I love my body.
What does it say about our culture that I feel embarrassed to write this? The supposition is that there should be some humility here. Some acknowledgement that there are superior bodies to mine, that I have a lot of work to do and that I’ve got to be a pathological narcissist to admit something like this in front of more than my mirror. But I do love my body and I love it for the awesome things it can do.
The other day, I was out walking my dogs in the pitch black of a pre-coffee morning. Digging in my pockets for a pair of gloves to fight off a frosty chill, I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to my companions. As usual, they were racing around the field I’d brought them to, entirely focused on a high speed game of chase. I could hear them pounding across the turf and I was aware they were coming towards me. This was no cause for alarm, they have demonstrated countless times before that they have the presence of mind to make the last second turn to avoid catastrophic collisions with me.
Not this time.
In full stride, all 100 plus pounds of my two Labs made ferocious contact with the inside of my right knee. Under the last of the twinkling stars, my body first went up and then down in an unseemly heap. For the first time since I’d stopped playing football decades ago, I screamed in pain. Visions of a Tom Brady type knee injury swam up in my panicked mind. I rolled onto my back and did a quick inventory trying to assess the damage. The pain was throughout the joint and on a scale of 1-10, it was right at the upper limit.
I’ve broken both ankles, sprained them both way too many times to count and have had a decent number of knee, quad and shin contusions. In almost every one of these instances, I’ve felt compelled to get up and walk, no matter how bad it hurt. That somehow by using the afflicted joint/limb, I could convince myself that it was truly okay.
I pushed myself off the frozen grass and started walking. It hurt unbelievably bad but I was walking, it was functional.
For thirty minutes, I hobbled my way around the golf course. The dogs oblivious to my suffering, unmoved by my plight, continued to chase each other. I began to obsess on what the aftermath might be once I actually stopped moving and gave the injury a chance to stiffen up. Sure enough, that day at work, the hours spent at my desk resulted in an old man shuffle as different aspects of the knee cried out in misery. It hurt in back, there was a sharp ache in the front, the joint felt swollen, I was unhappy. But, I was able to move.
The next day, the limp wasn’t as pronounced. I had committed to running with a friend on the trails after work and I thought that maybe it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities. Throughout the day, I tested it. It didn’t feel good but I could run.
Finally, I drove over to the trailhead and ran down the trail. The joint was cranky to say the least and not a single step was pain free but it got better with every step and I was able to finish 7 rugged miles. The next day, it felt even better. Not perfect by a long shot but better and able to get the work done.
Here I am a full week later and though it still doesn’t feel “right,” it continues to function. I’ve ridden hard on the MTB on two occasions and on Sunday, I banged out 13 miles in Huntington State Park. Tomorrow, I’ll step on to the track and go hard. I am sure I will be able to complete my scheduled workout.
And so, because of this, I love my body. Not for any aesthetic value (though I certainly don’t hate it on that level) but for the amazing things it is capable of taking on and not just enduring, but thriving through. We are all inhabiting bodies that I’m afraid too often we undersell:
“I can’t run because of my knees”
“My back can’t handle exercise”
“My foot hurts when I run”
“I wasn’t built for sports”