When you think about your body, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Are you happy with it, or do you think about everything wrong with it?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, especially after a discussion with a group of friends about various scars we have. It reminded me that for so long, I focused on the scars in a negative way, thinking how horrible they made me look, to the extent that I often didn’t want to wear anything that might show them. These scars range from the trivial, like the graphite mark on my heel from stepping on a pencil; to the traumatic, like the scar on my chest from having an infected cyst drained; to the deliberate, like the long scars on the undersides of both of my arms from having excess skin removed post weight loss.
As if those weren’t enough, my body has lots of other imperfections. I have terrible astigmatism in both eyes, mild scoliosis, flat feet, weirdly weak thumbs, skin so fair I can see my veins far too easily, loose skin in various places from weight loss, knees that sometimes act up, a toenail damaged so many times it won’t even grow anymore, and more.
And yet, this is the thing – I love my body.
I don’t always consciously remember this, but the other day when putting on socks, I felt an enormous rush of affection for my feet. They’ve suffered a lot of abuse – including things like hiking with blisters and losing toenails – but almost without fail, they have taken me where I wanted to go. Same with my legs, which have carried the rest of me faithfully through thick and thin (literally and figuratively), doing what they were designed to do.
Not everyone can say that. For instance, I remember how shocked and horrified I felt when I was 12 and heard that my uncle had been in a motorcycle accident, an accident that cost him one foot and part of his leg. Or how lucky I feel upon seeing my 90-year-old grandmother, now confined to a wheelchair.
It all makes me remember that instead of the scars and imperfections, what I want to focus on is this: my body is all I have. It’s the only way for me to be present and interact with the world, hug loved ones, laugh, sing, go for walks, swim. Although my mind and spirit interpret and make meaning of those moments, I wouldn’t have them at all if not for my body.
And so as we go into this week of Thanksgiving, I will try, each day, to remember this, and treat my body with the respect and gratitude it so richly deserves.