Verity tells us about the inspiration behind the idea for Disturbing the Body.
This time last year, I was packing socks into sterile ziplock bags in preparation for what I was calling ‘the other side’, a vague Someday where I might wear something other than a hospital gown and slippers. Before that day, I would have to pass through the ordeal of having my heart stopped for seven hours while a surgeon I’d met twice removed my aortic root and replaced it with a plastic tube. I focused on the socks.
I was thirty-two and needed open heart surgery. I won’t say “and my world was turned upside down” because as a chronically ill person my life was already dangling at a 45 degree angle. My body – this overly tall soul receptacle with stringy hair and weak ankles – had changed from something I spent my energy fighting to a fragile artefact I was tenuously attached to, balloon-like.
I’ve had an antagonistic relationship with my body for as long as I can remember. Nothing unusual there. Growing up with the pain and awkwardness of a connective tissue disorder is one thing, but consider the background radiation of the media:
Should you have hair there? (No. Yes, obviously, but no.)
When is it okay to admit you’re in pain? (Never.)
Why are your toes like that, Karen? (Amputate if possible.)
Inhabiting a body is inherently weird. It’s a political statement you never signed up for. It seems you aren’t allowed to exist inside one without having a strong opinion on each and every component, and inevitably those opinions on the body grow monstrous legs and become opinions on the self. Our bodies will all be disrupted, by accident, design, misfortune or the passage of time. And when they are, we find ourselves in the absurd position of juggling mortality, the self, and what socks to pack.
Why Disturbing The Body? I had to write something about my surgery experience. Putting my life in the hands of strangers, coming to terms with new scars and radical new limitations, was too much to take in and put away. I’m a speculative fiction author, comfortable with the weird, and my own narrative of such an intense personal experience naturally fell along those lines. It reads like fiction because it felt like fiction. I’m hoping that with Disturbing The Body, women writers will feel free to put down their unique perceptions of their bodies and their experiences as creatively as they please. To take back their bodies, to own them, and maybe even make sense of them.
By Verity Holloway, author of Psuedotooth, Beauty Secrets of the Martyrs and The Mighty Healer