Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Body of Evidence

I was standing by a mirror in the dressing rooms at Kohl's, glancing at my reflection, as I do sometimes, when I noticed an odd bulge in my foot. It was the big vein, puffing up at the end of the day, but only on my right foot. I raised it, wiggled it, rotated my ankle this way and that, but there I was, with one bulgy foot.

I was at Kohl's because I was taking teenage daughters to buy bras. They own bras, you understand, but there have been growth spurts. My heart twisted a bit as I picked out larger cup sizes for them to try and helped hook the bands and settle the straps over smooth young backs sprinkled with a few blemishes and pimples.

My ten-year-old has the body of a nymphet, lithe and willowy, just shy of the thicker curves her older sisters have developed. It's the body type Hollywood pushes, a prepubescent slenderness. Last week she was miserable because she was losing a molar the long way. The tooth wouldn't release, and it kept twisting and cutting her gums. Finally, it came out when she swallowed, and there it was, with two wicked sharp roots over the stout ivory chomper.

Bodies are weird. There's nothing permanent about them. St. Francis was right to call the body "Brother Ass" -- you mainly notice it when it's not doing the thing you want, which is often enough that you forget all the things it does right until those fail too. My body is full of oddnesses, mostly legacies of six pregnancies, but also hair in odd places, nonstandard toenails, a stubborn plantar's wart. I sometimes envy the angelic nature, how they can just be without being confined by the earthiness and frustrations of having a body.

But Christ suffered in the flesh. God himself provided the sacrifice: Himself. He drained himself to his last drop of blood. The body is meant to be immolated, completely offered up, in pregnancy or in works or in fasting or in sickness or paralysis or bedridden in a lingering old age. God himself has provided the sacrifice.

My oldest daughter and I have been working out together for almost a month, to a half-hour video six days a week. We are burning calories, the instructor tells us. Think about why we're working out -- for your significant other? To fit into that dress? These are lowest-common denominator reasons. Who doesn't want to look better? But why do I burn? It's a difficult act of trust, to keep exercising even though my body stubbornly refuses to show any change, to believe that it matters whether I burn even without any evidence. Even if my body should never recover its previous form, if it is simply part of me now to carry fifty more pounds than I did on my wedding day, surely it's better to move than not to move, to sweat than not to sweat, to give than not to give. Maybe the fruit is not borne in my body but in the body of the teen sweating next to me, or the baby who keeps trying to hang on my back while I attempt push ups.

Burn, baby, burn.


Christine said...

I love this post Cat!

I too am doing a work out program and following a food plan. It is frustrating as while I know things are changing the scale is not doing what I would like. I have strange aches and pains in weird places, every day! I have never worked out consistently in my life and I want the scale to reflect my hard work.

But I think I do feel better about myself as a person doing these workouts, even if I don't see the drastic results I want. Even if I am not actually stronger or more fit anywhere but in my mind. :)

And I really enjoyed your reflections on the body. Similar thoughts pass through my mind often.

Sarah said...

Love this post!! Whenever I'm sick I think to myself that I will be oh so grateful when I don't hurt or can eat without vomiting, but of course we forget the body when all is well.