned that my body itself, the much maligned and even hated female bleeding body, cleanses itself, and the world at once, by teaching me to honor cycles and change.