But so often when we think we are trusting our bodies to be strong enough, we are actually trusting our minds to will us through and pushing our bodies to achieve it. That's kind of why we're a nation living on aches, pains, and pills - because we're dragging our bodies through our lives with us and not listening when they tell us we're not up to it.
I've had those days. I've had a lot of those days, and continue to have a few as I try to learn this physical grace. Days when you wake up and you're a little under the weather with a summer cold or a bit of hay fever or whatever and you consciously say to yourself, "Oh, heeeeeeeelllllll no. I'm not doing this today," then push up out of bed and pretend your body isn't screaming for your attention. Or you're looking at a bag of water softener salt and thinking, "I really don't feel like carrying this to the basement right now" but you do it anyway because your mind ought to have control of your body. You ought to be able to make yourself do whatever you want or need to do.
It's a familiar sentiment. We somewhere gather this idea that our bodies are nothing more than tools to be exploited and used to their fullest for the accomplishment of our minds. And whatever we mess up in the process will be quickly sedated with pharmaceuticals or appeased by a good night's sleep. Then in our waking ours, we resent our bodies for dragging us down and condemn them for showing wear.
It's a tough pill to swallow - the inconvenience, not the aspirin. The inconvenience of having our plans ruined or our timing shifted because our bodies are crying out they can't do that right now. Missing that concert you were looking forward to for weeks because you're caught in a coughing fit and can't breathe, let alone drive or dance. Skipping a Sunday morning service because everyone in your family just got over the stomach flu and you feel like you're coming down with something. Having to take a pass on a special occasion because your body is screaming so loud that you wouldn't enjoy it anyway, even if you forced yourself to go.
It sucks, and that's why we don't stand for it. We don't have time or patience to honor ourselves with healing...so we push hard and keep living and hope that whatever's coursing through our veins works its way out in a day or two and if it doesn't, well, by then, we've just sort of adjusted until our days are consumed by our silent cursing of ourselves and our stronger conviction that we ought to be stronger, better, more able than this...and we push ourselves harder.
There are a great deal of us trying to get back in shape, in one way or another. We've gorged ourselves on fast food and junk food and now hate what we see in the mirror or we've let ourselves waste away in front of a television or computer and now we despise that we don't have the energy to do anything. So we hit the gym and punish our bodies for not being what we'd want and not keeping up with our imagined lifestyle, even though it was our actual choices of living that got us here in the first place. That workout hurt? Good. "It's supposed to." And keep coming back tomorrow and the next day because that pain means your body is getting the message; it's certainly not a cry of agony or a scream for help.
We're tearing ourselves up, then despising ourselves for being torn. For being ragged. For having moments of weakness and vulnerabilities. We're ignoring the burning pain and screaming agony coming from our physical being, then burdened by the way the volume seems to go up every day. We're in constant battles with our bodies, fighting against ourselves because our minds and our hearts want what they want and haven't a measure of grace for the strength that's supposed to get us there, bodies that weren't built to run as our society keeps us running. Bodies that need more than we give them.
One of the biggest changes to come out of my prolonged illness is that I've learned (and am still learning) to listen to my body. To give it the right fuel, the right food that it needs to do what I'm asking it to do...and to dole out a measure of grace when it's just not up to the challenge. To stop thinking it's going to get better if I just ignore it, to stop believing that it's had enough trouble and the only thing coming against it is me and that if I put my mind to thinking myself strong, I will be strong. It's bull. It grates against what my body says.
Sometimes, wisdom means working. Sometimes, it means sleeping for a day and a half straight. Sometimes, it means taking a little ibuprofen; other times, it means sweating it out. It's inconvenient to listen. Sometimes heartbreaking. Sometimes infuriating. There's a part of me that thinks after so much sickness, I should never have so much as sniffle again. But learning to trust the wisdom of my body, treating my physical presence with grace, makes life worth living. It makes things better. It means that every moment isn't a fight; it is love.
So when it comes to the push - to demanding our bodies keep up, to forcing ourselves to accomplish, to ignoring the cries coming from within - shove it. Trust in your body, but trust in its wisdom. It knows what it's aching for, and it knows what it needs. And it has the wisdom to heal, strengthen, and whole itself, given that you give it grace.