I was told over and over again that my body was just a limitation to be overcome through mental toughness – blocking out or working through the pain. It didn’t come naturally at first – I seemed to have an innate sense that my body deserved better than that, but at some point I turned a corner and got really good at ignoring my body.
I worked through stress fractures, anIT band so tight it felt like it was going to rip in half, pulled muscles, sprains, strains, jammed fingers, knee injuries and a host of other issues. I ignored my body when it asked for food and hydration, and I scoffed at it when it asked for rest.
I became a compulsive exerciser and I started to look down on my body even more. I didn’t give it what it needed and pushed it beyond reasonable, and then unreasonable, limits. When my body would finally bend or break under the strain, I treated it with utter contempt. I believed that my body was just a “meat sack,” a collection of muscles and bones that were trying to limit what I could do. I believed that my mind had to be stronger than my body and I felt triumphant when I ignored my body’s signals and “pushed through.”
If I ever had an acquaintance who treated me the way that I treated my body for all those years, I would never speak to them again. In fact, I would never have let it go on that long. But through all of this my body stuck with me (even though I wasn’t giving it the food, hydration, or rest it needed), my body continued to support me. It never gave up on me. If my body could talk, all it would have said for years would have probably sound like the Tazmanian Devil: “&$*#(*@ *$*&*#(*$ and for the love of all that’s holy, can we please take a nap?!” but I wouldn’t have listened.
We live in a culture that preaches that our bodies are limitations. I believe that my body is a cherished friends. Think of everything your body does for you without you even asking: breathing, blinking, heart beating… every cell in your body is getting blood right now and you’re not even thinking about it.
I don’t know about you, but there are days when I am too distracted to focus on a game of solitaire. I’m pretty sure that if I was consciously in charge of breathing and blinking and heart beat I would have been dead in 6th grade when I got my first Walkman and regularly walked into stuff because I was so into the INXS tape that was playing.
I’m not saying that pushing your body is always wrong, you have to decide what works for you. I know I’ve danced through plenty of injuries. What I’m suggesting is that you treat your body like you would treat a friend. I can’t even count the things that my best friend has done for me, even though he didn’t want to, because he’s my best friend and he loves me and I asked nicely. It’s the same with my body. We have conversations:
Me: “Hey body, those are some awesome 4 inch heels that would go great with our blue and white dress. We could totally rock those.”
Body: “Are you freaking kidding me? Do you know how hard our workout regimen is on our knees? Give me a break and go for the flats please!”
Me: “Fair point, flats it is.”
Or this one:
Me: “Hey body, I know I sprained our ankle yesterday being stupid, but I have a performance tonight and I’d really like to do it. Will you push through it with me if I promise to give you lots of ice see the massage therapist.”
Body: “Yup, I’ll help you out, but can we please take a couple of days off after the performance?”
Me: “Absolutely, thanks a bunch!”
Like any relationship, my body and I have to keep up the communication and we have breakdowns, but we’ve come a long way since our days of giving each other the silent treatment, and it’s getting better all the time.