Saturday, January 10, 2009

Whose Body Is It Anyway?

I have lost weight my whole life. I have also gained weight my whole life. Yes. I am a professional. As a Weight Watcher Leader for several years, I nailed down the calories, verses fiber, verses fat. I probably know way more than you want to know including why you’re eating while you read this even though your tummy is plenty full of supper. If Weight Watchers printed membership cards like Costco, mine would say “since 1976”. I am one of the Enlightened Ones (no pun intended) who have attained the status called “Lifetime”, which has, periodically, felt less like an achievement and more like a prison sentence; chained forever -- not to Weight Watchers -- but to my BODY. I used to start classes with: “I’m Mona and I have lost 150 pounds!” After the collective gasp I added, “Thirty pounds five times.” If “Lifetime” is a sentence, then it’s because I’m a repeat offender. Ah January: time again to back up, gird up my loins (that means ‘let out your belt’) and make a run for the summit again. Sigh. It’s so much work and discipline – who am I doing this for? Whose body is it anyway?

Many years ago, I was alone with my beloved mother-in-law for several hours, her last hours. I took the chair beside her hospital bed and held her hand. The minutes passed to the hum and rhythm of the respirator and heart monitor. I analyzed her left hand in a way that you would never do with a person were they aware. I tried to memorize every wrinkle, every fingernail, every blood vessel. I couldn’t help wondering about all the things those hands had held, all the people they had touched, all the work they had done in mortality. Most of all, I thought on how those fingers, now a little aged, had caressed my husband, as an infant, as a little boy, as a man, and how they had been nearly the first to wrap around my babies the moment they entered their second estate. In those timeless hours, feeling her history through her hand, I developed a spiritual comprehension about the wonder and glory of our mortal tabernacle.

It was a sacred experience two days later to dress her body. My sisters and I were filled with reverence, as if in a holy act. Though her spirit animated that physical tabernacle, we knew it was the body which actually did all the important things: rocking a baby, wiping a tear, stroking a forehead, tying a shoe, feeding a family, kissing a cheek, supporting an elbow, packing a bag, waving good-bye. Mother was known as the consummate “lady” – always pretty, fit, well-groomed, strong, and ready to serve, so we painted her nails, styled her hair and brushed pink on her very still cheeks. We did it because we revered her soul: the spirit we loved AND the body who loved us. (D&C 88:15)

From the personal revelation that poured out on me after that experience, I learned that I had put too much emphasis on “mastering” my body, instead of figuring out how to work in harmony with it. I found “harmony” comes from becoming aware of, and then frequently reminding myself, of the authentic reasons for having a body: primarily to build the Kingdom of God on earth by freely sharing what my body can do for family and others. (Think of it! Stretch marks, grandma jelly-bellies, dishpan hands, and dark circles under the eyes have a glorious aspect!) In this paradigm, caring for and respecting the body is not only an advantage in this life, but will be “so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:19-20). Who, I reasoned, will have the greatest satisfaction on resurrection morning – she who revered, honored, and shared that part of her soul called “body”, or she who misused, ill-fed, hoarded, complained about, or degraded it? My beautiful mother-in-law will certainly be resplendent when celestial-ized, having glorified God in spirit and body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I was thinking about all these heady things in the dead of night, when, and at the chilly crack of dawn, I found myself shivering, even under the electric blanket. My honey, who self-generates heat like a grizzly in hibernation, was two feet away. I closed the gap. He moaned, just conscious enough of the freeloader on his back to protest. I suddenly felt defiant: “Whose body is it anyway?” I whispered, “If I give you my body, you have to give me yours!” I knew it was unfair to hurdle this school-yard sort of logic at him in his state of mushy-brain, but he must have got the point, because he actually rolled over, put his arm around me, and drew me in tight before promptly falling back to sleep. At that blissful moment, sharing my body was alright with me.


The Zs said...

Never do ANYTHING to discourage cuddeling!


The Cuddelers

Rebecca said...

I received a wonderful blessing from my husband once after learning I was pregnant for the first time. I was terrified what becoming a mother would "do to my body!" Can you believe the logic in that? Well, in the blessing Heavenly Father told me that he considers "the worn-out body of a mother even MORE beautiful." I was at peace again.

Sue said...

I took dinner over to our neighbor last night, since she just had a tummy tuck and her underarms done. She's in lots of pain. I talked to her for a little bit about it all, and I'm just grateful I don't have to worry about all that (not because I don't need it, but because it doesn't matter that much to me.)

Hannah Banana said...

Since reading your post I have already tried to be more loving and use touch to express my love, if that makes sense. It also goes along with President Monson's fireside about being devoted to our education, that we received our expectations, a long time ago in the pre-existence, and to devote our time here on earth, our bodies, to that cause.

ALB said...

I've been thinking about bodies the last few weeks as I've been struggling to overcome some things. It's interesting to me that we need a body to become as Heavenly Father. Without a body, we'd be limited in our progression, at least that's how I understand things. We've been given this great gift of a body to work with, take care of and enjoy. As I've grown the last year, I discovered a love for my body that I never knew. I learned that the imperfections don't matter as much as that everything works and is cared for.

