The Imperfect Body Is Amazing… Love It!
So you’re no thin. But maybe your body is wisely doing what’s best for you–even if that means adding where you’d like to subtract.
I was lying on my bed in the late afternoon, talking on the phone to my best friend about menopause. At 48, I’m staring down the gun barrel, so I want to know everything I can about what I’m headed for.
My friend was saying that she heard one of the things that helps you get through menopause is to have a little extra weight on you. I was very interested in this, because I now weigh more than I ever have, except when I was pregnant.
My friend told me it helps to be slightly overweight because estrogen is stored in fat cells, and estrogen can prevent some of the more unpleasant side effects of menopause. <!–more–>
“Wow,” I said. “So probably we’ve gained this weight because our bodies are really, really smart, and they’re getting us ready for menopause.” I thought about how my sister had been telling me recently about gaining weight that she just couldn’t take off. “I exercise and exercise,” she said, “and it just stays there!” It occurred to me that her body was saying, “Now look here. You’ve had your way with me long enough. Now I’m going to take over. You’ll be needing some blubber soon. And I’m going to give you some!”
At that moment, I had a little epiphany. I thought about how wise my body has been all along, and how talented. And how I’ve been generally terrible to it in return–not only by not taking care of it in ways that I could and should have, but also by talking bad about it all the time. The truth is, my body–like everyone’s–is utterly miraculous, and I have never given it its due. But I intend to right now.
First, I will put aside the obvious. I’m talking about pregnancy. Everybody knows how amazing pregnancy is, and everyone thrills to the profoundly moving sight of a brand-new life sliding into the world about all the other stuff bodies ? Where is our appreciation for that?
Think, for one moment, about the simple fact that all day long, our hearts beat. While we eat, while we sleep, while we fold towels for the linen closet, while we talk on the phone while we make love, our hearts beat. It’s not always the same rhythm either; your heartbeat adapts itself perfectly to each situation. If you put all the smartest people in the world at one table, told them every technological advantage was at their disposal, and that their task was to build a pump with the efficiency of the heart, they’d throw up their hands and quit instantly. Being so smart, they’d say, “We can’t do that!” and go out for lunch.
Think about how a knee works, an eye, what those things give you. Think about the still unfathomable mysteries of the brain. What accounts for our interesting and complicated natures? How do we fall in love? When you are at a party and you “feel” someone looking at you–how does that happen?
How is it that the sounds of birds get heard? How do our tongues and our throats do what they do so that we can talk, sing, yell, whisper? What makes us enjoy the smells of perfume, roasted chicken with rosemary, the presence of our favorite man’?
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to appreciate my body. I don’t know why I’ve complained, criticized, and carried on, when all my body has done is serve me exceedingly well.
I am not thin, no. I do not have perfect measurements. But compared to what I do have, it seems silly to fret. It seems more reasonable to celebrate. Therefore, last evening I opened a good imported beer and toasted my blubber, keeper of estrogen. “Good move,” I said to my stomach. “I hadn’t thought of adding on a storeroom. I’m glad you did.”
And when I bent down to look at my stomach, I could do that because of the precise working of a few muscles in my neck, because of the accommodating flexibility of my skeleton, because of the incomprehensibly fast-moving messages of my nervous system. I feel so tender, all of a sudden, toward my waterproof skin, my hardworking liver, and my clever sternum, protecting, as it does, my vital heart.
It all comes down to understanding that our bodies were not meant to be clothes hangers. They were designed to help us do our life’s work and to enjoy this fine, fine Earth. Our bodies want us to take part in all that life can offer us. This does not require being a size four. It requires the courage to acknowledge and be happy with all that we have. Turns out that’s an awful lot.