I stood up after a few hours at my desk, and a sharp pain shot down my right leg. I cringed. And then I got angry, again. I was angry about unfairness; why would a twenty-three year old have to experience constant, chronic pain? I was angry about inability; why did I have to miss last weekend’s hike? But I was mostly angry about my body in general, about the network of muscles that weren’t cooperating. The physical pain turned inward, morphing into a pervasive negativity about my body and myself. It wasn’t working for me, so I wasn’t about to give it any credit, let alone love.
Like most people, I have a complicated relationship with my body. But in these moments when it’s not working, I eventually realize how much I take it for granted. When I was pain free, I didn’t appreciate how easy and effortless it felt to walk down the hall. Now I wished that were true. When I was pain free, I didn’t think about how sitting itself is a miracle. It takes the coordination of so many muscles just to make that happen!
Then I started to realize the other miracles that my body performs every single day. My body senses that it’s time to wake up when the early morning sun shines through my window. It can recruit the muscles to smile or laugh. I take thousands of steps every day without thinking how my quadriceps have to contract and extend with each motion. The image of the screen that I’m looking at now is filtered through an intricate network of rods and cones before being whisked away to the brain for processing, without any apparent effort from me. I don’t usually stop and think about things like photoreceptors or quadricep physiology, because I don’t have to—my body does it for me.
My body is not perfect. I’m in pain now, and I’m frustrated when I have to sit out of a pick-up Frisbee game at the beach because my twenty-three year old body isn’t working properly. I’ve certainly had to make some adjustments, but I’ve learned a slew of lessons in the process. First, I’ve learned that I need to treat my body well. The hurt I feel now is a product of neglect: never stretching, rarely working to build my muscles, running too often without rest days. I’ve also learned that my body is still incredible, pain and all. It’s amazing that the inflammation in my knees and hip are my body’s way of protecting itself. It’s amazing that I can still bike to work every day, up the big hill and down. It’s amazing that my fingers have the dexterity and muscle memory to type the words my brain is dictating right now.
When I finally learned how to let go of some of the negativity, I was free to see what was truly beautiful and awesome about my body, not just in the abstract, but in the real and powerful way that it moves and carries me. It enables me to do so much, and even in moments of pain, I’ve realized I need to embrace it, be frustrated with it, and then love it anyway – with all of its ups and downs.
This blog post was sponsored by: ESG Architects