Thursday, 27 April 2006

A bother for a blood test

Friday 27 April 2007

Prise de tête pour une prise de sang

At the clinic, for the anaesthetist’s appointment, I was given a list of blood tests that have to be done, and I was asked to bring the results with me. I was told to have them done a few days before the appointment and not two months before, so that the results would be up to date for my interview with the doctor.

So at the beginning of March I went to the test laboratory which is near me to show them my list. I wanted to know:

- how long it would take to get the results,
- did I need to make an appointment,
- did I need to be fasting.

The lady at reception answered that I could have the results the next day, that I didn’t need to be fasting and I didn’t need an appointment.

Perfect. So it was going to be easy.

Knowing that I have an appointment with the anaesthetist on the afternoon of 4 May, I could then have the tests on 3 May and have the results on the morning of 4 May. But that didn’t seem to me good planning, given the complete absence of a margin for error if there were a problem.

If I added the possibility (undoubtedly slight, but discretion is the better part of valour [lit: caution is the mother of safety]) that there could be a problem or a delay in the analysis of my samples, it would be better to go to the laboratory on 2 May to be able to pick up the results on 3 May.

But it was entirely possible that an enoooormous catastrophe would befall me on 2 May and prevent me going to the laboratory on that day. As a result, that would bring me back to my original calculations and their failings, namely the reduction to nothing of my safety margin. It seemed to me therefore altogether safer to go there before 2 May.

1 May being a holiday, that brought me to 30 April.

Except that the day after 30 April being 1 May made me nervous. Yes, a holiday, that might possibly upset the routine for a laboratory analysis (different schedules, different time limits, etc …) So a snag could arise. They could mislay my samples of 30 April and not find them until 3 May. With the time required to analyse them, it would inevitably be too late….

Anyway, I decided to go there this morning, and fasting, (you never know, the lady could have been distracted by the background music at the moment I asked my question and may have said anything to me).

I will have the results on the evening of 30 April …

[original in French]

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Monday, 24 April 2006

To everyone who has a secret …

Tuesday 24 April 2007

Once in a while it does no harm, so I’d like to tell you a story that I read three months ago approximately, through messages on a forum.

It’s the story of a young girl who had a secret which she wanted to tell to her lover. She was 15 years old and he was her first lover. And like all lovers, they thought, both of them, about what there was beyond the long kisses.

The young girl’s secret which she wanted to confess to her lover, was that when she was a baby, she was circumcised and infibulated. And, and even though she really wanted to, she wasn't able to discover what was beyond the long kisses.

She totally panicked at the thought of talking to him.

It’s true, he would perhaps be disgusted. Perhaps he wouldn’t understand. Perhaps he would leave her. Even if it wasn’t her fault.

She was ashamed, so ashamed, that she had never spoken to anyone, not even a doctor. It was the first time that she dared, on that forum, hidden behind a pseudonym.

She was completely disabled, totally traumatised by fear, in spite of all the encouraging messages.

She was driven to despair. He was going to leave her, that was certain, she wrote. Why would he stay with her? Why? While there were plenty of “normal” girls? No, it was sure and certain that he would leave her.

The people on the internet, on the forum, assured her that if he loved her, he would understand. He would insist that he loved her, he wouldn’t judge her. You’ll see, they promised, he won’t reject you. Or otherwise he wouldn’t be worth the trouble. It’s because he didn’t really love her.

She replied to them that yes, perhaps, but she herself, she loved him. She really loved him. And she would die if he rejected her.

In the end, she couldn’t tell him. Instead she wrote to him.

She didn’t post the letter. She went to put it in her lover’s letter box. And then she left, fast, fast.

She was totally anguished. She said, on the forum, she should never have done it. She thought it was all over. She was totally depressed.

And then a few days later, he came to see her. He too had written a letter. But he wanted to read it to her. In the letter, he said he loved her nevertheless, that he always loved her. He said that he would wait for her, accompany her, help her.

