I felt celebratory when I woke up this morning: Today is April 1. It’s also the six-week anniversary (not that I’m throwing a party) of the day I tripped and ruptured my hamstring tendons. It’s an important milestone because in terms of recovery, at six weeks out, the acute and sub-acute healing phases are largely complete–my body has done what it needed to, silently and without nudging from my interloping mind, to marshall platelets and proteins to my torn hamstrings and quadratus femoris, repairing the damaged soft tissue and scarring the muscle “down” towards my bones. During the sub-acute phase of healing, scar tissue matures and strengthens a little bit every day. I have no idea how my body knows how to do this; I could sooner explain how to rebuild a Tesla. Yet for the past month, I could literally feel daily changes as my body repaired itself…a listing gait straightening out, then tightening up, then grounding down. We now move into the remodeling phase, my body and me – whoopee! — wherein the goal is to stretch, strengthen and stress the new scar tissue, exposing weakness and instability that will signal a process of laying down additional soft tissue, and so on, in a cycle of challenging and rebuilding that will eventually restore my pre-injury level of function. Ish. This collaboration of cells buzzing around doing their thing, harmoniously weaving new flesh out of mere juice, energy, chemicals, holds the same divine mystery for me that I felt when I was pregnant, consulting the fetal development chart in my well-worn copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting:” At twelve weeks, your baby develops fingernails, or At the beginning of month 2, mesothelial (coelomic epithelial) cells proliferate and penetrate the underlying mesenchym. They multiply quickly and differentiate into large acidophilic cells which surround the medullary primordium and form the fetal or primitive suprarenal cortex.
How astonishing. I don’t even know what a “mesenchyum” or “suprarental cortex” is, let alone how to grow these items for someone else. What an absolutely breath-taking miracle the body is! I feel the same way about the new soft tissue my body has been busily generating these last six weeks, while I was sleeping, or working on a client project, on the phone or watching yet another episode of the teen comedy “Sex Education” on Netflix. (Pretty hilarious, just saying…)
And yet, the ways in which I have done violence to this remarkable body which God gifted to me are innumerable: the packs of cigarettes smoked in my twenties, the decades of yo-yo dieting—sugar binges alternating with bizarre restrictions, cleanses and fads, morning glasses of “healthy” sludge: unsweetened cranberry juice mixed with ground flax seed; whey, egg whites and almond milk in a thick paste of “nutritious” misery; apple cider vinegar in hot water—the red wine over-consumed, the hot yoga classes in which I overruled my joints’ insistence that Padangustasana was not for me; the symptoms ignored and the pain pushed through and the sensations unheeded, of anxiety or anger, exhaustion or grief. But the worst abuses to my body have come from the insults and criticisms I have relentlessly hurled at her decade after decade: the self-loathing inspired by her perfectly human lumps and rolls, the desperate desire to escape her endomorphic clutches, to trade her in for a sleeker model, one with a more muscular silhouette and a faster metabolism, fewer freckles, longer fingernails, thicker hair, a sex drive that could be turned on as simply as the pushbutton ignition in my Toyota RAV 4. You’ve thought these things, too, I know you have. (Or something similar…perhaps instead, you bemoan your vulnerability to seasonal allergies or hammer toes. Or cancer. Or MS. The list of grievances goes on and on.)
So today, I decided to mark my emergence from the cocoon of sub-acute healing by going to my friend Robyn’s Nia class at Starfish Dance and Yoga. My PT cleared me two weeks ago to start taking classes, although gently, and with patience, which has never been my forte. Robyn has been planning to teach all her April and May classes with the theme “LOVE YOUR BODY,” inviting her students into gratitude for this miraculous living sculpture of energy, flesh and bone that is our home for this lifetime. She and the owner of another studio (Laughing Dog Yoga in Wellesley) where she teaches have mapped out a two-months-long curriculum of workshops and classes built on the theme, with topics ranging from sexuality as we age, to essential oils, emotions and the body. A local painter’s colorful studies of of the female form, in all sizes, colors, shapes and gestures, adorn the studio in a celebration of the beauty of the embodied feminine. I can’t wait to see it.
This morning, dancing with Robyn and the other ten or so women in the class at Starfish, all of us grooving to a soundtrack of George Michael that was jazzy and sensual, I felt enlivened and hopeful. It’s amazing to be feeling stronger every day, to sense my stability returning. I admit, it’s kinda wonky to have a disconnected hamstring, and sometimes I feel a bit of a psychic wobble, even though my movement is steady. After class, I decided I’d clamber aboard the LOVE YOUR BODY bandwagon by writing a post day of body-loving gratitude for the next six weeks.
It’s the least I can do for this dear old friend who’s been with me since birth, these toes and knees, hands and eyes so familiar. I haven’t always been the best friend back to my body. It’s good to be reminded that she deserves nothin’ but my love. After all, one day, I won’t have her to kick around any more.
So here it is, Post #1 of “Love Your Body” month. If you live in the Boston area and want to look into some of the programs being offered this month at Laughing Dog Yoga as part of the Love Your Body series, click here!