(A love letter to my patient and wise body.)
About two weeks ago, amidst the endless flow of work and childcare and work and childcare and a little bit of sleep and work and childcare and work and childcare, I caught a cold. The cold had been in my house, making the rounds amongst the toddler, the husband and the baby, and my body held off for as long as it could. Through nights of harrowed and broken sleep (sick baby), through days when no meals were planned and no yoga was done, through weeks of making almost every decision based on what somebody else needed, or where I was supposed to be, my body held out against all odds. When I did catch the cold, it wasn’t as bad for me as it was for the boys of my house. It never knocked me right off my feet, and so of course I kept going. Work and childcare and work and childcare and a little bit of sleep. Here we are, weeks later, and last night I am suddenly very stuffed up again, but I carry on. I get to work today to complete my back to back meetings, and about halfway through my work day suddenly I have no speaking voice. Just a frog with a very low tone who has taken residence in my throat.
It’s frustrating, isn’t it, to have a cold just hanging on like that, after days of feeling better? Yet, as I thought carefully back on it, there was nothing surprising at all about the return of my symptoms. My body had been lightly tapping me on the shoulder for weeks. Ahem, it seemed to say, if you wouldn’t mind, we sure could use some deep rest. Ahem, a few days later, these shoulders certainly are tired of the load they have been carrying. Would you mind taking the time for a few stretches? Ahem…sorry to bother you again, but you haven’t been home in weeks!, and finally, today NO. MORE. When my body is fed up with my behavior, it literally goes for the throat. Losing my voice is an instant mindfulness tool. I choose my words very carefully. I work less. I exert less effort in parenting my children, and I communicate in slower and more patient tones.
Driving home from work tonight with my swollen glands, I was listening to an interview and the woman on the radio was talking about honesty, and how it all starts with being willing to accept what is. I was overcome with the realization, Oh. I don’t feel well. I feel like crap! That is what is! I thought of all the moments in the last few weeks my body has tried to communicate with me, through sniffles and coughs, through knots in my shoulders and pain in my neck, through the grumpy and impatient tones I have taken with my family. I have soldiered on, unwilling to listen, perhaps on a subconscious level afraid of the message itself. It’s the shadow side of positive thinking, to pretend that inconvenient truths will just magically disappear if we ignore them.
This realization opened something inside me, my ability to turn a self-nurturing gaze upon myself, and I felt relief and warmth inside. Instead of being upset with my body for being sick, I feel so grateful for the immense patience and wisdom and fortitude of this body. What a jerk I have been these last few weeks! Yet my body welcomes me back, always with unconditional love. Is it weird that I think my body loves me? Maybe, but even weirder how many times in my life I have not loved it, and yet it patiently sustains me, processes the junk I put through it, adapts to my lifestyle choices, carries my babies, wakes when I need it to wake, sleeps when I need it to sleep. Â I have made many foolish choices in the care of my body and even more reckless choices in the way I have thought about it, critical or even contemptuous at times. The beautiful thing that my yoga practice has given me is an open line of communication with this body who loves me and serves me so well. I know now how to speak the language of the body, when I am willing to listen. Â I will now rest my voices, both the one in my head and the one in my throat, and allow the body to speak.