They decided to go to a gynaecologist. Both of them. In order one day to find out together what was there beyond the long kisses ….

Edit: infibulated means the outer lips, labia majora, are sewn together. All that is left is a small hole for urine and menstrual blood to pass [and sometimes barely enough for this].

[original in French]
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Sunday, 23 April 2006

Mortification

Monday 23 April 2007

I still don’t know what came over me.

I tried to extricate myself from my thoughts by doing something else, then I tool the bull by the horns and tried to analyse my feelings, that way thinking to calm the storm. But nothing would work, I had a dreadful Sunday. Mulling it over endlessly.

Because, there it is, yesterday morning I made the ENORMOUS mistake of saying to my sister on the telephone that I was going to have the operation.

It was frankly surreal this conversation. In fact I don’t believe I can get over it.

We were talking about other things, health, shopping, future holidays, and suddenly, I decided to tell her (with a little nervousness, all the same, but still ...) that I was soon going to have an operation. Surprised at the other end of the line (“but what operation?”). So, quite happily I told her I was having my clitoris reconstructed. She asked me if I wasn’t frightened. All excited by the conversation that was taking shape, I explained to her that no, now I was well informed and I had met Dr Foldès at the consultation, I wasn’t afraid.

And that’s when I stopped understanding any more.

She said to me “I am sure on the Machin site, on the internet, they’re not bad the trousers they make.”

!!!!!

Hesitantly I told her that it was my cousin who had awakened this wish for me to have the operation. And she answered “Me too, I’m going to make some enquiries I think.” Before changing the subject completely. Just like that. Suddenly.

!!!!!

I was hallucinating. Frankly, that had me dazed.

I was talking to her about something important, totally new even and she offered me unbelievable indifference.

I felt mort-i-fied. Humiliated even. I cut short the conversation but it was too late, the worm was in the fruit and my day was ruined. But why did I tell her? Why? If I killed myself I wouldn’t feel this profound humiliation which has been clinging to me since yesterday.

So, all right, we aren’t very close in the first place. All right, on Sunday she was a bit miserable. All right, she was maybe taken by surprise. All right, she may have had her reasons for reacting like that. All right she has always refused to talk about circumcision. All right, all right, all right. I can understand intellectually the thousand reasons which my man put forward to try to console me.

But all the same! The only explanation that I can see, myself, is that my sister doesn’t care in the least what happens to me. That doesn’t interest her. Full stop. [period].

I wish to death to believe I could open up to her, to believe that the phone calls over the last few days (we don’t speak to each other a lot, my sister and I, that way we avoid rows) were the sign of an increasing intimacy between us. I thought things were changing., that the war was behind us, and I’ve taken a slap in the face. That’ll teach me!

And I was so worried by the idea that by not talking to her, she would kearn about it from my cousin! Pffff… I was completely wide of the mark in fact.

I feel wounded. And terribly angry. I’m still boiling today. And she didn’t even ask me when the operation would be ....

[original in French]

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Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Remembering and forgetting

Wednesday 18 April 2007

When I learnt at the time of my consultation that I was going to have a general anaesthetic, I wasn’t afraid of the risks that it implied. I didn’t think of it for a second.

In fact it intrigued me, this general anaesthetic. I asked myself how it worked, if you dreamt, if you remembered anything or if it went by like a click of your fingers: you didn’t remember falling asleep and, ping, someone waking you in another room. Having an anaesthetic, to me, is something mysterious, remarkable and interesting. I was eager to have the experience.

Thanks to my reading on the internet and Fafa’s comments, I finally have an idea of what it is to have an anaesthetic. Roughly, it’s going to be like when you turn off a switch. At one moment I will be in my room and the next minute after I will open my eyes in the recovery room. I am not going to notice anything about the operation, as a matter of fact.

Well, this theory makes me think and worries me a bit. The thought of having no recollection of the operation makes me less keen to experience the effects of a general anaesthetic.

