No need to solve for X

When my friend, Annika Martins invited me to join her blog crawl in celebration of her coming-soon new website, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. For one thing, I’m crazy about Annika. For another, I’m truly excited about her new direction, her plans for the future and her hellbent northiness. I’d have said yes anyway, but then she told me what the blog crawl question was, and the deal was sealed.

She asked, “What do you need to celebrate?”

And as I read her question, my answer came as easily and unconsciously as an exhale, as clear and bright and unequivocal  as the day outside my window. “I need to celebrate me,” I thought, and not the me I usually write about – the one who’s trying to figure out what it means to live, love and write fearlessly and from the heart – but the skin and bones, blood and guts, absolutely non-metaphorical me.

Recently I wrote a post titled Body Math. It was a hard post to write; I held my breath when I pressed publish. In Body Math, I talk about a time when thoughts of my body consumed me, when my distorted view of it informed every single decision I made, and yet I could not have been more separated from it. My body was not a temple. It wasn’t sacred or strong or beautiful.

It was a predicament, a situation to be controlled and contained.

All these years later, it’s painful for me to look back on that time, though in the weeks since I posted, I’ve revisited the subject often in the pages of my notebook, remembering scenes I’d forgotten, examining them like rocks under a microscope, then putting them away until I’m ready to pull them back out again days later. There are jewels here, knowledge buried deep, secrets being unearthed. It’s a process. An ongoing, slightly treacherous, very necessary personal excavation.

So when Annika asked me what I need to celebrate, I thought immediately of my physical self, my poor, beleaguered body that has been the subject of so much loathing and longing and fear and brutal examination. It’s one thing to accept it. I’ve done that. It’s quite another thing to declare it a cause for celebration…

So instead of lamenting its age, its size, its shape, I’m going to celebrate how my body does damn near everything I ask it to, how it bends and balances and breathes on the mat; how it runs and makes love and hikes and dances; how sometimes it knows things first (before my mind does), and that’s when it sends me coded messages – the braille of goosebumps, the Morse code of a pounding heart.

I’m going to celebrate the intricacy of me: my miracle of a central nervous system; my amazingly dependable eyelids; my shoulders, my hands, my feet, my skin, my wrists, my ankles, my hips. It’s a wonder more doesn’t go wrong, actually, considering all these moving, (swaying, twisting) parts. It’s more poetry isn’t it, than math, more rhyme than reason.

There’s no need to solve for X.

Today, I’m celebrating my body for the pale, freckled, bruised, aging, beautiful, resilient, able, astonishing thing that it is. Because it deserves it. And because I’m grateful. And because it makes me sad that it took this long for me to finally just say, “thank you.”


I’m one of 10 writers Annika asked to blog about celebration. See what the others had to say and get info on how you can join in at The Celebration Series.


I’ll be taking a week off to… well, write mostly, and plan and plant and recenter myself. So no post next Monday, but I’ll be back on the 16th.



  1. Clare Flourish on April 2, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Being trans, I completely loathed my body as the major aspect of me as an inadequate man. I was desperate to be manly. Now, I can see the Blessing in being transsexual- that different perspective, sympathising more deeply with men than other women do; breaking the Rules just cos I have to, so learning to break all rules joyously; having a wider range of gender expression than most people; and I am still dealing with the shame of being trans. I am learning to celebrate being trans. Celebrating it is a good thing for me.

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 7:47 am

      I think whenever we can turn our shame into cause for celebration, we win… even if doing it is an ongoing process. I love your list of why you should celebrate, and “breaking all rules joyously” is wonderful.

  2. Nuttin' on April 2, 2012 at 3:39 am

    Good for you on taking some time to celebrate your body, your life, your physical 3d world — it took (still) a long time for me to see the things around me.
    I read your body math post several times, it’s a amazing personal account of struggle from a beautiful person.
    I wrote a post recently about all the stories of our lives and how we are more than just one story but without that one story, our life would be different. Even if the story is sad or angry or horrific… it’s who we are as a whole.
    When I read your body math post, I envisioned the frail 18 year old and what was going on in her world. I wanted to tell her about all the people she would make a profound impact on. I wanted to tell her about love. I wanted to tell her that whatever it was that was ripping her apart is just one story of her.
    All your stories are who you are… who we are all. I think, seeing all of the mess and love and life and hurt rolled all together in one picture story, is who we are… more than just one story.
    Anyway… beautiful, as always.

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 7:52 am

      Absolutely. We’re all collages. It’s a little mind boggling when you stop and think of all the stories we carry around with us… If we remembered that more often, we might be more careful with each other, huh? Miraculous, complicated beings are we.

