Body Wisdom

Today’s writing prompt is:  “Something my body (or someone else’s) has taught me.”  Dena Hobbs, yoga instructor and author of “Lighten the Darkness:  An Advent Journey Through Hope” thought this one up and I’m glad she did!

When I first read it, my reaction was that I’ve never thought about my body as a teacher.  It’s a vehicle.  A warm blanket.  At times a burden.  Ballast.  Buoyancy.  A hideout.

body wisdomFor the first 30 years of my life, I thought of my body as the thing that carried my brain and my heart around.  My brain got things DONE.  My brain got me attention, acclaim.  My brain made progress.  My brain achieved my goals and moved me forward in life.  My brain got me the grades that won the awards that led to the scholarship that got me the fellowship that landed me the job.  Then the next job and the next one and the next one.  My brain pays the bills.

While my brain got things done across all those years, my heart decided WHAT I should do.  Even with my practical streak, I spent plenty of time following my heart.  I chased after it all those times it went chasing after a boy.  I carried my heart right out in the open.  I needed to be loved.  I delighted to feel it swell with friendship and love.  I went down in the depths when my heart was broken.  My brain couldn’t keep my heart from doing what it was going to do.  My heart, my heart, my heart.  Even as I exercised my brain and it grew stronger, I relied on my heart to decide–I felt my way through my teens and 20’s.

Then I hit my 30s.

That decade was a doozy.  I ran into the parts of life that my brain couldn’t think my way out of.  I hit the spots where my heart led the way and got shattered.  After Fartbuster and I had been separated for seven months, the phone rang one night–his girlfriend calling MY HOUSE, asking if he was there.  WTH???  I had already hung up the phone by the time I was good and awake.  My heart lurched with the familiar heartache.  My brain tried to kick into overdrive–was that a dream?  Did that really happen?  What does it mean?  Where IS he?  My brain began to calculate whether that was the final straw.  My heart flopped and wrenched and twisted–it didn’t flip off like a switch.  But my body?  My body was so tired from months of his foolishness that it just went back to sleep.  I woke up knowing that I was going to get a divorce and my heart was calm.  The late hour eclipsed the brain and the heart–the body took over–and my life got to a better place.

That’s what I learned from my body–get the brain to hush, get the heart to sit still, let the body do what it does.

When Richard got leukemia and we spent 10 months walking side by side towards The Door, my brain was at its peak–I kept it all together.  My body kept me moving, traveling back and forth, tending to him, tending to me, holding down my job.  My heart…well, I’ll write a book about that one day.  After he died, my brain couldn’t think its way out of the grief.  My heart needed time.  My body kept going.  I remember standing at the kitchen sink at my dad’s house on the Easter Sunday a few weeks after Richard died and asking myself, “How did I get here?”  The kids were playing in the backyard.  There was a ham on the stove.  I was dressed.  My car was in the drive.  The neighbor had come across the street to give me her condolences.  My body was there, living.  My brain and my heart didn’t know what to do.

A few years passed.  My heart had wanted a child for over 10 years.  My brain knew that the clock was ticking.  My body?  My body said, “I got this.”  After my first date with G, I called Andrea to talk it over.  She asked, “Was there chemistry?” and I giggled, “Girl.  He’s got a PhD in Chemistry!”  No need for the reproductive endocrinologist.  Saved that copay.  

The first baby was born.  My brain had read the books.  My heart loved her before I ever saw her tiny heart beating.  My body stitched her together with no regard for all the alarmist messages my brain found in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  My brain knew I was supposed to have a typed up birthing plan.  My body said, “Hush.  I am doing something here.  Watch and learn.”  My body knew how to feed her.  My body was her refuge and still is.  The love we have for each other has nothing to do with my brain.

The month I was turning 40, my brain decided that my heart and my body needed to get into shape.  I joined boot camp with the goal of being able to do a military push up on my 40th birthday.  I did three!  I didn’t think my way or wish my way to those push ups…my body did the work.  I learned to run long distances by keeping my heart steady and my brain quiet.  It’s the brain that wants to stop long before the body has to.  It’s the heart that is afraid to even begin.  When I let my body begin to move, it took over and took me places I had never believed I could go.

Now I’m 45.  I have learned that there will be times when my brain has to think my way out of a snarl–like planning dinners so that the produce all gets used up before it turns mushy.  There will be times when my heart leads the way–like when I want to ignore that “Mama!” cry at 3 a.m. but that’s ME he’s calling for.  Other times?  My body will know just what to do.  Like now, when I need to sleep so I can get up a little early tomorrow and do some push ups.

What has your body taught you?  

16 thoughts on “Body Wisdom

  1. Heather Slutzky

    My body gives me one warning shot in times of un-managed stress. I get a cold. Then, should I choose the fool hearty move of medicating the tar out of the cold and not doing anything to address the stress my body will lay me low for as long as it takes to recognize and reckon with the stressor.

    Top “time-out” so far. Six months worth of mono.

  2. Jennifer E. Meares

    Wow, what a thought provoking question. I have always felt hampered by my body’s limitations and to turn that into the wisdom those limits have taught me is an interesting one for me. I was born with a slight little brain injury which caused loss of motor control on my right side. I was the last kid in my kindergarten class to be able to tie my shoes. Our teacher put up the little paper shoes with the laces in order of who could tie them the fastest. I felt badly about being last, a feeling that would be repeated often in those early years, but I somehow managed to complete the task which began the stepping stones for the courage to continue to try difficult tasks like eventually being able to drive a car. And when I was pregnant with my daughter, I told my mother I was worried about being able to change her diaper with one good hand. She told me that I had managed everything else and I could manage this too. And my body said, “Yea, if I can put on a pair of pantyhose with one good hand, how hard could this be?” My body taught me about perseverance which I was going to need for the biggest challenge yet to come.

    Before my daughter was born, I thought I had made peace with my body. There wasn’t much my physical limitations kept me from doing. I was married and had a job and my friends didn’t care how well I could play kick ball. But it wasn’t long after my daughter was born what we discovered her body didn’t work the way it should. Long story short, she has an incomplete injury to her cervical cord and incomplete being a good thing because at least some of the signals get to where they are going. And with everything I thought my body had taught me, hers said to me “Sit down smarty pants, you don’t know jack”. I could write a book about the lessons learned from her body. And through it all, my body keeps doing what it takes to get through the day. When people ask me how I manage, I say I just do because I always have. I have even taught my body a thing or two. The first time I did yoga, my body said surely you jest” and while I may never be able to flip the dog, my body is starting to say,” Well I be damned, who knew I could do this.” I did.

  3. Tara @ I Might Need a Nap

    So true. And it’s true that our bodies take over when we have nothing left of our hearts or minds. I swanee I hadn’t read yours until after I wrote mine. Love your thoughts on this. And I love your body as refuge image. Cooter hugged me again today without being prompted, and once he came up and huddled close when he was unsure of what was going on. That right there. Precious. I have tears about the day your didn’t know how you got there. Oh my friend. I know what that’s like though our journeys have been different. Thankful you are taking care of you. I want us cackling like the Golden Girls together at suppers twenty and thirty years from now. Love you.

  4. Joni Cotton

    Ashley, I just love reading your blogs. Your writing style is so fun to follow, different and interesting! Definitely need to have some books in your future! You are very talented.Keep up the good work! joni


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