My body is beautiful. It has carried me places, kept me going, and loved me. But still, I have built up ideas in my head about how far I can go, how long I can push myself, and I expect my body to keep up with it. And it has for the most part.
And yet… there are days where I cry out in exhaustion because I pushed myself too hard. There are days when I am crying out of exhaustion where I cry because I feel like I have been betrayed. Betrayed by my very own body… This betrayal cuts me deep and shakes me to the core in a way that I cannot explain.
Perhaps, I feel betrayed because it was what I was taught. From a psychoanalytic lens, we are taught that in Erikson’s second stage of development is where we develop autonomy or the shame and the guilt. The shame and guilt comes if we cannot develop autonomy (read more here). For most people, this autonomy is fostered by physical mobility and the assurance of one’s steps. It is not until later in life that one’s mobility becomes varied. The lost of control and consistency in one’s mobility and the ways in which one moves throughout the world can be jarring. From a young age, I knew that I could not count on my body to act “right” (read: in a way that conforms with other people’s bodies). There was power and vulnerability in that truth. However, well meaning people told me otherwise. Physical therapists, family, classmates, and casual acquaintances convinced me that if I just tried hard enough that I could do it. I could keep up with the pace that came to other people so naturally.
I was no quitter, so I pushed myself. Spurred on by compliments of my strengthen and determination. I told my body we needed to go on, when she told me that we needed to stop. Eventually she won, of course, with the added bonus of my tears of exhaustion. “Why did you betray me?!”, I cried as I lay in bed positively exhausted while my friends were having fun in the other room. I did not catch the small echo, a whisper, of the same question that I asked my body, she asked to me. As much as I felt my betrayed my body, I betrayed her.
Slowly but surely, I have begun to listen to my body. Now, even when I feel I do everything right and my body is still exhausted, I am compassionate. I know that my body cares for me, my body loves me. My body did everything it could. In the quiet of the night with tears of exhaustion I whisper, “I’m so proud of you. It’s okay I know that you did everything you could. I love you.”
While this journey with my body has been a bumpy road, I have learned that it’s never too late to return to what I know to be true. Even if people and the culture around me, try to tell me otherwise. I wish the same for you. Return to what you know to be true. I promise there is comfort and magic in that truth, not unlike a hug.