I’ve always known that I had been circumcised. As far back as I can remember , I have always known that I had been mutilated. I have even always known that it was my clitoris which was cut, even at the time when I didn’t know what it was for.

Nevertheless, I don’t remember the circumcision itself. I don’t remember the place, the people who were there, the pain, or what happened afterwards. All that remains with me is the conviction of having been mutilated.

When, during therapy, I tried to recall that moment, I failed. The most that came to mind were some fragmentary images which I couldn’t work out if they were real or invented by my mind or even taken from a film which I had seen a very long time ago. I never succeeded in remembering.

For a time, even after I had started my therapy, I had a tendency to think that, since I didn’t remember, it didn’t have that much impact on me. If it had had such huge consequences for me, that would have marked my consciousness, it would have haunted me, it was obvious.

At the same time, not only did I have great trouble in linking my problems to this event, but what’s more, it didn’t seem to me to be “legitimate” to do so, because I couldn’t remember my circumcision. I spent months and years looking elsewhere for the causes of my difficulties.

When I finally understood that the origin of a number my anxieties was my circumcision, my inability to remember that time drove me to despair. I was convinced that to recover, to move on finally, it was essential that I remembered. Except it didn’t happen. And I wanted to so much. I read on the internet the accounts of women remembering that horrible moment when at the time they were only three or four years old, and I didn’t understand. I said to myself that I had a problem, something in my head wasn’t working as it should. Why me, why couldn’t I remember my circumcision?

My therapist explained to me that in these very traumatic situations, when you can’t bear what is happening, you often protect yourself by fainting. Like a fuse which breaks when there is a surge of power. And that this was doubtless what had happened when I was mutilated. I had no doubt protected myself like that: by losing consciousness.

I don’t know why, but when I think about this likely fainting, I have the impression that really I was dead when I was being mutilated then my heart started beating again and my consciousness returned because I didn’t want to die. Whatever was done to me, I wanted to survive. That’s how I explain to myself what happened. And it makes me want to cry each time I think about it …

My therapist said it wasn’t necessary for me to remember, that it wouldn’t hinder psychological rebuilding. I couldn’t see how that was possible. So she reminded me of the extreme panic which came over me when sometimes a figure of authority asked me something unexpected, that I couldn’t control, or I didn’t know how to do (that especially happened at work) or even if I had to do something that seemed to me to be risky or of great consequence. In these cases I examine my feelings, I realise that I am literally afraid of dying. My therapist explained to me that this panic is the recollection of what happened that day, the emotion I felt. Like an echo of the past. She explained that in these moments, I had access to my circumcision, to my emotions of the time, and I will be able to free myself of them by working on these moments of crisis.

That doesn’t stop me from wanting to know precisely what happened. I don’t know why, but I have the feeling that taking that time for myself will give me a little dignity. If I knew the detail of what happened, I would no longer feel I had been a damaged object. It wouldn’t only be my body and my unconscious which would carry the mark of this event. In bringing it to my consciousness, I would have the feeling of having been an entirely separate individual that day.

So, knowing that I won’t be remembering any more of my operation than of my circumcision bothers me. Just like my mutilation, my consciousness won’t be paying attention to my reconstruction. But this time I will be careful to memorise in detail everything that happens before and after the operation itself.

That way, I hope, I will keep in my mind the importance of what happens on 16 May next and I will be able to keep myself going to continue on my path.

[original in French]

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Monday, 17 April 2006

Some words on another path: Fafa

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Fafa, aged 19, had her operation on Friday 13 April. She described her day at the clinic in a comment. In order to make it more visible and with her consent, I am giving her account here.

I entered the clinic the same day as my operation. I was quite anxious, I was afraid that it would go badly and that I would have to tell my parents (they know nothing but my mother strongly suspects). I arrived at 8:30 am, there already was a patient in the room with her husband. They were watching a cooking programme, my stomach was empty and seeing grilled meat made me suffer too much. I had to take a shower with a red substance. Then I was given some medicine to make me rest.

