If my body is the temple in which my soul lives, what happens when it begins to fall down around me?

If my body is the temple in which my soul lives, what happens when it begins to fall down around me?

I stopped going to yoga classes after my grandmother died in January. 

It felt too painful; I didn’t want to stay in my own body, touching into the well of grief that had settled into my chest as I breathed deeply, in and out. I joined another class, one that involved kettle bells and weights and squats. 

It didn’t matter what mood I arrived at the gym in — angry or frustrated or unsettled — I would always feel better leaving, like a fever had broken within me. 

I began to feel stronger, a sensation I was unfamiliar with, and I found I liked it.

But my hips hurt, an aching burrowing deep inside my bones. 

A day spent on Cape Clear island, walking its hills, and I woke up the next day limping, hobbling down to the pier like an old woman. 

I went to see a physio and she told me my feet were almost completely flat, wondering aloud how no one had caught this before. 

You must have had problems with your gait since you were a child, she said, you should have come to my practice years ago. 

The yoga was probably disguising the worst of the symptoms, apparently and I can continue with my gym classes — lifting weights helps bone strength and density — but I should avoid running.

Orthotics were prescribed, an insole slipped into my shoes to relieve the pressure on my bones, to balance out my posture. 

I bought two pairs of Birkenstock sandals and have worn nothing else all summer. 

They’re the shoe of 2019, Vogue tells me, and have been spotted at every Front Row this fashion week but when I look at myself in the mirror, I see a Steiner Kindergarten teacher looking back, one probably named Helga. 

The physio gave me exercises to do, stretches and balances that I promised to do and then promptly forgot about. I never went back to the follow up appointment. 

It isn’t laziness that causes me to ignore her advice but stubbornness, this seething resentment that my body has, in some way, left me down.

It’s ridiculous, of course. I am lucky, privileged in more ways that I can count. 

I am able-bodied and despite the years of damage I inflicted upon myself, the risks I took with my health, my body has fought the worst of my destructive impulses.

Despite years of rampant bulimia, my teeth have remained strong; I have surprisingly few cavities, just one old filling that has been there since I was teenager. 

I did not lose teeth, like others with similar issues have done, they did not rot away to nothing in my gums.

I have mild IBS, but so do many other people I know, and a recent colonoscopy showed no long-term damage. My period returned after years of diet-induced amenorrhea; my heart still continues to beat. 

I can dance and run (not on a treadmill, mind) and do cartwheels across Inchydoney beach, if I want to which… I don’t. (But still! The option is there.) 

I was on a train to Dublin recently and I discovered that I was able to lift my heavy suitcase and slot it into the overhead compartment without asking for help, something I’d never been able to do previously. 

I’d been building my upper body strength incrementally at the classes, reaching for heavier kettle bells as the months passed, but this was the first time I’d seen the real-life application of all that work. I had been pushing myself and here was my reward. 

A sense of competency and independence. A power, all of its own. It annoys me when friends say things like — we’re getting old. 

We are only thirty-four, I want to reply. 

I remind them that this, right now, is the youngest we will ever be again so why not enjoy it? 

There is something miserly about this fear of ageing, holding on so tightly to an idea — youth and the value we have placed upon it — that is slipping away from us with each passing day, like water through our fingers.

Getting old is a privilege, I say, and I think of an uncle who died at thirty or a girl from my school who died at fourteen. 

But then my hips begin to ache and there’s a small part of me that wonders if this is the beginning, that the body which has been so resilient all these years, is tiring.

I know that’s ridiculous, my body’s health over the next ten or twenty years will depend on the level of care I give it; the foods I eat, the exercise I take, etc. But somehow, it has reminded me of the life-long complexity of the relationship I’ve had with my body. 

For years, I wanted it to be skinny and now I want it to be strong. What happens when it is a physical impossibility for it to be either of those things? 

If my body is the temple in which my soul lives, what happens when it begins to fall down around me? How do you learn to be okay with that?

Louise Says

READ: 

Every once in a while, I fall in love with a book so fiercely that I text multiple friends and insist they buy it immediately.

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is one of those books.

It’s basically fan fiction, set in a world that has a liberal, female president of the United States whose son, Alex, falls in love with Prince Henry of the British royal family.

It’s sexy and funny and the political dynamics feel incredibly accurate.

LISTEN:

 My Roots are Showing.

I was sad to hear that Nadine O’ Regan’s show, Songs in the Key of Life, had been cancelled by Today FM but this podcast is an excellent replacement.

O’ Regan is a smart, sharp interviewer who asks the best questions and her guests — including Jon Ronson, Domhnall Gleeson, and Tracey Thorn — are top notch.

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