      • Nuttin' on April 2, 2012 at 8:07 am

        Yes… I think we would be so much more careful with each other if we remembered we’re all “ten thousand tiny things… and then ten thousand more”, but — I also think there are no lessons that come too let to be learned (well, I’m beginning to think that). And your insights into self-love are often the lighthouse getting my attention on a stormy sea… or something poetic like that.

  3. Giulietta Nardone on April 2, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Hi J,

    Body Math I will read. (Great title for a book, btw) I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with my body. Looking back, it was near perfect but all I could see was the 1 inch strip of cellulite on the back of leg, way up near my jlo butt. how and why do we teach women to focus on such things?

    The worst thing that happened to women was airbrushing of magazines. Most women have cellulite but we think we are alone!

    I digress.

    Congrats on celebrating your unique body! We are such a non-celebratory society – except for big sporting matches and those often feel violent to me.

    I want to celebrate the folks in my town who stand up over and over again to save the defenseless – woods, historic buildings, caves, creativity. It takes a lot of energy, enthusiasm and guts!


    • j on April 2, 2012 at 7:58 am

      Thanks, G. I agree with you about airbrushing. Even the airbrushed admit they often can’t recognize themselves in the end product. SAD.

      I want to celebrate the folks in your town too. And mine. And everyone’s, who somehow don’t become jaded. Choosing hope (and love) over cynicism is a courageous thing; it takes stamina in addition to energy, enthusiasm and guts.

      You fall into that heroic category, and I’ll happily celebrate you!

  4. LunaJune on April 2, 2012 at 5:50 am

    What a wonderful thing to do… celebrate this fleshy form that we are… after years of training my focus to my hair or my face so that I wouldn’t think such terrible things about myself I take the time after most showers, as I dry my toes, to start the grateful thanks for all the jobs my body does everyday that I forget about, and sometimes take for granted, and you know what.. the days I remember to do it are really good days.. like every cell is in alignment with eachother. OMMMMMMMMMM
    amazing how just a little celebration of us can change the day

    celebrating now ♥

    have an awesome week… giant hugs ♥

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      LOVE that, a cellular chorus of OMMMMMMM.

      Thank you for this huge smile, June. I plan to have an amazing week. I hope you do too.

  5. Julia on April 2, 2012 at 8:27 am

    This is so preciously beautiful.

    It feels like you have reached inside me this morning, J, and touched all of my tender, wanting-to-heal places. I’m noticing there is a sadness here for all the ways I have abused and punished and dishonored this body of mine. And there is love. A love that, through your courage and willingness, you are helping me to feel…

    Your healing is my healing. Your celebrating, mine.

    Thank you for helping me to see this body, my body, for the absolute poetic miracle it is. I will hold myself closer today. I may even do some celebrating. I’ll definitely say thank you.

    You are a gift, my friend.

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Thank you so much, Julia. When I wrote that last line of my post, I started to cry. The truth of it… that even when I’m doing the right thing for my body – exercising, healthy diet, etc. – it’s always with a degree of dissatisfaction and judgment. My acceptance is reluctant, even now, when I feel I’ve come so far.

      Now that I realize it, I have work to do for sure, and lost time to make up for.

  6. Jill Salahub on April 2, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Oh, I love this line: the braille of goosebumps, the Morse code of a pounding heart.

    This whole post made me think of a quote from a movie I watched last week, a documentary called “Hungry for Change”: Something miraculous happens when you take care of yourself. You realize that you are precious…You become in love with yourself basically, and it shines, it overflows to others, becomes contagious. You give others the permission to be in love with themselves, with life. (Evita Ramparte)

    You are precious, and as you celebrate, you give us permission to do the same. Have a wonderful week off!

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      That quote is perfect. I just copied it into my notebook; it’s the most beautiful expression of “it all starts with self-love” I’ve seen.

      I got Kris Carr’s newsletter in my inbox last week and I watched the trailer for Hungry for Change. I absolutely want to see it. I am, especially now as I delve into my own feelings about all this for the first time, hungry for change.

      Thank you, Jill. You all give me permission too – to mine for the gold and celebrate. That’s the beauty of us. <3

  7. Annie Neugebauer on April 2, 2012 at 10:11 am

    “…that’s when it sends me coded messages – the braille of goosebumps, the Morse code of a pounding heart.” J, I have a feeling your sonnet is going to be something special.

    I love the idea of celebrating your physical body. I have never before thought about how amazingly dependable eyelids are, but there you go. They really are. And isn’t that incredible?

    I love this blog crawl. (I’ve never heard of that before though. Is that the same thing as a blog hop?)

