22 Jun Liking Kale is Irrelevant
Aging isn’t easy, but I have too much life left to not fully take care of my body.
I grew up without a body. Well, I had one, but I barely noticed because, in my world, bodies were for one thing and one thing only—carrying your head around. My parents didn’t have bodies either.
They had brains—big, overbearing brains. When they weren’t smoking cigarettes and sip-
ping cocktails, they were reading, thinking, watching PBS, and mainlining the New York Times like it was crack. They lived their lives from the neck up. My parents didn’t do sports.
I never once saw either of them run or throw a ball or, come to think of it, ever break a sweat. Hell, we never even watched other people sweat. Hoisting the Thanksgiving turkey into the oven and dragging the Christmas tree into the living room were as physical as any of us ever got.
For decades, I followed their example and ignored my body—even when it was screaming. And scream it did. As a kid, I was skinny as a stick, too terrified by my parents’ drinking and marital strife to eat. I sucked my thumb for comfort until my teeth were a horrid, twisted mess for all the world to see and laugh at. In my teens and 20s, I did drugs and drank. In my 30s and 40s, I worked my stomach and spine into a knot of trouble that I tamed with over-the-counter meds and denial. My body was howling, and I wasn’t willing to hear it.
All that changed when I fell in love with someone who danced samba, played Brazilian drums, ate heaping bowls of broccoli, and knew what supplement to take when joints got achy. She had a body and showered it with love and attention. My initial admiration of her quickly turned to annoyance. I didn’t want to stop eating salami or start taking yoga. I hated exercising. But over the years her example—and my life—wore me down. After two cancer scares and two trips under a surgeon’s scalpel, I changed. I’d been granted a cancer-free life. Maybe it was time to respect my body.
Today, I’m 61 and, finally, listening. Today, I tend to my body’s whispers before they become screams. I eat organic, whole foods. I see a doc- tor before things implode. I ask for help when I need it. It took my body faltering under benign neglect for me to start paying attention. Aging isn’t easy, but I understand that I have too much life left to live not to fully inhabit and care for my body. I need a strong body to be my bold self. I need arms to hug. Legs to climb. Hips to swing. I need to dwell in my body so I can hear its intuitive notes.
Aging isn’t easy, but I have too much life left to not fully take care of my body. Self-care doesn’t come naturally for any of us. Tending to ourselves requires a conscious choice. But with effort comes rewards. I will always prefer potato chips and binging Netflix to kale salad and Pilates, but now I understand that liking healthy food and enjoying exercise are irrelevant. What’s important is that I care for the vessel I call home so I can keep living the life I want.
I was raised to believe that the mind is the throne from which to rule. But now I understand that to privilege the mind over the body is to diminish them both. I know that body and mind are not separate but one, unified whole. As I enter the last decades of my life, I choose to revel in all of me—mind and body. DW
By Cathy Krizik
Cathy Krizik is art director for Diversity Woman Media and author of 52 Reasons for Hope: Finding Inspiration in Times of Trouble.