Itzhak Perlman once performed an entire concert with a broken violin string. When asked how he was able to do that, he replied, “Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”
In a guided meditation last Thursday, Tara Brach instructed us to whisper the things we are most grateful for, and the one we found that resonated the most, to whisper it aloud several times.
I whispered my usual grateful go-tos – my family, my home, my friends, the Irishman, the foam topper on my bed, the seat warmer in my car – and while I truly am grateful for them all, they are familiar and constant and…easy to be grateful for. Surely I could find something that really resonated. So I stopped being cerebral and checked in with my body and I discovered – in that moment – I was not in pain. Nothing hurt. My body was completely at peace. For that, I was infinitely grateful.
I’ve written extensively about body acceptance; the “How I’m coming to terms with the stretch marks, the jiggle, the sag, the bag, and the droop” part. We all know that’s easier said than done, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never be wildly enamored with what my body looks like. These days, however, I’m struggling to come to terms with what it can’t do anymore, and that’s where Itzhak Perlman comes in.
I have a body of broken strings caused mostly by osteoarthritis. I can replace a few of those strings – my knees and shoulders, for instance – but there’s nothing anyone can do for the other parts. Until there’s a cure, arthritis will never ever ever go away, and sometimes I cave in to the enormousness of that reality and use it as an excuse to not do anything. I hurt therefore I can’t. I can’t walk, can’t bike, can’t lift, can’t clean.
Oh, but I can still eat!
Yeah…you can see the emerging problem, can’t you? (See last months’ AIM post, “Kickoff to the Eating Season.”)
Chronic pain has added a layer to weight maintenance that I was NOT expecting nor was I prepared for. For the last several years, I could ride my bike for 90 minutes or work out on the elliptical for 45 minutes before strength training for another 30 minutes. I loved it! Vigorous exercise challenged me and made me feel all badass and strong. Sadly, it also fed my ego and made me competitive where competition wasn’t necessary or, I suspect, welcomed. I’d pass people on the bike trail or set the elliptical at a higher resistance than the person next to me at the gym and think, ‘Look at me go! This is how you do it!’ Ugh…my lack of compassion in those moments makes me want to flog myself.
Fast forward to these days, and walking through an airport is a challenge. Holding my 8-month-old granddaughter has me popping Advil like it’s Pez. My body can’t do what it used to do, and for a while this year, that’s all I could think about.
But I can only sit on my ass for so long. Deep down, I’m not a glass-half-empty person. A few months ago, I knew I had to figure out a way – physically and mentally – to live with the broken strings. To become the artist and take on the task of finding out how much music I can make with what’s left.
I began taking aqua aerobics classes, which took me way out of my comfort zone. Me in a swimming suit in public never happens, people! I also had a talk with my competitive side and I now do what moves I can at a pace that suits me rather than trying to keep up with the other 50-year-olds around me. I also remind myself – as I vowed I’d do in last month’s AIM post – that food is fuel, and as tasty as it can be, it will not take away the pain.
It’s easier to mourn what’s gone than be grateful for what’s left. But what’s left is all we’ve got. Did you gain back weight you lost, or lose weight and discover there wasn’t a six-pack underneath? No matter. Our bodies are what they are, and, as I’m slowly discovering, they deserve our attention, our gentle care, and most of all, our gratitude.
Give this a try: Take a deep breath, and as you let it out slowly, whisper, “I am grateful for my body.” Repeat as often as it takes, and may we all one day feel that gratitude deep in our bones.
AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!