Ash Wednesday: Making Peace with my Body

Dear Body,
This thank you note is long overdue.
I want you to know that I see you taking care of me with Herculean effort 24-7 and I appreciate it.
Your work ethic is exemplary.
You’re strong, reliable and oh so resilient.

I owe you many apologies. 
I haven’t treated you very well. 
I’ve despised you. 
Punished you. 
Misused you. 
Neglected you. 
I’ve been critical of you and trash talked you when I look in the mirror.
I’ve made demands of you that are unfair, unkind and unrealistic.
I haven’t nourished you with proper fuel.
I haven’t hydrated you with enough water.
I haven’t offered you routine rituals of rest.
I’ve lobbed comparison and performance grenades at you unwittingly one after another as if we were enemies.

I’ve been afraid of you too.
Afraid of your vulnerability.
Afraid of exploitation.
Afraid of the future when you succumb to injury, disease, old age.

My expectations of you have been too high and my appreciation too low.
So here I am, on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, posturing myself for a few moments of curious wonder and delight in honor of you.

Oh, the places we’ve gone together….
From the two mile walk home from Kindergarten holding my mama’s hand, 
To hoofing it behind a double stroller with giggly girls and a dog on a leash, stopping to explore stones and leaves and ants and tree bark and other miracles in plain sight, 
To jogging a handful of kilometers up and down the hills of my neighborhood, 
And hiking to the peak of Ben A’an in beloved Scotland. 
Those hips and legs and knees and feet, that heart that pumps and lungs that breathe, they’ve all worked together to gift me memories that I cherish.

That little girl with long, brown, wavy hair and a skinned up knee, that was you before you grew into a tall, slender teenager, bronzed from hours of sun worshipping. Your pretty hazel eyes gazed deeply, attentively at the people around you and you smiled affirmations of their worth and value. Later on, someone besides your mom and dad looked at you and loved you, attracted to your beauty.

I’m recalling how the two of you created unique people inside your body. Five times. Your egg dropped out of your ovary by design, travelled through your fallopian tube, met up with a sperm and a brand new life started growing inside your uterus. Your pelvic muscles supported ten pound baby girls one after another in your protective incubator until it was time for the door between the worlds  to stretch and tear and bleed and birth and then heal. You nourished your babies with milk that miraculously squirted out tiny ducts in your breasts stimulated by bonding hormones as your babies sucked skin to skin.

I wonder at the integration and separateness of your brain and body, the way your brain unconsciously regulates digestion, heart beats, inhalation then exhalation and the elimination of toxins. The gray matter protected inside the bony cage of the skull sends messages to receptors and organs, who respond like a domino train. The left hemisphere holds thoughts and knowledge for ready recall while the right intuits and carries secrets incognito.  That brain innately communicates strategies for you to response with when I experience little joys and itty-bitty stressors to major magical moments and traumas that have rocked my world.  It tells you, body,  when to run, when to fight, and when to freeze, and you do exactly what’s needed to take care of me.

I’m revisiting cycles of the seasons one year after the next, and seeing your hands. There’s almost always dirt under the fingernails from weeding and planting, sowing and reaping. You’ve never worn gloves because you need to feel connected to the earth in all of its tactile splendor as you nurture beauty.

I marvel at those hands. They’re evidence of maturity and durability. Where the skin hugs the veins, I can follow the vessels and find my story. 
It’s a history of sprains and breaks,
Bumps and bruises,
Aches and pains,
Acute and chronic,
Viruses, inflammation and disease.

It’s an archive of vigor and vitality,
Healing and recovery,
Beauty and pleasure,
Taste, touch, smell, sound and sight.

In this chapter of my eternal autobiography, you and I, we’ve been paired together as a team. You provide a temporary home for the immortal part of me, but your role, it’s time limited. From dust you were formed and to dust you will return.
For now, I receive you as God’s temporal gift, for however long He gives it.
Today, I hold your glory and your ephemerality in tandem. Simultaneously. And bless them both.

With Love and Gratitude, Hope

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