‘Ready, willing and able’ is a saying that I have heard many times over the years and you probably have too. And I know that on occasions, I have used it as well. But as I am growing older, I am starting to realise that sometimes I am having to rewrite the ‘able’ bit, as there are days when my able-ness is not equal to my readiness and my willingness. And that can feel rather frustrating to say the least.
This state of bodily affairs has snuck up on me rather quietly and a little too quickly it feels. The ‘young woman’ who I still feel I am inside, is now having to come to understand, often the hard way, that she has to stop and listen to her ageing body if she wants her life to flow smoothly, without getting tired and without setting off discomfort or even pain in her body. A big lesson and one, that in the process of talking to others, I am coming to understand that many find challenging to learn.
I remember, when she was in her 70’s, my mother saying that she didn’t feel any different inside to how she felt when she was younger, it was just that the ‘packaging’ was getting a little saggy, changing shape in places and moving a little slower each year. Well, now I know what she meant, as inside this ageing 69-year-old body there is a very young and vital woman who continually convinces herself that she can still do everything she has always done. But a few times lately this has been proven not to be the case!
Yes, I am often ready, yes, I am nearly always willing, but lately my body has been whispering to me, loudly at times, that on certain occasions it’s no longer able to do what I want it to do. It silently suggests that I make the choice to do things differently, sometimes not at all, or to perhaps consider asking for help if ‘it’ really needs to be done.
Now this asking for help scenario is one many, including me, seem to have much reluctance to enact as it almost seems to signal that we are ‘weak’, a failure and it also goes against the deeply ingrained societal belief that we need to do it ourselves and that anything else is not acceptable. This is one belief I am slowly dismantling in my life and as I do the quality of my life is definitely improving.
I have realised that being stubborn and continuing to convince myself that I can still do anything I like and at the same pace I’ve always done it, when in truth, I can’t, really only ends badly – or sadly – in one way or another.
Can you recall the times when you’ve gone really hard physically at whatever you’re doing, with very little regard for the body that is supporting you and then get very cross when the next day you can’t move without pain or discomfort? You may even blame the body for being useless instead of taking responsibility, as the ‘pilot’, for its post event state of unhappiness. So, could it be that our mind, which is lauded as the seat of our intelligence, does in truth have very little regard for our body; it wants to do what it wants to do, and when it wants to do it, no matter what? The question then rises – is that really being intelligent?
But it is not just the ageing body that on occasions experiences a lack of ‘able-ness’; it can happen at any time in our lives. I can certainly remember those times when I was unwell or maybe had injured myself and all I wanted to do is get back to living my life as before, pushing myself to do so, and in the process punishing my healing body. Now that’s not a great way to live, totally out of harmony with the magnificent vehicle that the body is, but a way I am sure most of us have found ourselves living every now and then.
I had a conversation with a man in his late 40’s recently who is in exactly this position right now as a result of a heart attack. He is the process of healing and all he wants to do is get back to living life to the fullest as he has always done, and as quickly as possible, but his body is talking very loudly and it was great to hear that he is listening – well most of the time. He is allowing himself to sleep more, to do less and to accept that going back to work full time is not an option yet if he really wants his healing of his heart to be complete. He’s learning that listening to his body is the wisest thing he can choose to do at any moment. But to have a heart attack to learn this lesson, you’d have to agree, is a very full on stop moment!
As he has been staying with us recently, he and I have had the wonderful opportunity to have some very expanding conversations on this subject especially as I too have been going through a healing process over the last few weeks. We may be a couple of decades apart age-wise but our bodies are wanting exactly the same thing right now – the deepest care and respect. I had a giggle the other day when in response to me expressing my weariness, he replied with a twinkle in his mischievous eyes that I needed to go have a rest – something I had suggested to him only a few days before.
And then there’s the young man who had a knee operation and was advised not to return to work for four weeks. But did he listen to the sage advice of the surgeon? No, he allowed his mind, that was telling him he felt great and he could easily go back to work, to be the boss. So, the messages of his healing knee were totally overridden and he chose to return to work. The outcome? His knee was in immense pain for a very long time, much longer than it needed to be.
This is a very valuable – priceless in fact – example, that for every choice there is a consequence, and that consequence is our responsibility, and ours alone.
Over the last few years I have come to see a very clear picture forming, and maybe you have had a peek of this picture too, one that I feel is very important for us to consider with honesty, as we make our way through each stage of our lives. And that is, that the mind is actually not the intelligent one, but the self-centred one, and it is the body which is the seat of our true intelligence. I am starting to see more clearly each day, that if I listen to my body, it will tell me very clearly if it’s able to do something and from acknowledging its wisdom my life actually flows a lot more smoothly and, in many instances,, pain and discomfort free. But if I listen to my mind I get constantly lead astray with all sorts of uncomfortable outcomes.
So, it beggars the question – which way of life are we naturally born to live? For me the answer is now so simple, it’s the one where I deeply care for my body and listen to its wise messages, even if they make me feel uncomfortable when they are presenting me with the truth.
Let’s consider for a moment how different and amazing life would be if we were raised from young to deeply care for our body, to cherish it and to listen to its messages. I can see so clearly that living in this self-loving way would become so very natural to us, so natural that we wouldn’t even need to think about how we will treat our body when we are ill, injured or elderly, as we are living in this caring way in every moment – without perfection of course. And as the years roll by and we have a moment when we feel ready and very willing to do something, we will accept without question that maybe this is the moment when ‘able’ is needing to have a well-earned rest.