My wife and I are preparing for an upcoming visit from someone a little bit famous (more on that to come) so we have been busy spring-cleaning everything from our basement to our yard. To put it mildly, I am an obsessive-compulsive neatnik; however, there are still things that must be tended to when the weather turns from winter to spring. So, last Sunday, we began working in our garden and pulling out our patio furniture. Ever the strong-willed skinny, I suggested to my wife that we move our iron fire pit. Upon completion of the task, I could barely stand up.
Now, it takes a lot for a Pilates instructor to admit that she did not use her core muscles when moving a heavy object. But, indeed, I was not using my core muscles. Coupled with a fire pit that weighs twice as much as me, the upending result was three days of horizontal humdrum. I could not work, I could not clean, and sitting up proved to be the most excruciating task in my day.
The only thing I could do, really, was think. In inadvertently tweaking my back, I opened up 72 hours of figuring out the world. The result? Nothing earthshattering. But there was a wealth of gratitude. You see I am someone who uses my body on a daily basis. I rarely sit. I stand to teach. And I demonstrate the amazing work of Joseph Pilates with regularity throughout my day. When not at work, well, let’s just say that it takes a lot to keep up with my obsessive-compulsive neatnik tendencies.
From dawn until dusk I am happily folding laundry, washing dishes, mopping the floor, sweeping the front steps, vacuuming the carpets, scooping the cat poop, wiping the counters, dusting the furniture, scrubbing the bathtub, and making healthy meals for the wife I feel so grateful to have. To end up flat on my back really is the only plausible way I will sit still for more than a moment.
So why was I feeling grateful? Because I had a body that could, fairly consistently, tend to the tasks I so wholeheartedly love to do. Being laid up was a surefire way to remind me that the body I inhabit is amazing. As women, I know that most, if not all of us, have a complaint about our bodies. Our articulation of these criticisms comes with regularity, whether we want to lose five pounds or gain a whiter smile. We see blemishes rather than blessings and faults rather than assets. As soon as something more significant is taken from you, say, the ability to walk, albeit temporarily, the list of complaints is quickly put in check.
While my back continues to heal, I find myself focusing on what I get to do rather than what I have to do. I get to stand up. I get to get out of bed. I get to go to work, and I get to tend to our home. Just by using this form of phrasing, I find myself focusing on what is right about my body, instead of what is wrong. For me, a hurt back helped to heal the self-defeating thoughts in my head.
As women, let us all look at our lives, our healthy bodies, and our abilities as gifts. Let us not take these simplicities for granted, but instead celebrate what we have been given.
Amy is Positively Smitten’s resident Woman of Worldly Wisdom. You can read all of her prior advice columns here.