Monday, November 4, 2013

AIM: The Thankful Buffet

Itzhak Perlman once performed an entire concert with a broken violin string. When asked how he was able to do that, he replied, “Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

In a guided meditation last Thursday, Tara Brach instructed us to whisper the things we are most grateful for, and the one we found that resonated the most, to whisper it aloud several times.

I whispered my usual grateful go-tos – my family, my home, my friends, the Irishman, the foam topper on my bed, the seat warmer in my car – and while I truly am grateful for them all, they are familiar and constant and…easy to be grateful for. Surely I could find something that really resonated. So I stopped being cerebral and checked in with my body and I discovered – in that moment – I was not in pain. Nothing hurt. My body was completely at peace. For that, I was infinitely grateful.

I’ve written extensively about body acceptance; the “How I’m coming to terms with the stretch marks, the jiggle, the sag, the bag, and the droop” part. We all know that’s easier said than done, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll never be wildly enamored with what my body looks like. These days, however, I’m struggling to come to terms with what it can’t do anymore, and that’s where Itzhak Perlman comes in.

I have a body of broken strings caused mostly by osteoarthritis. I can replace a few of those strings – my knees and shoulders, for instance – but there’s nothing anyone can do for the other parts. Until there’s a cure, arthritis will never ever ever go away, and sometimes I cave in to the enormousness of that reality and use it as an excuse to not do anything. I hurt therefore I can’t. I can’t walk, can’t bike, can’t lift, can’t clean.

Oh, but I can still eat!

Yeah…you can see the emerging problem, can’t you? (See last months’ AIM post, “Kickoff to the Eating Season.”)

Chronic pain has added a layer to weight maintenance that I was NOT expecting nor was I prepared for. For the last several years, I could ride my bike for 90 minutes or work out on the elliptical for 45 minutes before strength training for another 30 minutes. I loved it! Vigorous exercise challenged me and made me feel all badass and strong. Sadly, it also fed my ego and made me competitive where competition wasn’t necessary or, I suspect, welcomed. I’d pass people on the bike trail or set the elliptical at a higher resistance than the person next to me at the gym and think, ‘Look at me go! This is how you do it!’ Ugh…my lack of compassion in those moments makes me want to flog myself.

Fast forward to these days, and walking through an airport is a challenge. Holding my 8-month-old granddaughter has me popping Advil like it’s Pez. My body can’t do what it used to do, and for a while this year, that’s all I could think about.

But I can only sit on my ass for so long. Deep down, I’m not a glass-half-empty person. A few months ago, I knew I had to figure out a way – physically and mentally – to live with the broken strings. To become the artist and take on the task of finding out how much music I can make with what’s left.

I began taking aqua aerobics classes, which took me way out of my comfort zone. Me in a swimming suit in public never happens, people! I also had a talk with my competitive side and I now do what moves I can at a pace that suits me rather than trying to keep up with the other 50-year-olds around me. I also remind myself – as I vowed I’d do in last month’s AIM post – that food is fuel, and as tasty as it can be, it will not take away the pain.

It’s easier to mourn what’s gone than be grateful for what’s left. But what’s left is all we’ve got. Did you gain back weight you lost, or lose weight and discover there wasn’t a six-pack underneath? No matter. Our bodies are what they are, and, as I’m slowly discovering, they deserve our attention, our gentle care, and most of all, our gratitude.

Give this a try: Take a deep breath, and as you let it out slowly, whisper, “I am grateful for my body.” Repeat as often as it takes, and may we all one day feel that gratitude deep in our bones.
-------------------------------------------

AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you'd like us to address!

Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debbie @ debby weighs in
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit
Cammy @ The Tippy Toe Diet

9 comments:

  1. What a beautiful analogy, Lynn!

    I once saw a violin without strings at a yard sale, and I was contemplating buying it. My friend asked why, and I pointed out that it was still a beautiful instrument even without the strings and would be lovely as an art piece. It had shape and substance and stories, even if it couldn't play music anymore. (I didn't buy the piece, but I still buy the sentiment. :) )

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's lovely, Cammy! Maybe I should look for an old violin to hang in my house as a reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm so pleased you've found a workout that seems to be kind to your body...and you are so right, we do need to be grateful for our bodies, no matter how hurting they might be.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yep, you know I agree--there's always something we can do. Its just getting to that acceptance and willingness to change that's sometimes hard (for me at least.)

    I love the way you write.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I really enjoyed your post. The acceptance of my body has always been one of the hardest things. Its weird how we can see all the flaws but none of the perfections. I'm trying to program my brain now before I lose all the weight that I'm never going to have a super model body. As I get older it does get easier though because I'm focusing more on being healthy and strong instead of being a size 2. I wish you the best of luck with your arthritis.
    http://nevertheskinnygirl.blogspot.com/?m=0

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yes, those broken strings bring about new ways of looking at things and doing things. It doesn't mean you aren't whole, just well used and loved. :D

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you, Christina. You bring up an excellent point, one I'd not thought of before. I've known several people who actually fear loose skin so much they use it as an excuse not to lose weight, not even lending credence to all the health benefits of a lower weight. I like your idea of wrapping your head around these body truths before you get to goal. Best to you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can relate to everything you wrote. Chronic pain is a "pain," but you refuse to let it dominate your life, and that is an inspiration to me. Our bodies are still useful, beautiful, and a great gift. I've been away from the blog world for a while, but I have continued to check in with you. You always have such good things to say. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Lynn

    I've only just found your blog (after hopping over from Karen at Garden Girl)

    Your post did touch 'a string' and Itzhak Perlman is wonderful.

    And yes for many "It’s easier to mourn what’s gone than be grateful for what’s left"

    I enjoyed reading your post, thank you.

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete