Today I give thanks for the physical me.
For the first time in six long years, I give thanks to my body.
Today, I ran a 5 minute warm up, stopped to stretch and eat a peanut bar, and then ran the local trails for 15 minutes without stopping.
This may not seem like much to many but, to me, it is a triumph many years in the making. Six years ago, my body began a slow, creeping, not-so-silent, pull away from my soul. With pregnancy, I was both highly aware of my physical presence but also quite separate as I learned to house the growth of another human who was both of me and not of me. Before long, and getting larger by the week, I ripped my left knee to shreds which remained misdiagnosed for months. A limping swollen hot pregnancy followed. In all truth, it was a healthy pregnancy with a healthy fetus, but hampered by a bum knee and a growing sense of despair, while managing what it is like to have your body live a life of its own as it gives over to the life growing inside you. Despair, no doubt from the unknown knowledge that my body was…for lack of a better description…forsaking me.
And then came a swift birth and the black eyes of my first born.
And then came the return to work. An hour each way. Nursing. Pumping. Driving. Leaving at 8am and not returning until 9pm. Nursing. Dinner at 10pm. Baby awake again at midnight. Work. Driving.
A knee surgery before which I groggily waved to my three month old and wondered if there was enough milk in the freezer. Getting the baby into bed for night nursing while wearing a leg brace from ankle to hip. Grueling physical therapy with a baby strapped to my front, or being wheeled around the fitness room by random elderly women.
Driving to work. God damn work. Baby at the sitter again.
Missed PT because the baby took too long to nurse in the waiting room.
The emotional trauma of a failing marriage. Job switch. Less driving. The long uphill rock-filled trail that leads to friendship after separation.
Illness. Never-ending illness. From the very food I eat. I am gray. Ashen. But our world is so fucked up that people tell me I ‘look good.’ And I wonder what they must think of me when I am healthy if they think I ‘look good’ when I am 25 pounds under weight. At 5’7″ and only 145 to begin with, 25 pounds was not something I could afford to lose. But I did. The rashes on my arms, the insipid sinus infections, my child’s head colds became my personal flues. My child’s mildly upset tummy became my pukes. And the doctors who wouldn’t listen, who told me to go home because I wasn’t dying and did I want some sleeping pills?
And I went inside my laptop. And there I stayed. And I thought I was, for certain, going to die. But I didn’t. I slowly healed. I still heal. I persevered. And persevered. And persevered. And when I realized I wasn’t dead, I thought maybe I should go out and live. So I did.
And so I have done. Or, tried to do. And after about two years of living again, I lost a family member. And the loss helped me discover that not only am I alive, but I am not scared of death…I am scared of not living. But in order to live, one must truly be alive. So I gave myself permission to live again.
I went dancing.
I recognized the feeling of moving to music. I began to find myself working in the garden when I should have been inside my laptop or reading a document. I found myself wondering if I could just start dancing as I walked down the street because I could feel the need in my body. To dance. In the street. I restrained myself. But inside me pulsed the feeling of this need to move with a new, sweeping rhythm.
Another year passed, and I crawled into my laptop less and less, and reached out to my loves more and more. The people I love. The people who matter. Because, in the end, it is people who matter. My body began to accept its foods again, to build muscle, to build joy, to build grace. My ashen cheeks are long gone.
Before long, I wondered, with this re-discovery of movement and the desire to have stamina once more, I wondered how to find the time to exercise. Where does one fit it in the day? I was never sure. So sometimes I did, but more often, I didn’t. Along came the long, exhausting rehearsal process for a two-woman 90-minute play, directly followed by a long, fun, and silly rehearsal process for a medieval festival.
Then, yesterday, a friend (whom one day I hope to call dear) said to me, “I was with so-and-so’s son and he really needs to be outside a lot. It was pouring out and he said, ‘I really need to be outside.’ And I said, okay.” I immediately knew this feeling of needing to be outside and inwardly marveled at the 7-year olds’ ability to know his body and know his need to be outside in the air, moving his body through the rushing air. And how I need that too.
I need that too.
I know I need that too.
Today I ran 15 minutes without stopping. I ran because I can. Because I am alive and living. Because with the help of some very good friends, I am remembering that my body is not my enemy, my body is my life. And honoring my body means taking rest, taking slow meals, touching with love, and being out in the air.
I remember now that I am one who needs to move, who needs to spend many hours outside feeling the world, who needs space. My body has not forsaken me for I am my body.
Today I give thanks to this body that is mine. To the me who remembers to love this body. And to the many friends who have helped me find movement again.