I have problems with my body. Some of these are functional–my eyes don’t work quite right, my tongue is quite likely permanently numb, sometimes the hearing drops from one of my ears (it switches) at random and it sounds like everyone is very far away, my left ankle will likely never fully recover from when I hurt it in March of 2010. Some of these problems are aesthetic–my hair has a tendency to frizz up; at the age of twenty-four I still have acne; I am covered in scars. My eyes are already forming little lines from squinting and the area below them is constantly stained like I rubbed cooked blueberries there. I am fat, My upper arms are unreasonably thick and flaccid. When I hold them out at my sides, the layers of fat cells cling down and hold on to nothing to maintain shape. My legs giggle when I walk. My knees hit my stomach when I crouch over and pedal. Sometimes I lie in bed at night on my side and look at it, protruding out from me as though I am pregnant, stretch marks like veins in marble cutting across it, and I hate it with every thought in my mind.
But my body is amazing.
This summer, like the one before it, and the one before that, and the one before that, I found myself peeling off the layers I hide under, appreciating and admiring my body for what it is: a beautiful piece of biology that straddles the line between machine and art.
There is enough science that in and of itself is amazing that I’m not going to talk about any of it directly. It’s worth it, it’s important, to spend some time learning anatomy and physiology, taking a physical anthropology class and learning how the bones are the way they are, breaking down biology to processes in cells. The ability of life to persist, the body to function, is great.
But I want to talk about my body specifically.
My body persists. No matter what I’ve done to it–all the tortures I’ve made it endure–it persists. When I stood for seven hours a day, it complained, but it took it. It adapted. It allowed me to push it, running miles (not many, just three) every day afterwards. It let me throw it into water and force it lengths, only to make it pedal to stand to run.
These days, the torture I throw at it is different. It works for hours, sometimes days, on end. My leg muscles tense and flex, stretch and tighten round and round as I pedal. My back slowly begins to ache in small parts after the miles it sits, hunched over. Let’s not even talk about my butt. My poor, poor butt. My hands are calloused and my elbows sore–which is probably a bad thing. I don’t feed it enough during these times. After a point, we fight over every calorie it expends.
But when I finish, I can’t wait to go again.
My body adapts. Muscles grow and blood vessels strengthen. All that “biology” stuff goes on and slowly it gets better at what it does, but that doesn’t matter. What really matters is that I can spend a day hiking, I can ride a bike sixty-five miles one day and fifty-five the next. I can stand on one foot and hold the other in my hand behind and perching my body curled around itself like a flower.
My body takes everything I throw at it, every single impossible task, and it does it. It complains, it whines, and sometimes it takes a while, but it does what I need it to do.