L Heart L–J heart J

Lynne Murray says:

Recently I had a conversation with talking my friend, J, about Laurie’s post on writing a letter to her body.

J and I both deal with chronic health issues, which in her case have sometimes been life-threatening, but we share a hard-won positive attitude toward our bodies.

Her challenges are harder, dealing with daily pain, a daunting catalog of symptoms and infuriating so-called spiritual types who suggest that she must “want to be this sick” or she wouldn’t be.

For me the challenge has been to avoid drinking in the poisonous fat hatred that we swim in daily, and to immediately detox from polluted attitudes whenever I encounter them. Sometimes I meet people who are wildly uncomfortable and terrified that my fat or decreased mobility might be contagious. Recently a twenty-something couple stopped by my apartment and the husband, who is training for a marathon, kept looking at my cane as if it would bite him. My guess is that he was telling himself, “As long as I keep running nothing like that will ever happen to me.” I felt like saying, “Maybe yes and maybe no, kid. You can’t order life from a catalog.”

The reality of living with my body is much more serene than some of the terrified people I meet might imagine. Soon after our conversation about loving one’s body, J sent me a little note with two hearts drawn on it. Inside one it said, “J + J” and inside the other “L + L”; for me that note is an illustration of the kind of friendships that are a treasure beyond reckoning. I feel fortunate to have a few of those.

Friendship is a good metaphor for the process of respecting (befriending) my body. It’s an ongoing process. Sadly, it’s also the opposite of how we’re encouraged to treat our bodies. Cruelty to our physical selves is thought of as something to admire in our culture. We’re supposed to outsmart our bodies, fool them into behaving ways not natural to them, and work them till they hurt.

If you constantly beat up, stress out and bad-mouth your friends, they will shut you out and understandably so. Friendship grows much better with a foundation of patient listening, positive words and thoughtful actions. It’s also a collaboration.

The body makes its suggestions nonverbally, but sometimes I will run across something that seems to be under a spotlight, which is my body’s way of saying, “Yoo-hoo! Look at this.” Most recently a suggestion on a label of a bottle of mineral salts suggested a mixing a small amount in a ten-ounce glass of water and then drinking ten glasses of water a day. My reaction was, “TEN glasses, that’s not going to happen. Okay, more water, I could do that.” When I actually did do that, I got a faint but clear signal somewhere in my body, essentially saying, “More water–YES!”

How can we not admire our bodies? They do an amazing job keeping us alive every day despite being treated so badly. They don’t run away (well, they can’t, we’re stuck with each other). They patiently keep asking for what they needs in hopes that eventually they will be heard and heeded. A major part of my own life journey is learning to value and facilitate all the myriad of ways my body lives strong, performs beautifully and takes me through each day with a surprising amount of comfort and pleasure.