Last spring, my body threw me under a bus. We’re okay now. We didn’t break up or anything. I’m still with this version of aging bones and graying hair, and I’m good with that now, though we haven’t always had the best relationship.
When I was three, roughly a million years ago, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Not fun. Not the end of the world either. Just the way it is. It means a fair amount of pain, a lot of stiffness and some limitation. For me, it is also an awesome excuse for not running marathons, (hate running) climbing mountains (hate heights) and has even, every once-in-awhile, helped me get out of doing the dishes and folding the laundry.
Aside from helping with chore avoidance, this body has certainly taught me great compassion, determination, persistence. And, with a supportive family and great friends, I’ve always figured out a way to do the things I’ve wanted to do in this life.
But, last year, my body just kind of rose up and reminded me through throbbing pain and months of sleepless nights that it needed more attention. For awhile I ignored those messages, figured I could push through. Then, I became too tired and I hurt too much to keep going that way.
Paying Attention to the Whole Being
I had to make some changes. I needed to start paying attention and respond to my body’s call for help. So I found a new doc, a great physical therapist and a life-changing acupuncturist who helped me loosen up, ease the pain, sleep again and return to some semblance of sanity.
In between all of these appointments, I rested more. I stopped my workouts, at the urging of the medical folks – many days I couldn’t walk without assistance so probably didn’t need to be on a treadmill right then anyhow– and tried to recover. The rest helped ease the pain, but I also became more stagnant, ate differently (emotionally?) and gained weight.
Now, even though I feel better and the arthritis is under control again, everything else just feels a little off.
It is not enough to be mentally strong and spiritually grounded, I’ve got to nurture that third aspect of self, my physical body, as well.
For a long time I figured that I could disregard my physical self and still be okay. There were times I also tried to deny it and fight against it and ignore it. It didn’t work, of course, my body follows me everywhere. And to be whole, we’ve got to nurture every aspect of ourselves. To move from the gray to the color of our lives we’ve got to be connected to our mind, bodies, spirits.
Treat Yourself Kindly
No matter the state of your physical being you can nurture your body, support it, treat it with kindness.
So, I’m doing that. Taking baby steps now. Exercising again, building more activity into my day. Resting when I need to. Eating the foods that nourish me. I’m grateful for the days when this body works easily. I respect it on the days when it reminds me to rest.
It’s all part of the growth process. And in the end, this same body that hurts sometimes and slows me down in some ways is also the vehicle that allows me to hug my child, see the ocean, laugh with friends, and savor a cold drink on a warm summer day.
Life is in these details. Wholeness is about paying attention to all of it and caring for each aspect of self so that we can experience life fully. Today, I’ll start with a few minutes on the elliptical. I’ll drink down my green smoothie – which is oddly, my new favorite thing – and I’ll be grateful for the physical things that are working well: The breath in my body. My heart. The brain that provides clarity. Somehow this body keeps going despite adversity. That alone makes me want to treat it a bit better.
What aspects of yourself need a little more care, compassion, nurturing? What steps can you take today to boost your spiritual growth, mental development, physical health?
On Wednesday, I’ll share some other ways we can strengthen that mind/body/spirit connection to foster well-being and whole health.