By Kelly Wright
It was a perfect day for the pool. A warm day, but one where the heat wasn’t abrasive. A day the water was delightful and didn’t make you cringe as you entered into the pool.
My husband and I took a break under the big red umbrella as our kids jumped off the diving board. As we watched one jump after another, I noticed the start of an aura migraine. These headaches weren’t a new experience for me, but they were always unnerving. I’m sure no one finds big blind spots in their vision a pleasant experience.
This migraine, however, ended up much different than any other one I’d had before. Not only was my vision impaired, but I also had trouble talking and I couldn’t remember words or names that I should have known. I was concerned that what I thought was a migraine was actually a stroke. Forty-five minutes later, my vision and cognitive abilities returned.
I would find out a couple of months later, this episode was a complex migraine, brought on primarily by stress.
You see, I had maxed myself out physically and emotionally and my body was letting me know it. I had been a counselor for 10 years and a mom for 8. In an attempt to be super-human, I was going non-stop, doing everything I could to be the best wife, mom, counselor, volunteer at school and church, friend, you name it, I could be. I had no down time, definitely no Sabbath, in my life. I ran full steam ahead, week after week, until my body yelled, “Enough!”
Thankfully, our body never lies, it always tells us the truth. We just don’t want to listen or to hear what our bodies have to say.
We don’t want to hear that we are carrying too much: too much stress, too many unprocessed emotions, too much busyness, too much of life.
For much of our younger years, we can hush what our bodies are trying to tell us, silently pushing them past the point of healthiness. As we get older, our bodies get louder through aches, pains, illness, and even disease.
My body was alerting me to the truth that I was not honoring it, but instead pushing it past healthy boundaries. I was not getting enough rest, relying too much on caffeine, and wasn’t eating healthy. I was not setting healthy emotional boundaries either. I said “Yes” way too many times and had no time for replenishment. My spiritual life was also suffering as I often neglected my time with God and settled for a quick prayer in the car on my way here or there.
Looking back, I am so grateful that my body got my attention. And, as a messenger of God’s truth, my body still instructs me in the ways I need to go and the boundaries I need to set.
What about you?
What is the condition of your body these days? Have you been caring for it consistently—eating right, sleeping enough, exercising, attending to medical issues and concerns—or have you been ignoring it or even abusing it in some way?
Is there anything your body is trying to tell you? Any place of tension or discomfort that you have been ignoring? Any feeling of dis-ease that is vaguely unsettling and seems to persist?
I encourage you to make space to listen to the truths your body wants to share with you.
Elouise Renich Fraser, in her book Confessions of a Beginning Theologian, writes about the significant role that listening to her body has played in her personal and theological journey. “My body, once ignored and despised, has become an ally in the reorientation of my internal and external life. It lets me know when I’m running away, avoiding yet another of God’s invitations to look into my past and the way it binds me as a theologian. I can’t trust my mind as often as I trust my body. My mind tries to talk me into business as usual, but my body isn’t fooled.”
May you listen and trust your ally in the reorientation of your internal and external life, your body, the truth-teller.