The medical staff were superb, they spoilt us, without asking any questions, without making any reference, explicit or implicit, to the circumcision. In their eyes, their words, their actions, I felt I was a patient like the others.

And it’s that which is magical, the people don’t judge us, neither us nor our detractors. I would have been able for “poor thing” or “it’s terrible what they have done to you”… But the result of having remarks of this sort would no doubt have confirmed me in a position of victim and never would I have been able to say to myself “I am definitely a victim of circumcision but I am past that now, and I no longer want to be reminded of it. I have not been branded by the circumcision, I never thought it, now it’s no longer the shame of my life, it’s a bad nightmare which lasted 19 years.”

I was the first patient to be operated on. Arriving at the clinic I said to myself that, since I was arriving on the same day, I would no doubt be the last. I know there was a cancellation, a patient who called that morning and who said she couldn’t come. I remember the day of my consultation, when Dr Foldès said to me not to pretend to have a class in order not to turn up on the day of the operation, and it had seemed to me an unlikely thing to do, now I understand why he said it.

I have no recollection of the operation. I saw the anaesthetist with her made-up eyelashes who said to me “good night, sweet dreams”, and then injected me and then nothing else, a strong desire to sleep, I looked at the clock opposite in a superhuman effort, it was 10:30 am.

I woke up an hour later, the patient who was in the same room was just arriving. But I was really too tired, I preferred to go back to sleep. And afterwards the nurses had undressed me and put on my housecoat.

Truly no pain at all ….

FAFA


[original in French]

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Sunday, 16 April 2006

In one month

Monday 16 April 2007

In one month it will be 16 May 2007

It’s as though I’m not breathing. I feel anxious and feverish. Besides I am quite agitated, I have difficulty in concentrating, I'm sleeping sporadically and I am tired.

I am continually being beset by a whole heap of irrational fears. I am yet again very afraid that Dr Foldès will die before 16 May. I’m also afraid that something catastrophic will happen to prevent the operation: I’ll break my neck, an arm or a leg the night before my admission or that the clinic will lose my admission papers, even that it will burn down, or that the insurance will refuse coverage for some obscure administrative reason.

I am above all afraid that I will become complacent, will be less alert and forget to take one of the last steps. For example today I had to contact my insurance company so that they would fax the coverage to the clinic. I recalled that only at around midday. My God!! How could I forget that while this operation has been occupying all my thoughts for several weeks! It’s ridiculous! I cut my lunch short to rush to the telephone.

I called the insurance company and the woman who answered agreed to fax the coverage to the clinic immediately. Given my impatience, it relieved me that she said to me she would do it immediately and I rang off, somewhat calmed. But since, I have been holdingmyself back from calling the clinic to make sure that have indeed received the fax. I have to control everything to avoid the least setback or the least problem, it’s terrible.

It has to stop, that, the month of May has to come faster!

Well, if that’s still worrying me tomorrow, I’m calling the clinic to see if they have indeed received the fax.

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Monday, 10 April 2006

Militancy

Tuesday 10 April 2007

Last week, I exchanged emails with a young circumcised woman who had the operation and who wanted to make contact. Since then I have been asking myself some questions about militancy.

Up till now I hadn’t wondered too much about the subject. I had an individualistic view (not to say self centred) of female circumcision. My first objective is to have my reconstruction, to come out of the state pain of a circumcised woman, an entirely personal quest to which I dedicated a lot of energy. But, behind this goal, appear secondary questions which are also important.

Some time ago, I answered my psychologist with anger and indignation when she asked me if I could be persuaded to have my daughters circumcised, if I ever had any. The question seemed to me to be superfluous and almost insulting. Of course not! A thousand times no! I would never have it done to any daughter of mine! I have already planned never to send them alone to Senegal because I know that in certain cases, small girls are circumcised on the instigation of their grandparents behind the backs of their parents and even if the latter oppose it. I would take no risks and too bad about trust, too bad about family ties. What is more for me to be persuaded would first mean agreeing to discuss the possibility, which in my case will never happen. I will not discuss the integrity of my daughters! Never! No one will touch my daughters, no one will do them harm. Full stop. End of story.

