Friday, October 4, 2013


I spend a lot of time thinking about bodies lately. 

I think about men's bodies, of course.  I think about broad shoulders and long legs and flat stomachs and the touch of a man's hand on my hip and my knees get weak.  Mmm, yes, I do think about that.

I think about cancer, and how it changes a body.  Just this week I had to go in for touch-ups - my nipple tattoos had faded and the natural skin was showing through and the effect was strangely orange in color, so I went in and had them re-done.  A glance in the mirror as I am dressing reveals all the changes cancer has made to my body - the long scars across my back, the strangeness that is my chest.  The tightness in my arm where scar tissue pulls every time I lift something, or raise my arm above my head, and how I've decided that I will act like it doesn't hurt because otherwise it makes me sad.

And of course, I have the usual issues in aging.  Laugh lines that didn't seem to be there last year, a bit of a gray streak in my hair.  A softness to my belly that I can not explain - surely it will firm up like the rest of me has?!

But mostly, I'm thinking about running, and how it makes me feel, and how it has altered my body, and how it is altering my mind.

I've become a bit obsessed, and my own obsession surprises me.  I've run for over 20 years, on and off, and I've never felt the least bit obsessed by it.  I've thought it was  healthy habit, I liked it when it kept my body a reasonable size, and I was always glad when the run was over and I didn't have to think about it for a couple more days.  I spent more time procrastinating on my runs than I did actually running them.

Last spring, I decided to sign up for a half marathon.  It was a leap of faith, because three mile runs weren't feeling that great, and I wasn't getting faster, and I didn't feel like I had a lot of extra endurance in me, but I was feeling sick of my plateau, so I signed up anyway.  One of my best friends is a regular running, has done a half dozen half marathons and one full one, and it was easy enough to talk her into signing up with me.  (I think she said "It's about time," actually.)

I went online, pulled up a half marathon training schedule for novices, and plugged it into my Gmail calendar.  More or less, I've followed that schedule, altering for life's schedule or bad days or vacations etc.

And now I'm thinking about my body all the time.  Everything has changed.

First, what's on the outside.  It's shocking. 

I've dropped down to a size four.  WHAT?!  Yes, a size four.  I have spent my life being ecstatic if I fit into a size six, and I've spent most of my time at a size eight, and during cancer I was a size twelve (thank you chemo and decadron).  I have never had the goal of being a size four, and it has never crossed my mind that it was a possibility.

I'm not on a diet.  I didn't have a weight loss goal.  I just wanted to feel stronger and more energetic.....and I'M A SIZE FOUR!!!

None of my old clothes fit, including the new work wardrobe I invested in all last year.  Financially, that's a disaster....but I can get past it. 

I walk by storefront windows, see my reflection, and do a double take.  That's ME?!  Do I really look like that?

And the male response - wow, we are visual creatures, we humans.  I put up a couple recent pictures on my OkCupid profile and suddenly I was Ms. Popularity.

I'm enjoying it immensely.  How could I not?  It's nice to get male attention (although now I have to filter out those men who only want me for my figure and don't care about my mind - uhhh, that's a new one for me!), it's nice when I feel good about my appearance, it's nice not to have so many lumps and bumps.

But that isn't the best part, not at all.

The best part is that I feel reconnected to my body, and my body is reminding me of just how much is possible.  It's another of life's great metaphors:  I never thought I'd be so slim....and so healthy.  There is nothing in the least anorexic about me - I look like what I am, an active woman who is fit.  My concept of what my body is meant to be has utterly transformed, because I really feel "in" this body.  I absolutely love the feeling of pushing my body up against new boundaries - of adding distance to my long runs (this weekend I will do my first ever run in double digits, and on Sunday I will conquer 10 miles), of improving my pace, of upping my weekly distance.

I feel like anything is possible.

I feel like I could conquer anything, if I just set my mind to it.

I feel like this body is cheering for me - a traitor no more, this body is calling out, "Live.  Live.  LIVE!"

This body, this body that I've lived in all these years, doesn't want to let me down.  This body wants me to live deep into old age, and she's reminding me that it's NOT all downhill from here.  This body reminds me that though she's covered in scars, she still strong.  And she's still sexy, too: this body loves it when a handsome man gives a discreet appreciative glance.  This body knows how to enjoy sex.  This body knows how to carry me to the top of a mountain, to the middle of the lake, to the finish line.  This body keeps me going to do the run, clean the house, mow the lawn, make the dinner, review the homework.

This body is the one who gave birth to the child of my dreams.  This body is the one that got me to the other side of cancer.  This body is the one who knows how to have fantastic sex.  This body carries me to the tops of mountains, to the middle of alpine lakes.

I feel like I'm finally getting it, that this body of mine didn't let me down, it carried me through.

And we're just getting started.

I hope that I never forget these lessons, as it's so easy to do.  I'll run my first double-digit mileage run this weekend, and my half marathon is at the end of the month, but I'm thinking ahead to my next events already.  (Another half marathon, to try to get a PR?  Or aim at a full marathon?)  I don't want to lose this momentum, and I don't want to lose this body, either.

If I can be a size four without dieting, and feel great in a body that I once thought was trying to kill me, then maybe anything is possible.

Anything is possible.  And that is the best thing of all.

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