The human body is an amazing machine, working countless hours of overtime each and every day to function as it is intended to, often without any conscious effort on your part. Yet, you may berate it for not being at the weight you want it to be, or running at the pace you want it to run, or bending in the way needed to obtain a certain yoga pose. It is in the times that your body is unable to do even basic tasks, such as getting out of bed, walking, putting on a shirt, or brushing your teeth, either due to an injury, or worse yet a lifetime of taking your body for granted that you are reminded of how beautiful, strong, and incredible your body truly is.
I have been given the privilege of previously working in a handful of occupational and physical therapy settings, granting me invaluable experience working with others that are limited in their physical abilities. Many of these individuals were recovering from acute injuries, working to return to their previous abilities such as playing a sport they loved or returning to the duties and tasks of their labor intensive jobs. However, there were a handful of individuals I worked with that were striving to achieve a new normal following a traumatic injury or a lifetime of abusing their bodies. In both scenarios, many of these individuals fell victim to the despair and frustration that often occurs when unable to do something that was previously easy to do. However, as the weeks passed you would occasionally see a shift in some. It often occurred after an individual realized they were able to do something that just a week before they weren’t able to do, something that may seem small to others but for this individual was quite the feat. It was in those moments the frustration towards their own body subsided and was replaced by a wonderment of all their body had the ability to do. It was at that time, you knew these individuals would no longer take their body for granted, but instead honor it for all that it does.
I have recently experienced this powerful lesson first hand after spraining my elbow through hyperextending the joint in a flag football game. It has been almost two weeks since the onset of this injury, an injury that left me feeling as though the lower half of my arm was detached from my upper arm, inhibiting my ability to bend or straighten my elbow. Within the first week, I often relied on my partner to help with basic tasks, such as putting on a shirt or taking out my contacts, and I had difficulty doing simple things, such as putting on a seatbelt, pushing myself up to get out of bed (I got really good at a 1-arm crab walk to accomplish this task!), and even rubbing the belly of our Pomeranian with my left hand no matter how cute his little face looked every time he rolled on his back hoping for a little bit of love. As I settled into this new kind of normal during the recovery process, I noticed myself slipping into the dark despair of pity and feeling frustrated at my own body for not being able to do these basic things. This negative place is one that I am quite familiar with as I frequently found myself overcome by it while dealing with chronic lower back pain and sacroiliac joint (SI joint) pain for over 3 years, and it is because of that experience that I truly think I was able to recognize it and pull myself out of that dark place. Although this injury has forced me to rely on others for help and has limited my ability to do some things, my body is still able to do so much. As I continue to recover that is what I intend to focus on, all that it does do and can do, rather than berate it for what it currently can’t do.
Rather than scolding your body for what it is unable to do or what it is not, I encourage you to instead honor it for what it does and is. It is easy to stand in front of a mirror and pick your body apart or think negative thoughts to yourself when your body isn’t able to perform at the level you want it to, regardless of what sport or activity you engage in. But compassionately remind yourself that each and every day your body is taking in air, moving blood throughout your body with every heartbeat, allowing you to see the vibrancy of the sunset through your eyes, feeling the pure silk of your child’s skin as they place their hands in yours, and so much more, all of which you aren’t consciously required to make happen. Your body is amazing, just as it is and in all that it can do right now.
Photo: Makenna Pope