Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Making peace with my body

Yesterday, in the midst of a terribly crazy day, I squeezed in an hour long massage. Yes, I had to give up my work out at the gym, and I did end up rushing about some in the evening (maybe reversing some of the effects of the massage), but overall it was a good piece of self-care, and a treat for momma on the first day of preschool.

The fact is, we all experience life through this one body that we have been born into. Whatever your beliefs about the soul, or the mind, you never-the-less have a physical self and live a physical life.

It has taken me until I was entering my 4th decade of life in this body to start to feel at peace with it. In fact, my teens and twenties can be viewed as 20 years of various sorts of battles with my body.

I have tried to force my body to conform to ballet standards ("turn out", bloody, squashed toes, etc.)

I have starved my body.

I have forced my body to throw up the food it has eaten.

I have worn plastic pants because they were supposed to "suck out" the "water weight" from my thighs.

I have considered, but never managed to act on, self-inflicted injury to my body.

I have pushed my body past the point of pain, and ignored times when my body cried out for rest.

I have torn muscles and twisted ankles and knees and smashed noses in the pursuit of "being tough".

I have lain awake at night in so much pain I could not sleep.

I have been literally brought to my hands and knees by pain, left rocking helplessly.

I have felt estranged from my body, or even hated it.

The turning point was really a moment. It was the moment, in the early summer of my 29th year, that I gave up. I admitted how much pain I was in, and that I could not do this any longer. I threw myself on the mercy of the emergency medical system. To seek medical help, I had to forget about my worries that I was not "tough", my worries that my sensations were not valid, that my flaw was mostly one of lack of discipline. And, as it turned out, I had not been wrong about what was happening in my body. I had gallstones - and had probably had them for the whole 2+ years of pain and misery. A simple thing to fix, really, compared to the trouble of living with it.

That was my moment, and it has allowed me to enter my 30's with a greater level of peace with my body. Yes, I still have moments. I still struggle with that little insecure girl who led me to anorexia. I still struggle with the rejected and angry teen who wanted to harden herself into a tough warrior of a woman. But I'm dealing with the feelings now, and not with the body. When treated with love, my body is actually a pretty nice place to live. It likes its yoga, it likes to eat good food, it likes massages and bubble baths and hot tubs. And, radically for me, I will say that I like my body.