So, in the future and for the flesh of my flesh, I will fight. That’s clear and unambiguous. OK. But today? If I heard that one of my cousins or nieces was at risk of being circumcised, what would I do? Would I intervene? Would I warn the authorities? Would I face up to my family, I who daren’t speak to my mother? And what if it was to do with my neighbour? These questions bother me.

They come down to asking oneself if you have a duty to become militant, when you have been circumcised and find it to be a barbaric act (I exclude those who, if they exist, have a positive view of circumcision). Have you the right to think only of yourself, of trying to protect and help only yourself? Can you shut your eyes to the continuation of this crime? Can you legitimately be an egoist? Or should you use all force to prevent others suffering what you have suffered? Have you the duty to fight, or at least testify?

Personally I am afraid. I am torn between wanting to forget what was done to me, and the values that I have been taught, which make me want to try to help. I would find it inconceivable to keep quiet and be indifferent saying to myself “I have been rescued so as for the others, I don’t care..” I wouldn’t have an easy conscience, that’s certain. Even if I would like to, sometimes.

At the same time, facing advocates of circumcision, discussing with them, arguing, looking for ways to convince them to stop this horrible practice in an educational way, quietly, repulses me. I would have too much difficulty not to judge and condemn them, I would have too much difficulty not to be angry, even furious. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t try to understand them. I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I admire the courage of the men and women who devote themselves to it, especially women who haven’t been circumcised. I admire them so much more than I find the task titanic.

But I would like to help the victims, not educate the torturers. I would like to help my cousin to have the operation, the one who lives abroad and has nothing to pay for the reconstruction. I would like to help women who have been circumcised, who feel all alone in their unhappiness, to believe that they can come out of it and I would like to give them the means.

My blog is for me a means of speaking to myself, of setting down my thoughts on this abomination, of coming out of the trauma and to absorb the fact that I was circumcised. It’s a way for me to progress, to leave the shore of my personal drama, to step back and reassure myself that I am still a normal human being.

I used to say to myself that it was enough that it would be read by other women in my situation, that it would perhaps help them one way or another. But it’s not nearly enough I believe. And then, it’s too easy also, because it comes back to saying “good, I am doing something for myself alone and if others can get something from it, good for them”. Frankly that seems like I don’t know what sort of vision of things. That doesn’t really help, being content with that.

So I’d like to make this blog a place of exchange, a place where anyone can find information, answers, testimonies, comfort, support. This would be a first step in my move to wanting to help… I don’t know yet how I’m going to manage to do it exactly but I know I’ll need other voices than my own.

I have emailed several young circumcised women, about to have the operation or having already had the operation. Some showed up on Hélène’s blog Mon blog de fille**. The commented on a post of Hélène’s called The repaired circumcision, about Dr Foldes and apparently wanted to discuss with other young women in their situation. They didn’t all reply to my emails but I’m not disheartened. Perhaps one day they will write to me. Perhaps one day they will let me put their words on this blog so that the greatest number can benefit from their experience also. Perhaps it will also do them good to speak about it.

Ladies, will you take my hand I am waving here? Will you join your words to mine? Will you militate with me?

**I would like to recommend this blog warmly, it's so amusing, intelligent and varied. It should be regularly prescribed in cases of a sad mood.

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Two versaries

Monday 9 April 2007

-Anniversary:

Good, there it is, I’m 31.

That depresses me a bit, to tell the truth. I have the feeling of having lost my youth, of having wasted it. I would have liked to have made the decision earlier to have the operation. I would have liked to have started to believe in my future a bit sooner… These thought make me a little sad. But I console myself by saying it’s never too late to set my life back on path. And then this year I had a wonderful birthday present: my father sang “Happy Birthday” to me over the phone. I believe it’s the first time that I’ve heard him sing, and he sang for me. For me alone. That gave me great, great pleasure.

