Last July I read a post that spoke loudly to me. It came to me through my daughter-in-law's sister (my monkey sister) Stefanie Thomas. Stefanie writes regularly for an online Christian 'magazine' called, She Loves (http://shelovesmagazine.com/2012/a-love-letter-to-my-body/ ). The link is to an article called, A Love Letter To My Body. This letter created a response that I'm sure even the author was surprised by and soon many, many women had responded with their own stories. The letters made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time, but mostly they made me cry. Stories of cancer, accidents, eating disorders, abuse and sadness reflected the complicated relationship that many women have with their bodies. Mixed in amongst the sad stories were also stories of courage, strength, perseverance and beauty, letters from women thanking their bodies for all they had been through together.
As I age (sometimes not so gracefully) I think more and more of the times when my body was a non-entity to me. I could run, jump, throw, swing, ski, swim, golf and play with the best of them. I didn't often think about the sheer beauty and power of being able to do all of these things, the freedom to just play whenever I wanted.
When I was about 17 my brother and a friend of his came to watch me play ball. Softball was my great love at this time and stayed at the top of my list for many more years to come. I remember my brother telling me after the game that his friend had noticed me right away because I 'moved like an athlete'. I had no idea if this was a compliment or not but I took it as one. When I think of that now I think how quickly I could snag a ground ball, how aggressive I was on the bases and how much I loved to be in pressure situations. I used to stand on the field thinking, 'hit it to me, hit it to me', especially if we needed that out. I wished to be up with two down, runners on the bases, bottom of the ninth, one run behind. I didn't always get the out or the hit but I believed I could and I believed I would. I also believed that it would always be this way. Not so.
I have had, and continue to have, some health problems that have limited my ability to be active over the last few years. But, the simple truth is that I have not taken care of my body in a way that allowed it to be the best it could be. Those "letters to my body" that I read woke me up to the simple fact that I too had 'blamed' my body for my limitations. In some ways, I continue to do so. I have become used to not being able to do things and have accepted this with nary a fight. This is not my way. I don't accept defeat easily in any part of my life so why have did I give up so easily?
A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Costa Rica with my very fit sister-in-law and her very fit husband. Sherri had invited me to attend a yoga retreat that she was teaching and I almost didn't go. Why? Because I did not feel fit enough. I have just started practicing yoga and wasn't sure I would be up to the standard of those attending a retreat. I wasn't sure I could "do it", whatever "it" was. In the end, the invitation was too good to pass up. I took some extra yoga classes and when I meditated there was always a portion of my practice that focused on accepting myself the way I am.
Before we headed to the mountains for the retreat we spent a few days at the beachside village of Jaco. As we sauntered through town one afternoon we passed an adventure company advertising a series of day excursions that all looked interesting. We settled on a four hour trip into the rainforest that included a waterfall walk. It all looked so lovely in the pictures. we got to the end of the Landrover trip up the mountainside andscovered was that this would be a three hour trip walking down the mountain and then back up through the riverbed and through 8 waterfalls. Did you hear the part where I said "up"? Well, for a few years now I have had considerable trouble with my arthritic knees (already having had one surgery). Going downhill is tough at the best of times but steep trails are daunting. Up is a little easier but this 'up' was quite a lot different than the 'ups' I am used to. This 'up' required a rope attached to the rock so I could pull myself up the very steep parts. Walking through the riverbed was my worst fear. My knees do not do well on bumpy terrain and I knew I wouldn't be able to see where I was placing my feet. What had I gotten myself into?
Well, you want to know the truth? I had gotten myself into one of the most fun days of my life. It hurt going down the hill, I'm not going to lie to you. But the up - the up was terrific. We went slow enough for me to feel my way onto solid footing. At each of the waterfall pools we stopped for 15 minutes or so to swim. The cool water was lovely on my knees.
I learned new and wonderful things in the yoga retreat. I met wonderful women who shared their stories and their hearts. But I do think the whole experience would have been a little less rich if I hadn't experienced the waterfalls. Thanks to my wonderful body for opening my eyes to all it can be!