Listen, Don't Tell

Do you trust yourself?

When I first started physiotherapy, I certainly didn't trust my body. And why should I? It had turned on me, corrupting my life with pain and making me realize that things I had always taken for granted weren't a sure thing anymore – for example, being able to use my hands. (For a more complete tale of what happened to me, read The Whole Story.)

When I finally found a physio to help me get my life back I plunged head long into doing everything she said to fix it. And sometimes we talked of the day when I would be better. How often would I have to do my exercises, I asked? Would I have to do physio exercises every day for the rest of my life?

Her answers were murky to me. We would see, she said. Maybe I would need to do them once a week, or once a month. It would be a matter of how I used my body on a day-to-day basis and what else was going on in my life.

I didn't get it. At all. I wanted prescriptive answers. I wanted to be told I would need to do X static abs X times per week.

But I'm finally getting it. Even when I do my exercises now I don't necessarily do the 10 repetitions she prescribed to me at the beginning. These days I can feel when my back is flat enough on the floor and when my shoulders are loose enough. These days I listen to my body – I have finally stopped telling it what to do.

Generally, I think we have stopped listening to our bodies as much. We are like deer in the headlights when it comes to all the 'health' advice we're getting from T.V., magazines, and newspapers. Our lives are so fast paced and we're so stressed out that we need others to tell us how to take care of ourselves.

It's bull puckey (I once had a camp counsellor who used that phrase – I haven't used it in about 20 years).

Yesterday my body was a mess. I felt completely pre-menstrual (even though I wasn't, which was slightly worrying). I was stressed about a million little things that all added up to make me feel terrible. So I slowed down and listened. I wasn't very hungry, so I ate very little. I drank a lot of water. Even though I went to yoga on Sunday I still felt like I needed to move some more – so in addition to my tap class last night, I skipped the bus and walked up the hill home. Even though it was freezing!

I'm feeling much better today. I don't know what was going on yesterday, but it's not important. Listening to ourselves extends far beyond the physical, including some harmless bloating. It's not just about what we want to eat or whether it's a day to put our feet up on the couch or go for a walk. It's about what we want to do with our time, our days and our lives. This past weekend I really didn't want to do any writing. So I just stayed away. I know that's a luxury – many of us get a pay check to do things for a certain set amount each day and each week – but there are so many other choices we make. So until I'm in a situation where I don't have any choices, I will try to take advantage of the ones I do.

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