Carrie said...

My goal this year is to run a half marathon by December. For a non-runner, that is a lot to shoot for. But I have always dreamed of overcoming my physical limitations by completing an Ironman Triathlon before I'm 40, so I better get crackin'! The dream to complete a triathlon did not stem from the desire to brag or win or anything like that. It came from years of being afraid of my body, of wanting to overcome the mortal pains and chains that hold me down. Then finally realizing that it really is a magnificent tool I have been blessed with, and I need to push out of my comfort zones- push it farther than I think I can. When I do that, I feel invigorated and wonderful. How ungrateful I would be to just sit around and let this precious body go to waste.

pcNut said...

Dear Aunt Mona,

I've always loved exercising. When it comes to food, I have mixed feelings.

I know what a healthy meal should look like and even how to prepare it. I've been taught the significance of taking care of my temple. However, what do you do when just about anything will do? To this day, I still find myself pleased with pbj sandwiches and pretzels. I would go so far as to say I would even eat dirt if it would sustain life--and some say I do given what's in my cupburds. Alas, it does not, which is too bad because I'm easily pleased. Okay, maybe that's just a cover up for how lazy I am. But really, sometimes I couldn't be bothered with it. Considering all the effort it takes to cook, coupled with the reaction my disenchanted children give at meal times, I'm proned to think, "Why try?"

That's why this post was so interesting to me. I read one sentence from the Ensign a few weeks ago that reminded me the importance of taking care of this body. I may not like cooking when I already feel so strongly about cleaning (I think I suffer from a little bit of O.C.D in that department) or trying to juggle a moment to exercise with two needy babies. But, in the end, I will have to report, or perhaps this body will report for itself, and I can not stand to think of disappointing Him. I want it to show that I tried, I fought to the end to please, honor and obey Him. I want to become like Him.

So let’s get to work.

Sister Hinckley said it better than me :

"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden.
I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."
— Marjorie Pay Hinckley

Let this body be used for good, that it may carry forth all that is required to build the kingdom.

And in honor of you and Sister Hinckley,

"We are all in this together. We need each other. Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young, and hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old...We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other. These friendships are a necessary source of sustenance. We need to renew our faith every day. We need to lock arms and help build the kingdom so that it will roll forth and fill the whole earth."
— Marjorie Pay Hinckley

I love you. Thank you.


Sam and Suz said...

Ah, Mona, you always have had a way with words. I have always struggled with the body "thing"....after being a mother I do see what a blessing our bodies are meant to be. The Mind/Body connection is very much ignored and we miss out on sooo much joy because of it. I have yet to master it or even live in a way that makes me feel "connected," but I do know that our bodies are self-healing, if we but let them be.

I miss you!!! Thank you for sharing your "soul" with us. I look forward to so much more :)

On Tour With Steph's Posse said...

Beautifully stated. The times when I am happiest are the times when I feel I look my best. That's a dumb thing because it's usually when I am too busy to look in the mirror too. So in the blissfully content evening, after my children are in bed, I find myself looking in the mirror just to realize I have mascara half circles under my eyes, flat hair from the rain, and boogers all over my left shoulder.
Ah, the joy of the useful body is truly divine!

Holly Noelle said...

This post was timely for me, as I'm making the postpartum adjustments from my first baby. It's hard not to hate some of the less aesthetic changes to my body, but I try to remember what that "price" bought me, a wonderful baby daughter. She can have my body.

Mommy Bee said...

I had put too much emphasis on “mastering” my body, instead of figuring out how to work in harmony with it. I found “harmony” comes from becoming aware of, and then frequently reminding myself, of the authentic reasons for having a body: primarily to build the Kingdom of God on earth by freely sharing what my body can do for family and others.

This is awesome. So well put! I get annoyed with the people who say "after 6/9/12 months I just had to stop breastfeeding, i needed my body back" and i think, geeze, what do you think breasts were made for?

Incidentally, my hubby also produces heat like a grizzly in hibernation. What a GREAT way to describe it. Sometimes I joke with him that I married him to be my space heater. ☺

megandjon said...

what a lovely post. and january is the official time of the year to feel guilty about overindulging and feel driven to get ourselves back in line and in shape. but we women are too hard ourselves, it's true! we all need to be reminded of what our bodies are for. thanks for reminding me!

and my husband is also a great source of heat on a cold winter's night, and my baby boy is showing every sign of being just like him!

Mallory said...

Thank you for introducing me to your blog. This is a great post. I have said to many of my friends that my new year's resolution is to either lose 30 lbs, or to get pregnant and gain 30 lbs. I would much rather the latter. The body of a mother may not seem perfect, but it is worth it. I look forward to reading your blog!

Anonymous said...


Thank you for inviting me to read your lovely blog. You have such a gift for expressing your feelings and sharing with others.

Thank you for reminding us how blessed we are to have our bodies. Truly temples, yet how many of us have struggled with understanding this nugget of truth?

