Be Nice to Your Body
By Margaret Porter
Last year, an early bout with a “mysterious flu” and subsequent worldwide quarantine found me sleeping 16 hours a day to pass the time, and lolling around with a favorite cocktail otherwise. My mother once called me the laziest child she ever saw, which injured my pride because, when I was a kid, important events occupied me, things I was sure she’d never understand.
Why, in the 60s and 70s, I fought the Vietnam War alongside GI Joe, with us falling in love, being married in Da Nang, baby to follow. Other days, King Arthur ditched that tramp Guinevere and took up with me, a humble but beautiful servant and secreted daughter of a nobleman, baby to follow. I was so busy living the stories in my head that it was exhausting! Daydreaming was my problem and still is. Hand me a mop, and I will find a way to dance around it with Thom Yorke as the fur-kids lick up the mess.
Still, here in the pandemic, with so many books to read and movies to watch, and the fact that a gardener still came around three times a week to handle things outside, the dust in the interior of my house and I got comfy. A few months in and indolence layered extra fat on top of the wine fat that had accumulated over the previous five years, layered on top of the cerveza fat from the five years before that, all of it marbled with fat that had accumulated during my 15-year love affair with chilaquiles, rojos, onions, cream, two eggs over easy.
I have a niece named Kelly who’s a CrossFit addict, marathoner, snow skier, mother of a toddler, and advanced yoga enthusiast. I was whining about my expanding corpus, so she suggested that I do something about it. “Aunt Margaret, at least keep yourself limber,” she urged, reminding me of the yoga that I know how to do but, for whatever reason, do not. She sent a rather impressive YouTube of Jessamyn Stanley, an extra-large woman who teaches beginner to advanced yoga. From those, I put together a short routine and, after daily practice for a few weeks, I felt better. Step one toward being a better me was in the bag.
That was until last October. While doing an extended ‘downward facing dog,’ I sneezed and became disoriented, so I stood up and suddenly felt a fluttering in my left ear. Within minutes, I’d lost the hearing in it and immediately began to flip ass-over-teakettle toward the ceiling in a severe vertigo attack.
I was in the hospital for three days and had several tests, then visits with neurologists and an ear, nose, and throat doc. No one knew what had happened. A small stroke near my auditory nerve might have been the culprit, but I had experienced vertigo years before, so it could also be the advent of Meniere’s disease, a chronic problem. The doctors put me on a medication and therapy regimen and told me to wait it out for a year to see how much hearing returned.
Some of it has come back, low tones, but none of the wonderful high ones – bird song, a friend’s voice, song lyrics, children’s laughter, the bank of chihuahuas across the street – er, well, scratch that last one, which brings me to a conversation that I had with my counselor Kat after this event.
I’d been seeing her after losing two beloved family members to untimely deaths. Kat is a warm-hearted truth-teller who dared to tell me, “You have an impressive imagination. But stop writing stories as you speak about these things, Margaret. Cutting through the drama aids clarity, which encourages acceptance.” It is a blessing of grace to find a counselor who will teach you how to get out of your own way as you stumble toward improved mental and physical health.
Kat was compassionate when I told her of my mysterious downward-facing-dog incident. She suggested that I needed to meet my body wherever it is in the moment, including all disabilities, disappointments, and the things I frown at in the mirror. I was a bit confused. She explained:
One of the hardest things we face as we age is to accept our body as it is today. Criticizing it with our complaints about its incapacities is not only unfair, but it also makes our physical state of being worse. We all cause some health problems by our choices, and we can choose to change our habits to improve upon the damage done. Some of it is no fault of our own, illnesses that capture us and won’t let go, which we must manage. Either way, our body has been altered, and how dare we stand there and criticize it just because it doesn’t work or look like it used to. We must embrace our physical deficits – even our fat – and do what we can to remedy things.
But most importantly, we must get up every day and express gratitude to our body for always doing the best that it can as it carries us through this human life, because that is what it is doing. Our bodies want to work well. Adjust your attitude, bolster your spirit, and your body will respond in ways that might surprise you.
It was a message custom-made for me. Lately, I have been talking to my deaf ear, congratulating it for what it can do right now, which isn’t much. But the other day la sordita was able to hear the overlay guitar on “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” through my Bose headphones. Thank you, Pink Floyd, for the layered sound!
Then one night at two o’clock in the morning, my good ear, which is dutifully over-compensating, was able to hear a neighborhood couple laughing at whatever they were having a go-at, the wild things. I’m not sure which neighbor it was, as my working ear no longer has the directional balance of its temporarily deaf mate.
Niece Kelly has also put me on a diet of greens, greens, and more greens. “Aunt Margaret. Honestly, you know? You live in the land of green things and abundant vegetables. You need three servings a day of greens alone, less animal, more beans, and legumes. Get with it.”
And, she’s right. I’m down a few kilos, and it won’t be too long before I can throw this body a party for its accomplishment. Invitations in the mail after everyone’s vaccinated.
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