I had minor surgery last week, an elective procedure to relieve excess and increasingly painful menstruation. I had reached my limit in coping with this problem that plagued me for decades. Thinking about what I’ve done afterward, I realize that for most of my life I’ve treated my body as a troublemaker, a problem causer. I swallow handfuls of vitamins and herbs each day to stave off symptoms, to make up for deficiencies and lack, treating my body as something that has failed me.
I had an expectation of perfection. Not that I’d be thin and tan and blonde and wrinkle free forever, but that my kidneys, digestive and reproductive systems, my thyroid and adrenal glands and hormones would function with one hundred percent accuracy, doing all the things they’re supposed to do without error. I expected my body to operate in textbook fashion. When it didn’t I took up acupuncture and chiropractic, donned support hose, cooked vile tasting Chinese herbs and drank the brew, gave up wheat and gluten, eggs, soy, most dairy and half a dozen other foods, and added enzymes and herbal remedies to my diet.
I have learned to accommodate and live with my chronic conditions, but I have not learned to accept and love them, just as I have not learned to accept and love all the aspects of my personality. I judge my feelings and behaviors that are fearful, angry, clingy. I view them as cause for shame instead of extending compassion. In theory, I know that being human means making mistakes and built-in imperfection, but somehow I expect more of myself. Struggling to be good enough/perfect, it’s not difficult to understand why I have viewed my body mainly as something to manage, if not control. I want it to conform to my expectations. Impossible expectations.
I’d like to be able to let go of perfection and appreciate my body for all the ways it contributes to my wellbeing. I’d like to thank it for holding up for nearly fifty years, despite my neglect. I’d like to honor the ways my body communicates to me—warnings of danger, feelings of safety, the ways it tries to get my attention, and protect me—even if I don’t listen well, even when I pop ibuprofen and tell it to shut up. I confess that I have been removed from my body’s messages and its wisdom. I have not paid attention. I have not acted with respect.
I’d like to repent and move toward an attitude of gratefulness and thanksgiving. Without my body, there is no me. My body is not inconvenient. My body does not interfere with me carrying out my plans and intentions. Exactly the opposite. My body is the only vehicle and conduit my mind and spirit have for self-expression. It is only through the body that I live. The body makes me human. Incarnate. And like all humans, I am imperfect. My body is imperfect. I pray that I can learn to live differently––To accept my body and love it exactly the way it is. In doing so my physical issues won’t magically disappear, but acceptance seems the next necessary step to continue my journey toward wholeness. Toward God.