For a long time, partly in a bid to be better than the body conscious people obsessed with being thin, I have detached myself from my body. However, in reality, I was body conscious and I didn’t like what I saw. I mostly just didn’t pay much attention to my body though I ate a well balanced diet and was fairly active.
In my 20’s, I did learn to appreciate my body yet, my weight loss and fitness level seemed to happen by accident. I realize now that the love I had for my body was limited by my belief that I wasn’t choosing my shape. It chose me. There was little participation and no intention for my body. I took the phrase, “it doesn’t matter what you look like, it matters who you are” to a space that meant it was ok to neglect my body in fact, it was preferable.
A few years ago, I found a 2nd place ribbon from the 2nd grade, for cross-country running. I was shocked that I couldn’t remember being a cross country runner though, even 20 years later, I could somehow remember loving to run. Soon after I began to run with friends and on my own. Then I ran my first half marathon 2 years ago, at 30 years old.
This winter, when I was in Uganda, so much attention was placed on my body, especially as a white woman that, at times, I almost felt naked walking the streets fully clothed. At the end of the 2 months, I saw an ad for a half marathon in DC occurring 2 days after I returned. In that moment I realized just how little exercise and just how much posho (maize), and matoke (plantains) I had eaten. I decided that I was going to kick my fitness level into the next gear, the moment I got off the plane.
Just a few days before I boarded the plane to return home, I also realized just how little attention I had paid to my body in my life. For the 2 months I was in Uganda, I had noticed and paid attention to every piece of food I ate, applied copious amounts of sunscreen and bug spray daily, felt the heat, encountered new bugs and animals that held unknown poisons, and took daily pills to ward off malaria. I wrote about this vulnerability in an earlier post.
A Buddhist proverb states, (that)
When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive.
Last Thanksgiving I was blessed with a sad gift. My grandmother passed away days before her 89 birthday and I was given a small inheritance, just enough to extend my 3 months of retraining and career exploration into a year. It also meant that when I returned from Uganda I could hire my friend, Errick McAdams, to be my personal trainer to help me kick my fitness level up.
By all measurements I was overweight, even if I was happy. Errick asked me what my weight goal was, so I picked a number that the BMI said I should aim for, but assured him my weight was less important than my fitness level. He was/is the teacher I needed for this new re-meeting of my soul and my body. He pushed me when I needed it and pulled me back when I pushed myself too hard. He taught me and listened to me. And when we reached the 20 pounds that I previously thought was an unreachable goal, he listened again and we painted a picture of a new reality. He helped me shape this amazing body. He also helped me experience and develop a new partnership with my gene’s, my food, and my activity. Together I lost 35 pounds and dropped 4 pant sizes.
In writing a thank you note to him, I realized an important lesson from these 6 months. Yes I loved my body when I was a size 14 and 200 pounds. I thought I was beautiful and spent a lot of time working through my hangups. I loved its shape and could really rock my curves. I was fit enough to enjoy the activities I loved and I ate pretty well. However, it was a love based on my view that it was a shape gifted to me without my say and only superficially affected by my participation. The new love of my body, is an appreciation for the hard work of the last 6 months, its also a re-acquaintance with the shape and feel of this body.
This weight loss and fitness journey was an embodiment of this past 2 years learning, of leaving my job at the church and moving across country. My gift of ministry to teenagers and people is a very real gift, that I love. Though in the years I worked at the church, I was only utilizing a very small portion of my gifts. More than a year ago, as I began to contemplate my move, I began again to participate and shape a new future for myself. I began to dive deeper, to explore ALL that moved me, and enlivened me. I began to create a future where I listened to ALL that God had shown me and laid on my heart, as both passions and concerns.
I could’t have begun to discover the depth of my gifts, until I began to use, embrace, and experience my first gifts. Its like Maya Angelou says,
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
The more of my gifts that I use, the more I discover, that is God’s true abundance and riches. I have started to see my gifts, concerns, and abilities as a partnership with God to engage the world and my soul. As I do so, those gifts appear to be unending. The truth is that when we begin to embrace our blessings, we are healed and challenged to continue birthing and rediscovering, new blessings as they emerge.