“You’re good to me, abs.” I pant around the corner of the lane, 4 miles from home. The sun doesn’t seem to move across the sky at all, and I run in and out of the shadows of the trees lining the sidewalk. They’re gnarled and old, full of stories, branches climbed by eager children. They’ve shed thousands of leaves in the few seasons I have been alive, and there is a steadiness to them I wish I had. Perhaps they have their own small jealousies, seedlings wishing they could become trees faster, a maple that wants nothing more than to be a cherry tree or a redwood. Perhaps oak trees are jealous of the cool white birches, and some days all trees want to burst into the fiery flames of tiger lilies. But in the midst of the quiet afternoon, I somehow doubt that these steady limbs and leaves long to be something else.
But I do. In miles one and two I told my body it should be smaller, easier to carry around, more like a gazelle than a zebra. When I hit mile three, I got quiet for a little bit, but the voice in my head said that all of it would be easier if I just ate less and ran more, that I could solve all the disappointment on this earth if I wasn’t a disappointment (that they wouldn’t leave if I was something else). And the good girl in me, the one who believes in grace for the rest but not for her, felt the sun on her sweaty neck and said, “if you were more beautiful, Hilary, you’d know more, love more, be more graceful, less impatient… if only you were all those things. You’d even run faster.”
In these moments I usually resign myself, agree with the voice. After all, she talks so matter-of-factly, so practically. She tells me that I could just stretch my arms a bit father and I would be there, I would make it, I could become all those many things I wish I was. She gives me what I hear as good advice.
But on this Sabbath day, I hear my voice creep out of my mouth, right out into the street where those long limbs cast their shadows, where I can hear pool filters running and the squeals of children chasing the late afternoon. “I love you, feet.” A strange silence as I hear my words caught by the wind and then gone again. I exhale, push my way up the hill. “I love you, knees and hamstring muscles. I love you, abs. I love you, arms. I love you, I love you, I love you.”
My voice grows louder, my footsteps clanging on the pavement. This is not the day where I tell my body one more time that it should be better than it is. This is not the day where I ask it to run faster or farther, to go without, to have brighter skin and bluer eyes and curlier hair. This is not the day when I accept that cool, matter-of-fact voice in my head that whispers to push just a little bit more and things would heal.
“I love you, abs.” Now I’m laughing at how ridiculous I must look, all sweat and hair falling out from its bobby-pinned obedience, limbs waving in the breeze and lungs gulping air. “I love you, body.”
On this day I won’t ask it to be anything else. I won’t demand the stride of the gazelle. I won’t say, “be smaller, be taller, be more beautiful.”
“I love you.”
I will feed it those rare, sweet words of satisfaction, and hold it out before the world: one among the many miracles that sing His praise.