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Embodied

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Photo by Laura Fuhrman on Unsplash

Recently, I've been thinking about my body. Sure, 40 is the new 30, which is the new 20. But still, in the last few years, I can't take my body for granted the way I used to. It started, for me, when I first got pregnant, when I was 30 years old. On the one hand, my knee problems (which I've had since high-school) had disappeared during my pregnancy. On the other hand, after I gave birth, my body never returned to what it was. It took longer to get various muscles to work the way I wanted them, my digestion became more sensitive, that kind of thing. And in my head, it was all due to the pregnancies and kids.


But now, my kids are too big to be the reason for my knee problems and backaches. I can't blame them for being out of breath, climbing a flight of stairs. It occurs to me that I have no issue with calling my body "mine". As opposed to taking possession of children or spouses, I assume that my body is in my possession whether I like it or not. I've been thinking about giving this one back and getting a new model, but that's not how it works, apparently.


I've done some things to my body when I was young and careless. I haven't treated it the way I should have, which I suspect no one does. It's hard to think, when you're 12 or 16 or 19, that you'll have to be in this body 30 years from now. As a junior gymnast, I've done things that I can't take back (see: knee problems). As a teenager with a severe case of low self-esteem and high perfectionism, I had put it through diets and physical activity that later were diagnosed as a disorder.


Sir Ken Robinson said that for academics, our bodies are a way to get our heads into meetings. For years, that was my approach. My body was this inconvenient thing I had to feed (and wash) when I'd much rather be reading, or writing, or analysing data. I could have gone on that way. To be disembodied, to see my body as a tool to getting what my head wants. But then I gave birth to a girl.


This girl I'm raising is a little ball of energy. She couldn't sit still if her life depended on it. She's a dancer. She taught me that bodies could be part of our brains. She taught me to move as another way of thinking. From very early on I learned that she's happiest when we're out and about, and since I couldn't send her out on her own at the time, I had to go out and about. An unhappy baby is not an option when you're a stay-at-home mum.


I learned something remarkable. Something I'm still working on. I learned to listen to my body instead of fighting it. I learned to care for it, to take responsibility for it, not just possession of it. I learned that when I go out for a run, I have a better day afterwards. I learned that even a half-hour walk could make the day more tolerable. I learned that I've been running wrong and that's why I've had knee and back issues. I learned that my body is a part of me.


I'm not this self-attuned person now. I haven't changed that much. My friends can tell when they're ovulating. I'm definitely not there yet. But I can tell that I need a firm mattress if I want not to have backaches. I can tell when my body is tired, when it had too much alcohol, when it needs me to have a couple of solid nights of sleep. These are things I didn't even think to observe in my 20s.


This girl I'm raising, she taught me to have a relationship with my body. And I'm grateful to her every day.

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