No one, not any one, could have convinced me of what I am going to try to convince you. The little voice in my head, you know, the pessimistic one that says why try? as if letting me off a hook I don’t really care to be on, but this is something I do want to share. I think.
It starts with an upcoming root canal. Oh, good start, you say? Well, bear with me. It starts with the fact that I recently visited my childhood dentist, because I recently moved back to my hometown, and the kind, older, slightly smaller than I remember man did not mention that I have “beautiful teeth.” He used to say that every year. Though I had already concluded that he likely said as much to every patient who could believe it, the absent remark struck me. Not like a hammer or anything—I have bigger concerns than what someone did not say about my teeth—but it did strike this one note in my psyche. That note then became the beginning of a new somber song, akin in theme to Donne’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.
It tolls for me and my rotting teeth.
This visit was long overdue and there are good reasons why—really good ones. I was in a new city in which I did not know any dentists. I was working a lot and newly married and in grad school. Oh, and pregnant for the first time. Maybe not all at once, but in close succession and at times overlapping, my excuses were valid.
I can feel my husband starting to lose interest so I will get to my point. I am only 25 years old and some of the teeth that God gave me to use throughout my lifetime are dead. Little pieces of me are dead or dying. I am not sure that one could justifiably compare a root canal with giving birth or its after effects, but they are connected in my head. I am not going to tell you about the labor part; no doubt you have already seen some sort of reenactment of that and your imaginations are seared on that account. I will tell you something much less publicized. Pregnancy takes a hefty toll on the mother’s body afterwards, even if she is only 24, as I was. My knees, feet, neck now all seem as if they belong to someone a lot older than I am.
Not that I would trade Judah, who weighed 9 lbs 11 oz, for my prior-baby body. But I used to think that if I could have them both, I certainly would. Now, I am not so sure.
My son is extravagantly beautiful in his round, pink 6-month-old newness. He is all warmth and curls and fat rolls where there are no joints, which is absolutely the best things about babies. My own body, in contrast, is less youthful, less new, now that I have had him. This has certainly been a loss, but it has also been a gift. I now feel that I am not invincible after all. I am a woman of medium-large frame and 67 or so inches. I am used to feeling, well, forceful. Not “Amazonian,” but no shrinking violet either. I took my health and my strength for granted because they had never been challenged.
The aching knees and the rotten tooth have done wonders for the rest of me. I know now that life is precious and a gift. I will not be healthy forever, but when I do fall apart, I do not want it to be early or my fault. I have my son to think of and my God to thank.
I used to read over the word gluttony in the Bible as if it was a typo. I guess that was before everyone in the world started calling Americans “fat.” The subsequent diet-crazes just prove how much we care about our reputation and how others perceive us. I have tried to exercise with that in mind. I have turned the channel to VH1 while I worked out, hoping that Jennifer Lopez’s very image would serve as instigation for my own revolution. That worked for about a week. Long-term change needs positive motivation. I am thinking about a totally different paradigm here—starting with gratitude for this life and respect for the body that engages it. And my fat cherub in his crib, well, he is just motivation exponentialized.
Consider acknowledging that your body is a gift and a temple before it falls apart. Think about that when you eat junk or skip sleep or whatever else you do that you could change. Floss, because even that affects your heart! Take care of yourself anyway you can. Not so that your arms can look like Jennifer Aniston’s. Don’t even get me started on Extreme Makeover. But to show gratitude and respect for your gift, for those to whom your life is a gift, and to Him who gave you your life.[Erica Ramirez has been thinking about sending this article in for four months now. Someone needs to address the procrastination issue again, and she will read it. Eventually. She misses Wheaton College, but not the weather there.]
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