I had a massage on my recent holiday. An unexpected by-product: it made me think about how I treat my body. And, like most of us, I suspect, I found myself wanting.
I’m pretty good at self-care. I have to be. My job and life can both be pretty cushy but there are times, often unanticipated, where they can be extremely demanding: lunch happens at ten in the morning, or four in the afternoon, or not at all; there are days when I arrive at the sanctuary of my flat and shut the door behind me with the feeling of raising the drawbridge against the clamour of the outside world. There’s only so long I can fuel myself with adrenaline and so self-care is vital. To say nothing of the fact that I live with the mental manifestation of trauma which becomes a heavier burden the more fatigued I become.
So I’m pretty good at self-care. What I’m not so good at is listening to my body. I can go for hours before I notice that I’m desperate for a drink of water, or ravenously hungry, or in pain. Mind over matter is a useful way of getting through a war-zone existence but it’s something of a deficit when the matter at hand is that I’m dehydrated, or dizzy for want of food before my walk home, or have been hunched over the same table for hours and need a head-clearing, muscle-easing walk. All of which I realise counts against me in the self-care stakes.
What I’m really terrible at is cherishing my body. I value my mind; I’m careful of it, I spend time caring for it and nurturing it. I’m aware of my soul, that inner world I need to feed and nourish. My body – the housing, if nothing else, for mind and soul – rarely occurs to me unless there’s something wrong with it. It’s not that I hate my body – although, like most women, I do feel that the mirror should re-think the reality it reflects. It’s just that I don’t love it. I don’t cherish it. I forget the bio-mechanical miracle of bones and muscles, chemicals and veins, joints and organs and moving parts that it is. I don’t treat it with anywhere near the respect with which the masseuse did. I don’t disrespect it; it’s just that, beyond meeting the needs required for reasonable physical and mental health, I don’t really think about it at all. And I suspect I’m not the only one.
I spend my time, both as a writer and as a person of faith, noticing things, celebrating the beauty and the miracles in the world around me. It’s good to receive a reminder that a big part of that – a vital part of it – is to look inward as well. To look down, at my body. As I sit here, my heart beats, and my inner organs work without conscious thought, and the small muscles of hands and arms and fingers move in the rhythm of my typing, and I too am a miracle.