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.
For 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?