It starts in the legs and shoulders.  A vague tension, a kind of nervousness that doesn’t seem to be related to anything in particular. I feel it before I understand it.  It’s not always a feeling of something being wrong, but it often is.  Eventually, when I can identify the cause, it goes away, easing me back to normalcy, like taking off a rubber band that has been on your wrist for way too long.


Other times, my body does things entirely outside my awareness.  At the age of 10, I began noticing I was attracted to other boys in my class. It wasn’t subtle. These weren’t feelings I’d had before, and they came on strongly, and nearly immediately. As much as it’s difficult now to separate reality from my Baptist worldview, I don’t think I ever believed I was anything but straight. I just had non-straight feelings. After about five years of shame and depression over feelings I didn’t want to have, puberty wrapped itself up, and my body was once again in harmony with the reality my mind already knew. The feelings left, and haven’t returned


As an adult, my body is frequently out in front of my mind. There are days I’ll feel a tension or a stress point, and I have no idea why. Sometimes these tensions will last days, when suddenly, out on a walk, the explanation will manifest in my brain instantly. The reasons always seem so obvious, but my body is more in touch with my feelings than “I” am.


Learning to listen to my body, and separate my identity from my body, has paid off in several ways. After months of ill-defined stress and vague frustration, I connected the dots between my stress and my use of social media. Ending my relationship with most of the internet solved the problem my body was trying to point out. 


For years, I wanted to lose weight on an intellectual level, but couldn’t find the willpower. Then one day, driving home from the beach, the willpower filled me up, and stayed with me long enough to lose over 50 pounds. Because I now understand how the process works, I’m not worried about the rest of the weight I want to lose, because I know willpower comes and goes, and it will come back again.


My body is not who I am, but I’m willing to listen to what it tells me. Knowing what it feels like when I have internal homework to do, I’m getting better at looking within for answers.  More often than not, the feelings my body comes up with lead to a better quality of life. I’m grateful for this detached partner that’s looking out for me, even when I’m not.

—Ryan Blanchard