-Month-iversary:

Something else to celebrate: that’s now a month and one day since I stopped smoking! Hey, hey, hey!!! I am soooooooooo proud of myself.

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Thursday, 6 April 2006

The great femininity mystery

Wednesday 4 April 2007

My cousin told me she feels inferior, less of a woman than others. It’s a feeling I experience too from time to time: I feel my femininity is immature, unrefined, primitive and awkward compared with other women. I have this feeling, for example, with my sister, who, very naturally, wears make up and jewellery. This is not at all natural for me. At times it even means it’s a real effort to make myself attractive. Besides I wear little make-up, I practically never wear skirts (except in summer but that’s because I’m hot) and I’m not even talking about shoes with heels. I’m not masculine either, I like clothes, I pay attention to my presentation but … How can I explain? Let’s take an example: it’s as if I were in front of a large chest of drawers which was hiding all things for women and where I opened only the lowest drawers, those which contain the basics, the cotton tops, women’s jeans, sneakers etc… The top drawers, those are out of my reach, reserved for “grown ups”, for “real women” containing much “sharper” things, shoes with heels, eyelash curlers, designer dresses etc… I’ve thought for a long time that the drawers you choose as a woman derive entirely from your personality, full stop [period]. Besides, I like my clothes, I choose them with great care.

My cousin thinks that her feeling of lacking femininity is linked with her circumcision, that it has stopped dead the development of her pride in being a woman the day she was mutilated. Myself I don’t know. My lack of femininity could originate in my circumcision, or my distant relationship with my mother, or an accumulation of events in my past. What is certain, is that I have especially spent time quelling my fears, that in the past and indeed for a long time the subject hasn’t interested me.

In my mid twenties, moreover, I experienced a sort of complex that I wasn’t feminine. Sometimes, even often, I come to a stop in front of a shop window containing beautiful dresses for a “femme fatale” and shoes with vertiginous heels or I admire the skilful make up of a woman sitting opposite me in the metro and I say to myself that I would love, myself, to wear with such ease beautiful flowing dresses, the highest heels or know how to make up like that. But I continue on my way, or go back to my book thinking that it’s not for me, that on me these clothes, these shoes or this make up would be ridiculous. I tell myself that I would feel awkward, as though I was "dressing up" and I feel frustration and pain …

From time to time I try. I put on a dress, low heeled shoes, make up…. But my attempts to be more feminine seem pathetic to me, they are so awkward and the result so far from what I would have wanted. Or then, when I don’t find myself grotesque, past the phase of euphoria and exuberant narcissism (My God but I’m beautiful! It’s strange but great!) dressing myself in a very feminine way and putting on make up quickly becomes an effort, I end up by taking no pleasure in it at all and after some days, I stop the expense and return to my trousers and clodhoppers for months on end.

In therapy I therefore started to find out what femininity was. So far in vain. Whatever way I address the question, the notion of femininity stays out of reach and I more or less stop and let it drop. But today it’s bothering me again. What is femininity? What can I do to be more feminine? Is it because I am circumcised that I find the question so complicated. What’s more, my sister doesn’t have this type of worry at all, femininity is natural for her. What then? Well I don’t know how to think any more about it to tell the truth.

To clarify the question I looked for the definition of femininity in dictionaries and on the internet. The Larousse said of femininity: “Feminine characteristic. Collection of characteristics belonging to a woman or judged such”, which didn’t get me much further. As for the Petit Robert, the definition it gives is “Feminine characteristic. Collection of characteristics corresponding to a biological and social image (charm, softness ...) of a woman”, which didn’t get me any further either.

