This morning I was doing my yoga and got to my first forward bend. Down I went, one vertebra at a time, my fifty-four year old knees slightly bent until I was hanging there staring at my toes.
Suddenly in a moment of complete BE-ing and awareness, I saw them. The dried out, in desperate need of a pedicure, not looking so young anymore, been hiding under socks all winter long feet of a middle-aged woman staring back up at me.
I gasped. Right there in my forward bend. “Whose old lady feet are those?” I thought ungraciously.
And of course, that snarky voice that lives in my head was quick to reply, “Yours, you moron, whose feet did you think would be stuck to the end of your ankles?”
“Well of course I know they’re my feet,” I said back to the not very kind voice living in my head. I just hadn’t noticed that they had gotten so…old.
The trouble with living a wide-awake life and BE-ing aware all the time is being aware of the yucky parts too. And the trouble with that is coming to terms with how to love the yuck.
The yucky parts need love too.
In fact, the yucky parts need love more than any other parts. After all, the good parts got it going on. They don’t need the daily booster shot of love as much as the yuck does.
So, while I was down there, the blood rushing to my head and my cheeks getting a healthy glow, I thanked my feet. I thanked them for all the walking they do, all the ways they help hold me up when the going gets rough, help me keep my balance and remember my boundaries, the separation between me and the earth below, and at the same time helps me to connect with the earth when I want to.
I thought about a few years ago when I hurt my foot in a terrible accident and the year long recovery I endured because of a one split-second moment of my foot coming into harm’s way. Without my foot being healthy, my entire life’s path had been compromised. How very much I had learned to be grateful for a healthy foot.
I promised my feet I would give it some tender loving self-care. Some lotion. That I would drink more water to make up for this zero-degree weather and double socks and boots they are being stuffed into.
And maybe even a pedicure.
I can’t do much about the fact that these feet are starting to look as if they have been walking on the planet for fifty-four years, but I can do something about my attitude about it. Rather than mourn the loss of my youthful looking feet, I can be grateful for the years these feet have held me up and have been my friend. I can thank them for carrying me through a marathon, helping me pace the floor through sleepless nights of four children and helping with grandchildren. For jumping up to cheer and celebrate through the good times, and stomping my feet during the bad times.
Of course, this isn’t a story just about feet. I have a face that I look at in the mirror and wonder who painted on an extra chin, hair that slipped in a few grays when I wasn’t looking and arms that wave back when somebody waves to me. It’s a body starting to show the signs of a life well lived.
Should I mourn the loss of youth? Or celebrate the signs of life well lived?
I choose well lived.
When I turned thirty, a friend gave me a birthday card that had a poem by Henry Van Dyke on it. I loved it so much that I cut out of the card and framed it. For the last twenty-four years, it has sat on my desk, reminding me that loving our bodies, yucky parts, aging parts, sagging parts and all, is always a choice.
Here is the poem. Maybe it will help remind you too. Enjoy.
Let me but live my life from year to year,
With forward face and unreluctant soul;
Not hurrying to, nor turning from the goal;
Not mourning for the things that disappear
In the dim past, nor holding back in fear
From what the future veils; but with a whole
And happy heart, that pays its toll
To Youth and Age, and travels on with cheer.
So let the way wind up the hill or down,
O’er rough or smooth, the journey will be joy:
Still seeking what I sought when but a boy,
New friendship, high adventure, and a crown,
My heart will keep the courage of the quest,
And hope the road’s last turn will be the best.
~ Henry Van Dyke