Last week I stood in front of an overflowing closet packed full of cloth. Dishcloths, burp cloths, cloth diapers, and washcloths. Hand towels, bath towels, and guest towels. Sheets and pillowcases. Even a small collection of curtain panels. The portion of the closet reserved for my own clothing, the cloth I allegedly drape my mortal flesh sack in, was divided into three categories: pre-baby, postpartum, and the giant miscellaneous flowing things I wore while fulfilling my supposed biological destiny.
I am my own unfinished Christo installation.
Please do not ask me what sparked joy. None of it did. After hours of stuffing cloth into garbage bags and transporting those garbage bags to Goodwill so that others may claim them and start this whole boring cycle over again, I was left with the uniforms I’ve favored since Frida was born: jumpsuits. One soft drop-crotch jumpsuit I purchased on Amazon for $15. One green utility number. One wide-leg chambray romper. All acceptable enough to wear outside of the house while also enabling me to breastfeed at a moment’s notice.
Most mornings at home I find myself clad in a worn nightgown and long wool cardigan, living in fear of the moment that the dog refuses to come inside and I’m forced into the yard barefoot and braless to collect her. As if our neighbors were somehow unaware that I’ve spent nearly all of the last year naked from the waist up. I want to be someone who looks like she owns more than two towels, after all.
In spite of so much cloth, I’ve always felt like a brain in a sad house, hauling my personality around while patching up cracks and leaks. Adding paint. Maybe a hand towel for a curtain. Chronic illness is just that: chronic. And endless. And mostly lonely. But for the last nineteen months (nine in, ten out) my body has been a constant host and pantry.
To paraphrase Lucy Knisley
, “bodily autonomy is hard when you grew someone’s body.” I’ve gotten used to the fact that this house I keep my brain in will never really be my own again. But that’s not to say that I’m hoping to “get it back" (even though every Instagram ad served to me lately would lead you to believe otherwise). My body didn’t go anywhere, I just made an addition.
But maybe I deserve better window treatments.