Changing the Relationship with My Body
I am more than my shell.
Something incredible happened last night.
I was in the middle of a Touch Rugby game, and I had the ball. Now normally I'm not particularly good on attack - I can defend like a champion, no one is getting outside of me on the wing, but I tend to just support the better players who leg it up the field and score. But last night I made space. I ran through two players, sprinting with all my might. I could see them catching up, knew that they'd soon touch me, when my friend and co-player yelled my name. I couldn't even see him, but I trusted him to be there and threw hard. He ran onto the ball, slammed it down on the touch line, and my team erupted in cheers, and that was my finest moment in Touch since starting the now-beloved game in September.
I tell you this anecdote, not just because I love talking about my sporting triumphs – this is a new development, to which my best friend recently exclaimed "I don't even know you anymore!" – but because in that moment my relationship with my body had completely changed it. I loved it for the fact that it could carry me up the field as my heart pounded; I loved it because it allowed me to pour passion and spirit into it and it would keep going.
Some of you might remember that I signed up for a relay race in Oman, an event that happened this past weekend. Once again my body showed me what it could do, but it also suffered a little. A cough I had carried from England was made worse by a sandstorm the night before, and each leg of the race caused me to cough until I was nearly sick. I managed 11km in total, with the wonderful support of my teammates, which is pretty incredible given that when I finished I was wheezing so hard I thought I was going to pass out. My body let me down a little bit there, but it pushed through even when it was tough.
There are a lot of times when I don't like my body. I have chubby cheeks and flat hair, and like almost everyone else on this earth I imagine that I'd be happier if I lost a few pounds. But when I'm with my touch team that completely changes. The focus isn't on my features, and it's such a refreshing change.
I don't believe exercise has to be the answer, although if you think you hate working out then I would enthusiastically encourage you to try a team sport because it has genuinely changed my life for the better. No, I'm simply saying find an activity that requires your body to do something and then put the focus on that and what it means, rather than what it looks like. Change the lens through how you look at it. Do your arms hold people when they're sad? Do your ears listen when someone needs to talk? Do your lips speak kindness? Can your hands write beautiful words? Do your eyes crease up when you laugh?
That's what I want to know about you. That's what I want you to take pride in. This shell you inhabit is a powerful vehicle through which you get to be who you want to be. Use it, treasure it, thank it.