On the internet, I read attempts at the definition by several people and clearly it’s not obvious. Here are some of the sentences I collected:
“Approved of as being in accordance with the representations of the female type in its social setting, and taking advantage of that in her circle of acquaintances.”
Femininity is less a question of the exterior, than an interior one which permeates to the exterior.”
“A woman is feminine when she truly accepts she is a woman, when she considers it to be a strength, an asset. There is nothing more feminine than a woman who feels beautiful.”
“It is her attitude, her movements and her way of acknowledging her body which makes a woman feminine.

What I understand from all of that is that femininity is a subjective notion. But I am still in a fog when I try to define my representation of femininity. Perhaps having a more harmonious relationship with my body is going to help me become more feminine? Perhaps the operation which I am going to have will lead me there? Perhaps after 16 May it will seem more clear?

In the meantime, I ask the question of everyone: what is femininity? Who exactly decides that a woman is feminine or not? And for those of you who were excised and who indeed want to answer, do you think that your excision could have altered your femininity or not at all?

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Tuesday, 4 April 2006

Body and Soul

Tuesday 3 April 2007

Originally I started my therapy because I wasn’t in touch with my emotions. I didn’t know how to identify what I was feeling, I didn’t know myself at all and I was never sure of anything or rather I was sure I wasn’t normal. I had the impression of being on the way to madness because of convincing myself that the right emotion, the emotion to feel in a given situation was this one or that one. I used to rationalise everything, at the time, but I had the feeling of being incomplete, as though only half living. As though already half dead. I completely ignored the physical manifestations of emotions. I didn’t know that the body also speaks.

For me the body was only a tool, an envelope, something mechanical. For me the body was a mute soldier, ready to endure all that was necessary to endure to survive. It was there and I owed it nothing apart from answering its primary needs (sleep, food, protection against cold, that type of thing), maintaining it a little, and caring for it if it was sick. In exchange it had to be strong and obedient.

My body never took control over the whole of my being. By that I mean that I’ve never had an orgasm like those I’ve heard described and which carries you away in a whirlwind and you can do nothing about it. Of course I’ve already had pleasure from my body. Of course it’s happened that I’ve been paralysed with fear. But in all these situations where my body showed itself, my mind was functioning and could control it, tell it to keep quiet. My body never imposed itself sufficiently strongly for me to hear it. I didn’t allow it.

My true wealth, which I cherished, was my mind, my intellect, my machine for thought and analysis. What made me unique, allowed me to survive, and to build a future, allowed me to live in society, to go forward in life, was my intelligence and intuition. The means of taking hold of my life, of controlling some of what happened to me, that was my mind. For me, the body had to serve the mind, had to be the means of interacting with the physical reality of things, to be its framework in a sense.

Nevertheless, my body was the first victim of my circumcision. It was wounded, mutilated, traumatised. It must have bled profusely, it could have died from a haemorrhage. But it survived, it scarred, it grew, and it developed. In reality I realise my body has always been, more than my mind, the source of my will to live.

In the course of my therapy, I learned to notice its sounds, to distinguish its reactions and to listen to them. That reassured me. I was therefore “normal” and not in the process of dying slowly. But I continued not to notice the messages until I understood their significance. I read in the magazine “Psychologies” this month that “the body never lies, contrary to the mind” and this sentence struck me.

Today I want a different relationship with my body., I want to respect it, to notice its rhythm, its needs, to love it in a different way. I want to be obliging and thoughtful towards it, to pay attention and listen to what it has to say to me. I want to take possession of it as the fundamental part of myself that it is.

Soon it will be my birthday. For several years I've made a habit of taking a day's holiday. On the day it's a respite, I don't work, I have a lie in, I try to do only things which are pleasant. Normally I go to the cinema, eat at my favourite restaurant, take a nap, write, read or lounge about. But this year I have decided to give myself a full body massage, a complete facial, a manicure, and a pedicure. This year it's my body who will take the honours. It deserves it. It's thanks to it that I am here and I will never be able to thank it enough.

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