*Picture by Adrienne Sharma
There are very few moments when everything comes together for me. By that I mean my life, my faith, my education, and my experiences intersecting at one moment or a short span of time. Recently though everything has come together to tell me to stop being such a Gnostic. Over the last few months this has not only been expressed to be by several teachers in very different disciplines, but also in what I have read and been experiencing. As a dancer, or an athlete in general, you put your body through physical torment, stretching and driving it to do things I don’t think it was physically meant to do. I have really noticed this with dancing the last four years on a collegiate dance team. We only practice about six hours a week, which for most dancers who are trying perfecting their craft, is not a lot, but for me is about the most by body can physically handle. In the last four years I have pulled both hamstrings up into the hip socket, badly sprained both ankles, heavily bruised my knees, hip bones, and shoulders, and badly sprained a hip muscle I didn’t even know existed. The orthopedic doctors in the area know me by name and when I go in for physically therapy the sweet receptionists are always double checking which injury I am visiting for this time.
Through all of this I have harassed my body for not performing to the extent that I desire it to. I am constantly complaining about how my hip is tight here and won’t let me do this move in dance or how pathetic my flexibility is and how it won’t allow me to get my leg as high as I desire. I force my body in dance to do things it shouldn’t do and then I berate it for having a reaction. Last month I was so physically exhausted and sore that I asked to leave an art class early. My teacher then lovingly asked and prompted me to go back to my house and take a nap and I assured her I was. She then went on to encourage me to thank by body for all it does for me. When you are feeling tired and extremely sore, the last thing you think of doing is thanking your body, but what she had to say really made sense. She went on to explain that our bodies are apart of us and that when we work them very hard they need appreciation. I didn’t realize how Gnostic I had been in thinking that my body didn’t matter and that I didn’t need to thank it for the amazing things it does every day, especially in dance, and especially with positions and stretches that it just shouldn’t physically be able to do.
However, a month or so has passed since that interaction with my professor and I once again I am sore and disillusioned by the performance, or lack there of, by my body. Just last week I was complaining about how sore I was and how my body was so stupid for not just simply putting up with what I put it through. Once again God decided to make a point. I was assigned to read “Meditations from a Movable Chair” by Andre Dubus over Thanksgiving Break by my professor for Modernism and Beyond. The second one and half page chapter of the book is called “Legs” and focuses on a friend of Dubus who complains about her thick thighs even though they help her run miles every day. It struck me that I, like the young woman, was not thankful for my legs but instead only focused on what they aren’t capable of doing.
So here I am thanking my body, especially my legs, for both their strength and limitations. I am thankful for hips and their range of movement no matter how small, for the ability to simply sit down or walk up stairs without pain. I am thankful for my thick athletic thighs, which have the strength to allow me to do all sorts of activities I take for granted, like simply lifting my leg off the ground. I am very thankful for my bony knees, their limitations, and their grace when they hit the ground. I am thankful for my shins and their ability to take the pounding of running so I can play soccer and run through fields and parking lots. I am thankful for my ankles and their strength, their delicate yet intricate nature, and their help in pointing my feet and gracefully prancing around the stage. I am thankful for my feet that balance me and ground me to the floor always making me aware. And I am thankful even for my toes that work to help me balance as I releve and spin. I AM THANKFUL AND I AM BLESSED EVEN IN MY LIMITATIONS.