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      Well, we picked a perfect week to start Sonnet 101. (Heading there next.)

      This is my first blog crawl too. I’ve never done a hop. Feel free to invite me!

  8. Chloe Cook on April 2, 2012 at 11:03 am

    Oh wow. Wow. WOW.

    How is it that you are able to say all the things that go on in my head, and yet we’ve never met?

    I’ve been through a pretty major ‘wobble’ over the last year, for reasons I won’t go into because they’re irrelevant. I went through a phase of hating my body again. Hating my face. Hating my hair and my skin and, well, myself.

    I work as a therapist, and I specialise in working with those who struggle with eating disorders. I felt completely incongruent and hypocritical for a long time, because I wasn’t practising myself what I was helping them to do – love themselves.

    Thankfully I’m coming out of that stage now, emerging once more as ‘me’ and it feels better. You’re absolutely right. We are amazing, incredible, beautiful creatures, and we are all completely individual and unique.

    I’m me, and nothing and nobody can change that. And do you know what? I’m starting to discover that I actually quite like ‘me’.

    So J, as always, thank you for your insights. Every single one of them nudges me a little further along my journey. Maybe one day our journeys will cross paths? I’d like that 🙂

    Keep celebrating – you are beautiful.


    • j on April 2, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Oh, Chloe, what a sweet response. I’d love our paths to cross too.

      I know exactly what you mean. I’m working on a love essay in which I talk about that same disconnect – running a love project while struggling “in real life” with my most important relationships. What I’m realizing is that there’s value in the searching, in the trying. There’s value in acting how you want to feel (which is not at all like fake it until you make it). Our feelings and perceptions can be shaped by our actions as it turns out, so preaching what you can’t quite bring yourself to practice may have been really good for you… in a confusing, heartbreaking, what-the-hell-am-I-doing sort of way.

      Love this: I’m starting to discover that I actually quite like ‘me’.

      Me too.

  9. Annika on April 2, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    After a 2hour walk that left me heaving in a very un-ladylike fashion, re-reading this again makes me so grateful for the tender hips and sore thighs I feel coming on.

    My incredibly-out-of-shape body’s ability to race my brother up that grassy hill and balance on the rocks coming down the other side is a freaking miracle! All these moving parts working in tandem. Small and mundane maybe, but still a miracle. Thanks for reminding me of that, j.

    *heart hugs for you*

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      I know! That’s what I realized as I was writing this post. We are miracles. It’s amazing more doesn’t go wrong with us.

      Thank you for inviting me to do this. It’s been really good for me. xo

  10. Lance on April 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I just came from the gym. I think I have that body dysmorphic disorder where you see the opposite of what the mirror shows? i need to age more gracefully. I think your body math and celebration are things I should read and study.

    good for you

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

      I’m tempted to ask what you see versus what the mirror shows, but I won’t because that is not the point. The point is, holy shit, check out all this stuff I can do!

      We should all run around like kids shouting out to everyone, “Look at me! Watch this!”

      • Lance on April 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm

        i see more pounds and more age than the mirror shows…my wife hates it when i do it…

        yes i agree

  11. Pam on April 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Yes yes yes! Celebrate your capable and faithful body. I think it’s a great idea.

    When I do my little dance parties at home, I feel as if I’m exercising and celebrating. It’s a joy.

    Love the post. <3

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 8:22 pm

      I need to do more dance parties at home. Thank you! I love when you love my posts! <3

  12. Christie on April 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Ahhh, such a timely post for me. We are so in sync!

    As you know, I ran my first official 5k yesterday so I would definitely say that I am celebrating me, the physical me.

    I am celebrating because I ran that race and I wasn’t the fastest or the slowest, I wasn’t the youngest or the oldest, I wasn’t the slimmest or the heaviest. I didn’t run because I had to or because I thought it would help me lose weight. I ran because I wanted to, I really really wanted to. I was a little nervous because I had planned on running the race with my husband but due to a family emergency, he was unable to be there. I am uncomfortable around huge crowds of people and there were 2200 people there. I had to get up really early and I am so not a morning person. I faced my fears and did it anyway.

    The best part about it was although I was alone in the sense that I didn’t have anyone there that I personally knew to run with me or to cheer me on, I didn’t run it alone. It was me and my body, we were finally on the same team cheering each other on. I made a choice this year to listen to it, to treat it like one of my closest friends which means loving it, nurturing it, respecting it, and asking for forgiveness. We crossed that finish line together and that is a very good reason to celebrate!

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 8:26 pm

      LOVE this: The best part about it was although I was alone in the sense that I didn’t have anyone there that I personally knew to run with me or to cheer me on, I didn’t run it alone. It was me and my body, we were finally on the same team cheering each other on.

