My body and I are not getting along right now, not getting along at all.
I think we used to like each other, back in the days before puberty, back in the days before I got hormones and got fat. We played soccer together. We ran on the playground and chased boys. We took ballet classes. We loved dress up. In fifth grade, we had a royal blue shirt with puffy sleeves and a rather low scoop neck. We wore it with short shorts and that was OK because our legs were long and coltish. We also had a matching headband – not the kind that holds your hair back, but the kind you tie across your forehead like Olivia Newton-John or an Indian Princess. We felt beautiful (even with the headband.)
It was the next couple of years when things started to get complicated. In 6th grade, we had a training bra for our newly growing “buds.” We hated it. By middle school, the buds were boobs. My body and I began to part ways. It wanted a bra, but bras were uncomfortable and I refused to comply until high school. In middle school, no one looks good and I was no exception. There was unfortunate middle school hair choices involving a center part and feathering. There were pink turtlenecks worn with a blue oxford shirts buttoned all the way up and two tone jeans and white hightops. Perhaps as a reaction to the horrible fashion, my body began to gain weight.
I lost the coltish legs and my arch nemisis – the gut – arrived. My body and I were no longer in any kind of harmony. The more weight I gained, the unhappier I was. I was still active, but it didn’t matter. I ate like other teenagers. I ate like my friends, but while they stayed thin, I did not. I began my close and long relationship with self-doubt and low self-esteem and all that “self” stuff you read about in teen magazines.
I have been dieting and exercising ever since. I don’t trust my body. If left to its own devices, it wants to eat cookies. It ignores portion sizes. It expands and expands. In order to lose weight, I have to restrict my calorie intake severely. I get cranky. I find it hard to maintain for long periods of time. I do lose weight, but then, eventually, I gain it back.
I’ve turned to exercise as a way to maintain at least a semblance of a reasonable weight. I work out so often and so hard, partially because I’m afraid my body wants to look like Jabba the Hut. I don’t think my body and I have the same idea about what we should be.
I thought I had come a long way. After having my kids, I turned my attention away from what my body looked like to what my body can do. Over time I started to measure my body on how well it can dance, how many push-ups it can do, how far it can run, instead of what size jeans it can wear. I’ve written about how I find beauty in my body now; I feel the most beautiful in my sweaty workout clothes at the end of a kickboxing class or a dance class or a long hike. I’ve written about how I find beauty in my muscles and in my strength.
I thought this was progress.
But now I’m injured and I can’t do what makes me feel beautiful. I can’t kickbox. I can’t dance. I can’t run. Some days it even hurts to take the dog for a walk. I’m benched and I do not feel beautiful. I do not feel good.
I feel betrayed by my body. It is a ridiculous and useless feeling, I know. I’ve been injured many times before, but this time is different. Before, I’ve always been injured because of the activities I do. I’ve been injured by dancing. I realize I put my body through something very difficult and wearing when I dance. Injuries are a part of the choice to dance, so when I’m injured by dancing, I understand. I pushed too hard and my body couldn’t take it. I don’t blame my body for breaking.
But this time . . . this time I didn’t do anything. It wasn’t dancing. It wasn’t kickboxing. It wasn’t anything. I was fine and then I wasn’t. I’m having trouble accepting this from my body.
People keep telling me, “You’re just getting older. It sucks to get older.” But I’m not That Old! I’m 38, for god’s sake. Dana Torres is in her 40s and swam in the Olympics. People do triathlons for the first time in their 30s. They run marathons. Some professional athletes are still in their 30s. I’m not 88. I’m 38. To quote Monty Python, “I’m not dead yet.”
I’m not ready to be in physical therapy with all the old people with their canes and walkers. Yes, my hair matches their hair, but the rest of me is not supposed to match them yet. I am pissed off at my body for breaking down in this completely inexplicable and incredibly thorough fashion.
I thought I had made peace with my body by changing my focus from what it looks like to what it can do; it turns out I had only called a truce.
My body can’t do anything other than rest right now (and possibly for many more weeks – the doctor won’t say how long this recovery will take) and I’ve plummeted right back down the rabbit hole with all that low self stuff I thought I had defeated so long ago.
And there are cookies down here in the rabbit hole. Lots of stuff down here says “Eat me” which really isn’t helping at all.