the practice of the presence (of me).

“homage to my hips” by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top


Middle school is the worst. Puberty is kind to very few of us, which is why you won’t find pictures of me at age 12 on display.

Even before the loose limbs and the big teeth, I struggled to inhabit my body. Was I awkward because I didn’t play sports, or did I not play sports because I was awkward? No one knows for sure, but I can’t throw a ball, never really learned how to swim, don’t know how to dance. If you need a couch-sitter, I’m your woman. Otherwise, you should probably look somewhere else.

I anticipated a lot of sitting with my feet up while I was pregnant, but it turns out that pregnancy is all about physicality. We say that pregnant women glow, but I didn’t expect the ways that everything changed about simply being me. It was different to dress myself, to go to the bathroom. My hair and my fingers grew thicker. I had to ice my feet and my belly became bigger and more unrecognizable every day. It wasn’t over after giving birth, either: there was the nursing and the healing and the waking to attend to his needs. Let’s not talk about the hormones.

My body is a little more lived-in these days. It turns out that growing a person and feeding him makes things a little different, and I don’t just mean physically. I inhabit my body a little bit more, am more present in its boundaries. I have more respect for its strength. Jogging and yoga are still quite enough to push my limits from time to time—no zumba here. But in a surprising turn of events, I am learning to enjoy the physicality of play. Atticus wrestles with me, rides airplane on my feet, and gives me boom hugs. I hide in the bathroom and jump out as he giggles. We do our silly dances together.

The girl who had to be told to go outside is finally learning the discipline of play. Oh, sure, I played as a kid—with my Barbies, or Legos, or on a swing. But Atticus is teaching me how to play hard, with abandon. With this practice comes a new sense of being present in my own skin. I have to admit that I like it.

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