      That is all kinds of wonderful. I know a lot (too much) about being on a different page than your body, fighting it all the time. I’m so proud of you for listening, for being brave and for kicking that race’s ass. You (and your body) rock!

      I’m celebrating with you two from afar. xo

  13. Rita on April 2, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Given what you know of me, and about me, I bet you already know that I have had times in my life…most of my life, where I loathed everything about me and my body. Not until I turned 40 did I really start to appreciate it for what it is and what it does and what it gives me. Perhaps that’s why this program i’m on I was so ready for. So I could finally nourish my body the way it was meant to be nourished, and care for it and be gentle and tender with it. I almost wrote a post about this today…and you most definitely got me thinking. xo

    • j on April 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      Your program is amazing to watch – love your updates (though, I’m not at all sure about the freezing cold showers).

      You should definitely write the post, and then knock on my cave wall so I come out and read it. xo

  14. Jason "J-Ryze" Fonceca on April 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    I love the names of these posts “Body Math”, “No Need To Solve For X” — so refreshing.

    Speaking of refreshing, my body felt refreshed just reading this!

    I deeply, deeply appreciate my body, and have since I was little.

    It has done and continues to do more than anyone I know.

    I’ve fasted for long periods, written books on 2 hrs sleep a night, and emerged a stronger rock-climber with more well-defined muscles than when I started. I haven’t been sick since I quit the retail world and became an entrepreneur 8 years ago. I’ve eaten raw pork and had no adverse effects.

    I f***ing love my body. Love it.


    And not just that, I love other people’s too. I love women’s especially 😉 But not just that, I love people I can interact with, share a smile, and shake a hand. I love that we can laugh, play and create together. I love that my hands fly over these keys, easily expressing my deepest feelings on celebration + bodies.


    Thanks for inspiring this, J, (and Annika) you rock!

    • j on April 4, 2012 at 8:35 am

      Jason, I can’t tell you how fun this comment is for me. I didn’t see it until I got home from SF last night and I was kind of tired and still had a ton of work to do before I could go to bed, and here you were, in-fucking-love with your body and not just yours, but all of ours. You rock!

      I have a gazillion things to do right now (seriously, a gazillion), but what I’m going to do instead is pop over and see what you’re celebrating at your place. xo

  15. Estrella Azul on April 4, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Feeling sad that by the time I manage to read your posts lately everyone else has already said what I also wanted to say, what popped into my mind as well while/after reading your thoughts.

    So I’ll just say this: I think it’s wonderful and “thank you” is definitely what we should all be saying to our bodies.
    Even though mine often gives way to headaches or won’t fall asleep – it still is a cause for celebration, a part of me that I need to celebrate.

    • Jason "J-Ryze" Fonceca on April 4, 2012 at 7:58 am

      Looks like you managed to say something anyway, Estrella — that’s something to celebrate too 🙂

    • j on April 4, 2012 at 8:48 am

      I always blame my jumpy, hyper brain when I can’t sleep. My body is trying to be cooperative, but my brain is doing it’s own manic thing. 😉

  16. joannefirth on April 4, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Since it was so personal to me, you and I had a lovely, private conversation, that I hope continues. This is so important for we women who don’t know how to appreciate or say thank you to our bodies. The fact that you have come so far to be able to write this post, makes me believe that anything is possible. Even loving my own body again. When I say thank you to you for this post, it is a deep and heartfelt appreciation for giving me hope as well as applauding your conquest. Thank you!

    • j on April 5, 2012 at 8:44 am

      Actually, the fact that I have come far enough to write this post makes me believe that anything is possible as well. It was such a winding path – as are, I guess, all the most meaningful evolutions – and there were many times I thought I’d never get better… times when I didn’t really know what “better” even meant.

      In Body Math, I talk about how cruel and exacting our society can be, especially to women and especially with regard to what constitutes beauty. As I write my way through this latest leg of the trek, I find myself drawn to the idea (again) that love holds the key to changing things. Love for ourselves – our miraculous, physical, many-shaped selves – and love for each other. Less judgment, more awe.

      Thank you for writing here on the blog, too. You are wonderful. xo

  17. Andrea on April 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    “I’m going to celebrate the intricacy of me.”

    I love this. Actually, I love the whole post, but this line in particular is a powerful reminder for me. Thank you for this.

    • j on April 6, 2012 at 7:14 am

      Thank you, Andrea. I guess it’s to be expected – my relationship with my body has been deeply troubled – but writing this list of what to celebrate made me cry. It was powerful to me in almost a prayer-like way. I’m so glad it was powerful for some people to read too. xo

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