This morning I went for a run before work. I was at a good pace, considering I just started back up and have been somewhat inconsistent. About a minute in, I started to feel some pain in my shins. I didn’t think much of it. After five minutes, still going at a nice pace, the pain started to increase. At about a mile in (just under 11 minutes if you must know…), the pain was bad enough that I needed to stop running. I walked for a bit, but briskly. I started up the jog again… more pain. Worse pain. Grrrr… I started walking again only now it was hurting while I was walking. Super grrrrr…. I imagined my face being the one that athletes make when they get hurt in games, that look of utter betrayal that your body had just turned against you. I repeated to myself what has become a common refrain as of late… I hate my body!
I’ve gained about thirty pounds since moving to Baltimore. There’s several factors involved in that. For one, I wasn’t eating very well in 2014. Secondly, I tend to be a social eater. While I lived with my friends last year, my schedule was wildly inconsistent and, yes, there were times I would forget to eat or eat very little. Now I have people to eat with when I get home which is pretty nice. So on one hand, the weight gain is a nice thing. On the other hand, I’ve discovered that eating is a great way to numb feelings and numbing feelings is my specialty. I’ve been eating my sadness, eating my guilt and shame, eating my anger. Oh, and drinking them too, but mostly eating them.
I’ve been thin most of my life. There are fat baby Derrick pictures out there, but from the time that memories began to develop, I was always on the skinny side. In high school, I grew up not out. I quit football because I couldn’t put on weight. My ex took pride in the fact that she fattened me up a bit. Then, for both of her pregnancies, I gained sympathy weight. I started running and I lost it pretty quickly both times. (A stomach bug in Haiti helped the first time!) The funny thing about this is that I never really liked being thin either. I felt like “thin” = “weak” and God knows my male ego can’t handle that. The irony is that now I’m much stronger, but I have a gut and a butt that seem to not want to quit. The truth is, I’ve always hated my body.
I think about the words of John 1, “The Word became flesh and lived among us”. The Divine presence imbues human bodies with meaning, purpose, and value. God saw the corporeal experience as important enough to have Her own experience. That gives me pause. Simply put, my body is important.
In my mindfulness meditation, one of the things we do to ground ourselves in the present moment is to do a body scan. We take note of the feelings of comfort and discomfort in our bodies. We reconnect with our senses. Our bodies are the only vehicles we have for awareness in the present moment. The importance of our bodies in the daily practice of developing awareness cannot be overstated.
But our bodies can also be a crucial component to helping us to develop compassion. Though not nearly as serious, my shin pain made me think of the pain that other runners go through and other athletes. It made me think of friends who have been sidelined with injuries recently and gave enough pause to offer up a short prayer for their well being. The sweat dripping from my brow reminds me of those who sweat in forced labor or those who sweat without the prospect of clean water. My pains can connect me with the pains of the world. They don’t always mind you. More times than not, I am selfish and can only think of the ways that I am inconvenienced, but in those rare moments when my pain opens the door to compassion for others, I am thankful for my stupid body.
I’m trying to exercise more. I’ve been running and doing yoga. I’m off alcohol for a bit. I’m trying to be mindful enough to push the plate away when I’m full. I’m still a little grossed out when I look in the mirror, but I think it’s getting better. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” says the Psalmist. Whatever. I’m stuck with this body of mine.