And I said to my body softly, “I want to be your friend.” It took a long breath and replied, “I have been waiting my whole life for this.” -Nayyirah Waheed
Has your body [whether the physical one that tends to come to mind first, or bodies such as the mental, emotional or spiritual] ever felt like the enemy? I’m guessing that you, at some point in life, have felt some animosity toward some aspect of your being. Most people do. Sometimes when I’m working with people, I’ll ask them to call out the qualities they like about themselves, and it’s almost always hard for them to do that. People seem to default toward sharing what’s not working, what they are trying to change, what’s got to go. Most of the folks I support right now are trying to lose weight, so it’s common for body hatred and a general sense of dissatisfaction to underlay someone’s energy. Most folks don’t go around proclaiming self love. Unprompted, the qualities people like about themselves remain largely unsaid (if they can think of anything at all). From not liking physical appearance to not feeling smart enough to feeling like there’s not enough money or prestige or friends, human beings – you, me, and most people – are fantastic at calling out the negative.
It’s important to keep one foot planted firmly in reality of course – I’m not saying you should gloss over issues that need to be managed or look for the positive in an unsustainable situation. Weight loss can be a wonderful avenue toward improving health, studying for a test can help you learn the material, and having enough money to provide what’s needed to sustain a good quality of life in modern culture is important. Getting to the root of a problem, effectively managing anxiety or depression, and identifying what needs to shift is essential. But beating yourself up over what’s not working doesn’t help anything improve.
Paula D’arcy wrote, “I have taken better care of some of my cars than I have of me. I wouldn’t set fire to my home, but I have been willing to set fire to myself.” When you continually beat yourself up for not being ‘enough’ of something and push constantly toward what culture or your mom or that little demon on your shoulder says you SHOULD be, you are, in a sense, setting yourself on fire. It can be easy to get lost in the flames of betterment, under a grimly layer of self doubt that’s too often laced with a film of self-contempt.
So, time to douse the fire.
Ask yourself this: ‘What has my life belonged to?’ Jot down your answers. Be honest. Some of the things that have gotten pieces of your life won’t make you feel good. That’s okay. Some of them you’ll need to take responsibility for at some point. Some of them are not your fault. Just note them.
The next question is ‘What do I want to give my life to?’ Write down your answers again. Be honest. There are no right or wrong answers, there are just the things that are calling you into doing something different. Remember to treat yourself with kindness and respect.
You body – whether it’s your physical body or mental body or spiritual body – has been waiting its whole life for this. And it’ll keep waiting – but it’s ready when you are.
Maggie Smith writes, “Maybe you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you, but maybe a few feet is enough. How would knowing more of the path change the way you travel it? Move forward one small stretch at a time. Someday, looking back, you won’t believe how much ground you covered. Keep moving.”
The Way Out
Maybe it seems like
around every other corner, like
the universe decided
to stop handing out signs, like
sorrow and rage collide
daily just to spite you, like
history keeps repeating
itself, and not in ways that feel good.
If this is the case, it’s fair
to feel despair, and to wonder
how there could ever be a way out of this.
It’s fair to feel that way.
It’s not wrong, either.
It’s also not the end of the story.
No one can take your despair
away from you– you may know
this already. It’s one of those
things that rage and sorrow fight over.
So, though no one can take your despair
away from you, you can
look it in the eye on the clear days
and say, ‘Hello rage, sorrow. Walk with me
for awhile. The weather’s fine.”
Walk with me for awhile.
The weather’s fine, and even when it turns
we’ll continue walking until we’re through.