Friday, April 22, 2011

Reconciliation and my body

This week I started using a key turner to help me open the front door. Like most tools I use, I'm experimenting. I will know in a few weeks if it makes things easier.
I am constantly reconciling with and to changes in my body. has this to say about reconcile:
  1. to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired: He was reconciled to his fate.
  2. to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable: to reconcile hostile persons.
  3. to compose or settle (a quarrel, dispute, etc.).
  4. to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent: to reconcile differing statements; to reconcile accounts.
  5. to reconsecrate (a desecrated church, cemetery, etc.).
  6. to restore (an excommunicate or penitent) to communion in a church.
Those are all aspects of what I do with my body over and over again as I live with chronic illness.


After my diagnosis, it was easy to understand the disease as the enemy and my body as my ally in the fight. As my body became more and more affected by the disease, the distinction blurred. I often find myself becoming angry at my body. It won't do what I ask it to do. It doesn't recover the way I expect it to recover. It gets in the way of what I want.

My mistake is obvious: making the body Other. I need to remember that "we" are one organism. Even the disease is "us." It is so easy for me to slip into a me versus the world mentality, but that is my imagination trying to make sense of an unlimited universe.

My favorite meaning of reconciliation is "to bring into harmony." That is also a meaning of healing.


When my body changes, when it stops working the way it used to and does something differently, it's easy for me to see it as wrong and broken. One of our culture's models for our bodies is to consider them machines.  That's been a very useful model; we have learned to make repairs. It's not so useful when I expect my body to work the way yours does and consider the majority of bodies normal and correct and mine, because it is abnormal, of less value.

Value judgments get in the way of experiencing what is.


My goal is wholeness and my practice with my body is to overcome perceptions of separation and brokenness.

Things to believe:
  • body, mind and spirit are convenient labels but aren't The Truth
  • wanting, anger and disappointment are natural and should be expected, but not encouraged
  • wholeness is already present
Things to do:
  • pay attention to and experience what is (breathe, move, feel, think, connect)
  • build strength (exercise, build relationships, learn)
  • accommodate needs (rest, use assistive devices, expert advice)
To and With

 I resist the idea of "reconciling to my fate." It sounds like giving up. It speaks of resignation. At the same time, I do need to accept the reality of the situation. A physical therapist once told me, "it's not that you're not trying; the nerve signals just aren't there."  I need to reconcile myself to the idea that no amount of exercise will enable me to walk again. 
Reconciling with is a happier task. Friendliness, composure, agreement, restoration, consecration...Those are all lovely words to wrap around my experience.
Reconciling myself to and with my body (pardon the verbal convenience of the separation) is a necessary part of being a living sentient organism. Living with chronic illness brings it forward, but it's there in the background for all of us. Reconciliation is part of relationship and good relationships lead to celebration.
There is a truly joyful task: celebrate all of who you are body-mind-spirit. Celebrate life!


Nicole said...

Wait. This is so honest and real. I've got alot of work to do. Sometimes I think I've accepted this new normal of mine, then I realize the acceptance I have may be merely a show. I welcome your idea of reconciliation and harmony. Great post.


Kate Wolfe-Jenson said...

Thanks. I always have a lot of work to do…accept/resist...accept/resist...accept/resist. It goes deeper--but feels all new--each time.