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Adjusting your body to a new surrounding can reveal our innermost needs — even if they are beyond naming, writes Olivia Spring.

And for the record, I am here, taking care of myself. I am unveiling my lonely body and showing myself what I can do for it, and what I cannot. A year has passed and I have gone from brick walls to wood beams, from muddy rivers to blue, silky streams. Beside me now are bent trees waiting patiently for the sun’s warmth and birds digging small openings with their beaks. Here is where I am looking at a slumped and sagging self, and wondering how to hold such a thing.

In this new environment, I worry my body cannot perform the tasks that are a must. I am too used to convenience and urgency and other bodies circling mine. Everything in my old world was vicious, but also easy. It twisted you up with knowing that you would never be alone until you craved solitude so deeply, with both desire and dread. No time to question what I would be if this comfort became a danger; if the familiar became frigid. So I bend my body like the trees, but their arms stretch away as if to detach themselves. The process of resettling is not as simple as breaking yourself in two, or three, or four when your roots are as strong as a mother’s love.

Last week, while bending, I couldn’t reach anything. The floors were not floors. There was no food to insert into myself at the time I was supposed to. Sometimes, all I can allow is liquid, and I become weak. I look at the kitchen with fear — what is hiding in there? Will a mouse poke its head through a sliver of a door? Will it be a chipmunk, a bird, a baby skunk searching for the source of warmth? I have no right to this space — the animals are surrounding my shelter, and they want in. I put my palm to the wall. I am safe here. But I do not trust my own thought. I need to see my body. How big I could become. How violent.

On FaceTime, my mom says, we’re worried you won’t eat when you’re on your own. Finally, at 24, I am alone.And I jump at every sound I hear, every movement a threat. Tense on my sofa and unmoving in bed. I wait for an attack, ready for the natural world to take me and expose my fragility. I could become a forgotten thing so easily. But while I am here —

I train myself: open the drawer, take out a fork. Punch a hole in the plastic wrap, put it in the microwave. Don’t feel guilty for buying ready meals. You are just trying to do the right thing. To care for yourself. 

I train myself: Leave your clothes on the bathroom floor, step into the shower and the warm water will cradle you, not kill you. Stand there in your skin for as long as you can. As long as you want.

I train myself: Let your hands stay with the book you love, steer them away from the small screens that bring you fear. Don’t be scared when you click the yellow lamp and you are in darkness. When you are alone and unprotected.

And for the record, I am here, taking care of myself. I am unveiling my lonely body and showing myself what I can do for it. I have never been isolated like this, with snow thick and heavy for months. There is something I don’t know the name of that I need. Something to let my shoulders slump, to sit with all that is quiet and empty.