Age is a beautiful teacher. It’s taken me years to understand that I hold resentment in my body, to my body, about my body. Those resentments are deep and old. In grade school, my appendix had to be removed, a bone in my foot had to be taken out because it was growing erratically and we found that my right eye has amblyopia, lazy eye – which couldn’t be corrected so my vision is impaired. None of these physical issues were life threatening, but how I made sense of them as a child was to understand that my body is flawed. Not right. Broken. Add to that the amputation of my leg to cement the assumption: I cannot count on my body.
Ever since my accident, my body and mind have had an understanding. Mind to body: let me do what I want and you do all you can to accommodate (which meant: keep me healthy, keep me safe, keep me going). Body to mind: whatever you say, boss. My mind didn’t really care what the body needed, just so long as I kept moving forward, literally and figuratively. I’ve been able to rationalize everything I’ve done to my body because I held onto the belief that I am invincible for much longer than most folks. They say when there’s trauma in your life as a child, part of your brain stays stuck in that developmental stage. I was seventeen years old when I lost my leg – and survived – the quintessential age when we defy death.
I have felt betrayed by my body my whole life. My body has held me back from doing so many things. My mind has pushed my body to its limits, but gets so angry that those physical limits are there at all.
Respect is a two-way street. I haven’t respected my body because I didn’t feel it respected me. But lately I’ve challenged that assumption. The animosity I’ve felt toward my body – is it warranted? Looking at this situation from another perspective I wonder: has my body, in fact, been absolutely remarkable? It told me, through gut-wrenching pain, that something was wrong with my appendix. Instead of a burst appendix, the doctors had enough time to surgically remove it. My left eye’s vision has compensated for the lazy eye and has been 20/15 most of my life. And the accident? I survived, in spite of lying on the highway for twenty minutes after being hit. I did walk again. My legs, yes, both of them – long and short – have carried me up a mountain with a backpack and down a mountain on skis. Perhaps my body has been respecting my wishes all along.
So, one of my New Year’s intentions is to take better care of my body. I’m old enough now to understand that I’ll never be able to chew much if I take too big a bite, so I am starting slowly. I am taking my vitamins everyday. I am doing my exercises every morning. I am being more mindful of the food I eat. Even when it’s sugar.
Mind to body: Thank You.