For most of my life, I have ignored—even resented—the messages my body was sending me. My body was something to be mastered, overcome, not respected.
I shut down hunger signals by shoving packaged plastic, trying to pass as food, down my throat. When my body said sleep, I drank more caffeine. (Sleep was for losers.)
When my bladder was full, or my head ached, or my temper ran short, I just pushed through. I had stuff to do. Lots of stuff.
The Sabbath was just another day for progress, and the American Dream was swallowing me whole.
My body tried to tell me I was sick. First, it whispered subtle hints like muscle aches that didn't make sense.
I paid no attention.
Then the communication got clearer—debilitating fatigue (More caffeine should do the trick!) and unexplained weight changes. I turned a deaf ear.
That's when my body screamed at me in the form of fainting spells and erratic heart rhythms. I made an appointment, more out of fear than responsiveness, angry at my body for betraying me.
The doctor's diagnosis was stress; the prescription was less diet soda. I was thankful to have some direction but still at a loss.
One of my gifts is overcomplicating well, everything.
My health was no exception. After the wake-up call from the first doctor, I sprang into action with a long list of self-imposed rules and expectations, my very own stone tablets inscribed with the commandments for my new healthy life.
Thou shalt eat only chicken breasts and fresh vegetables.
Thou shalt rise at 5am and work out to the point of exhaustion every day, no exceptions.
Thou shalt not succumb to the creamy deliciousness of ice cream or the rich warmth of lasagna.
Thou shalt not consider enjoyment or personal preference when choosing food or exercise options.
You get the idea. I undertook an outwardly healthier approach to beating my body into submission, with different but still damaging results.
Why, as women, are we so afraid to lean into our intuition and listen intently and compassionately to our bodies, like we would to a close friend?
Why do we insist on surviving on sugar, caffeine, and over-the-top workouts, instead of responding promptly and gently to our bodies' simple requests?
If we truly want to be healthy, we will attune ourselves to the wisdom God has built into these intelligent, intricate carriers of our souls, otherwise known as our bodies.
I'm still learning. It will likely be a lifelong process.
But my death sentence and subsequent health journey are proving to be patient teachers, reminding me that I can trust my body's messages, even—maybe especially—the painful ones.
My body and yours know instinctively what, when, and how much to eat. Our bodies know when they are thirsty, sick, or exhausted. Incidentally, they also know when we need to cry or when a good laugh is just what the doctor ordered. Trapped trauma and festering wounds? Yep. It knows about those, too.
But how about some good news?
Eating foods we enjoy is permissible. Moving to the rhythm of activities that make our souls come alive counts. Our businesses won't fold if we take a sick day. Sometimes, slow is the kindest thing we can do for ourselves, paying energy dividends we can't experience while we're running fast and hard.
Our bodies aren't machines to be mastered. They are the exquisite, masterfully planned, custom-made dwellings God designed for us to live out our years on earth. They are oriented toward healing and, more importantly, toward the Healer.
So, let's start by listening. Then slowly, steadily, we can learn to respond to our bodies lovingly, as the sacred temples they were always meant to be.