Let’s get physical
Nicole Law gets re-acquainted with her own body.
As of late, I’ve been treating my body less as a temple and more as a garden shed. I’ve been having irregular sleep patterns and indulging in unhealthy foods in excess! Consequently, this body of mine chose to give in and I felt the nagging fatigue morph into a full blown bout of flu.
Before this current period of ill health, I hardly noticed the presence of my own body. Strange, considering that we live every day of our lives within this shell. Mechanically, I would wake up when my alarm rang, get out of bed, shower and find myself on my morning commute. Yet, I felt disconnected at times from my bodily experience.
The routines of everyday living have left their imprints on my body in the form of eyebags, stiff joints and under-utilised muscles. You can be typing away at the laptop, churning out a work report and still not be fully conscious of how your body was operating. I wasn’t.
We hardly notice our own bodies when they are functioning well, like well-oiled machines. We stretch them to their limits, deprive them of even nourishing food and rest, and assume they will continue to work without a hitch. To some extent, our bodies become invisible. They are the necessary supporting structures which enable us to think and feel, yet we hardly pay them much attention at all.
Sadly, the type of attention we do lavish on our bodies is misplaced. It’s our distaste for cellulite, wrinkles and any blemish that takes up our attention rather than proper care and maintenance.
Yet, even as a chesty cough spurted forth, I felt oddly thankful for the body that I have. I was grateful that despite its perceived imperfections, it was functioning as it should, silently waging a war inside me.
I began to consider my body with kindness, understanding my personal limits and the need for rest. Having caught up with a lot of sleep in the past few days, I could feel my body starting to relax and recuperate. At first, it felt like a travesty to me that I was letting a sunny weekend pass me by but I realised that my body was sending me a clear message – to put things on pause for the interim.
Learning to remain in my body and be fully aware of it allowed me to better reconnect with the physicality of my existence. For example, I became more aware of the taste of my food and the temperature of my tea. Same tongue, different tastes and sensations.
Perhaps the past few days of solitude and regeneration have been more than a reconnection with the body. They have also been a time to relearn the body’s natural rhythms and to be more attuned to its signals.
Learning to exist within my body and to cooperate with it has been an important lesson I have had to learn.
Perhaps Walt Whitman said it best as he embraced the body and its physicality in this poem:
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body,
The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you, or within me, the bones, and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
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