This has truly been a struggle of mine. Born with a rare bone disease, I have often wished for the Master's healing touch. Forrest Gump leg braces and several surgeries later, I thought that I had overcome this physical challenge. I thought for sure that I had passed "my greatest life challenge." I was young.

In college, my battle with food allergies began, and as I felt I was on the brink of learning how to survive, I met the man of my dreams and our family began.

Like many mommas out there, pregnancy is very difficult for me. Mostly due to the two problems already listed. I have a large heart of sympathy and empathy for the beautiful mommas that have had difficult times during and after pregnancy. And yes, sometimes I do wonder who's body this is...:)

As for the food allergies...It took years, several priesthood blessings from my dad, but one day it happened: I was at a church singles dinner and looked at the food and knew instantly what I could and couldn’t eat. It was incredible! I still rely on the spirit when I don’t know what the ingredients are, but I’m learning so much easier as a whole these days.

The "harmony" you talk about has brought me so much comfort and freedom. Yes, freedom. Where I used to try and master my body before, I have learned that by listening to my body (and the spirit of course), I am told what is good for this body and for the bodies of my family members who I love so much. This knowlege is truly freedom. Freedom from fear, freedom from sickness and pain.

I'm still learning every day, but it is getting easier. And I am much happier in this body of mine.

To your cute niece Sarah: Thanks for the great Marjorie quotes about "doing." Instead of allowing the guilty feelings to overcome, we can learn something each month that will make us feel better about what we're doing with these bodies and how we're feeding our beautiful family.

Thanks again for sharing Mona, I loved pondering your sweet post.


Women Afire said...

I really enjoyed the perspective in this post. I like the idea that having your body "fit" or being in "good shape" doesn't necessarily mean that you lift weights, eat right, and so forth - but that you're doing good things with it to help and serve those around you.

Truthfully, if we're busy serving - it's a lot harder to be lazy, eat bad foods, and not sleep as you should (you're too tired from serving.) So, physically - it can translate to good health (if you want to look at it that way.)

I like imagining us - ready for the resurrection - and thinking about what we did (service) with our bodies - and having that determine the glory of our perfect resurrected forms. Hmmmmm - something I'll tuck in my bonnet.

Thank you!

Mona said...

Your comments confirm what I've always known: I have got the most thoughtful, deep-thinking sister friends. Thank you for teaching me more and more through your insightful commentary to Mona's Musings. I love you!


littleredhen said...

Once while I was doing initiatory in the temple, I, who has struggled over my weight since I was 21, felt a very distinct impression that the women for whom I was doing this work that day thought I was absolutely beautiful just the way I am, as I was doing with my body, for them, what they could never do for themselves, and it gave me serious pause and I felt such humble gratitude for this body of mine that I have alternately felt shame and loathing about for so long. Much love,

Sher said...

Thanks for visiting! That's an interesting take.
Thinking about my body, as something of a loaner, is deep. Maybe too deep for me.
Now that I've entered my 30's, I'm experiencing the art of weight loss for the first time in my life. I never really had to think about it before.
Since you're a pro at it, you'll have to show me the ropes.

Jen Schumann said...

That was a great post, Mona. As we have been given these bodies to take care of, serve with and respect, I really feel like eating right is a huge factor. Just like we don't abuse our bodies with drugs and alcohol, we need to not abuse food also. I know I feel better in all ways inside and outside of my body when I eat healthy, exercise and really take care of myself. When you have a healthy body, you can fully utilize your maximum energy potential to do all the good things in life.

The Seven Family said...

I am a good friend of Sue Simper's. She mentioned your wriitng on her blog and since I trust her judgement entirely, I read. WOW - what a great insight. Now I know why Sue thinks so highly of you. I am sure you two have had many long, late, deep discussions.
It seems so obvious when you take the time to think about it that we get caught up in image so easily that we lose track of why we really have our bodies and what they are given to us to do.
Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

Kimberlee said...

I think you hit the nail right on the head with your thoughts on our bodies. So much emphasis is put on us (especially women) to use our bodies to look like that perfect model or obtain some unattainable goal that has to do with temporal ideals. I've always felt like our bodies are a gift from God, so they are ours but they came from God. You pose a very good question, because does that mean that they are God's since they came from Him? I think so. Everything we have is from God since he created everything so I think our bodies are his also and it is our responsibility to take care of them and use them for good. Taking care of our bodies does include being fit and healthy so that we can have the strength and ability to do God's work, I think it's when that is taken to the extreme and we want that perfect body that we lose focus of our purpose and the purpose of our bodies.
I loved it when you were talking about your mother-in-law and how you were studying her hands and thinking of all that she did with those hands. How the stretch marks and other wear and tear that our bodies receive are just symbols of the great things that we have done. It is a good r eminder to read those things and refocus on our purpose in such a beauty driven world.

Terresa said...

Have you written a book? Because I'll be the first in line to buy it.

Your words are poetry, ones that, I feel, I'll be reading time and time again.

Thank you for sharing.