I have given this post a number because I anticipate there will be future posts about my body, so this number system will serve as a sub-chronicle.
I have all kinds of memories about my body and how I feel about it. When I was born, fat babies were considered healthy and I was a nice fat baby. I hear they called me Butterball, but mercifully that name didn’t stick with me into toddlerhood. I was a fairly average toddler/little girl. I look at photos of myself wearing the requisite Danskin outfits, my head tilted at a coquettish angle, and a pleased smile on my face. I believe I was a happy child, I was talkative, outgoing, and curious. I don’t recall thinking much about my body other than at times when I was sick, or had hurt myself, which I did with some frequency as we lived in an apartment, and I ran around like a lunatic. I once ran into a wall with a plastic horn in my mouth, and could eat nothing but plain noodles and broth for a week… I ran into a number of things both indoors and out; I have since refined my skills of looking where I am going.
I hear from all manner of television personalities, radio talk show hosts and guests, newspaper and magazine articles etc. that it is important for me to love my body. But I’m not sure I’m prepared to commit. There are many things about my body that I greatly appreciate, and value. I have a good mind, pretty good skin (for someone my age…) nice hair, I am reasonably healthy, and take no medications- which apparently is quite a feat- a few years ago while at a dr.’s visit they asked me what medications I was taking. Not if I took any, but which ones I took. The woman taking my info seemed surprised when I said none, and when I asked why, she said the average is one per decade. I love America!
So in general my body does what I need it to do. It gets me where I want to go, keeps track of how I got there and how to get home, allows me to see and hear what is going on around me, and to sit, stand, reach and bend. Mechanically I don’t really have much to complain about, but I do wish I was prettier, thinner, faster, more graceful, and preferred salad to lobster mac and cheese… I try to look at myself objectively, but I don’t think that’s possible- for anyone. We all look in the mirror and see the actual flaws we have, magnified about a thousand times, in addition to the phantom flaws we see, but are invisible to everyone else.
My body has been much better to me than I have to it. In addition to eating too much, and exercising too little, I have exposed it to the sun without sunscreen, banged it around on numerous occasions, fallen off my bike, had many jobs that involved standing for long periods of time, was a potter for many years leaving me with hands that often ache, and gone to too many loud concerts, just for a few examples. Each year I swear I will treat my body- myself better, and each year I let us down. As we all know, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” (Now I don’t think I am going to hell, in fact I believe if there is a hell, it is for people way more reprehensible and cruel than the likes of me.) But my good intentions aren’t good enough.
Mindfulness is key. I hear about it, read about it, talk about it, and in fact, am working on practicing it. Mindfulness, for me means paying attention to what I do, and listening to my instincts, my body. This means thinking before I jam that donut into my mouth, and don’t even taste it, as well as acknowledging that though I like creamy cheeses and pate better than salad or broccoli (and who doesn’t?) I can’t and don’t even want to live on a strict diet of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, nor I am willing to give them up entirely. My body (and I) deserve better.
There are so many things that impact and influence the people we are, and the choices we make, as well as the impulses we act on. None of us grows up in a bubble; we are an amalgam of millions of bits of external input, combined with our genetic predispositions and gifts. As Popeye so eloquently stated I am who I am. So inside and out, this is what I have to work with, and so I do.