When St. Paul advised us to pray without ceasing, I suspect he did not have in mind a lady examining her breasts in the shower for any odd lumps which might portend disaster. I think not. But this morning as I let the blessedly hot water sluice over my body I thought, "I know they say it doesn't make any difference examing your breasts, but let's just do it anyway. Let's be countercultural about our breasts!" (I'm beginning to sound like Dick Nixon, referring to myself in the third person, probably a sign of immanent breakdown.)
So there I was, fingers tentatively circling, hoping I wouldn't find anything bad, when suddenly my mind switched from worried, vigilant mode to gratitude mode. I thought, "Hey, these breasts have nursed two babies! I've had these nice, comfy mounds of flesh for 53 years." (We won't count stuffing Kleenex into a bra when I was in 7th-grade.) This flesh has been health-giving, nourishing, and also fun.
I am deeply grateful to be here at 66 years. I know a lot of people who have not made it this far, or who have made it with bits of themselves excised out or cut away to preserve their health. My mother never made it to this age. I am grateful to not be in pain. I am grateful to be able to stride up our country road with our dog, Nita, tugging at the leash. I am grateful to have eyes that see, and hands that can cook delicious food for my honies.
Four years ago I had a total hip replacement on my right side, as my cartilage had been eaten away leaving me with the painful crunching of bone on bone for several years. The night before surgery I had to "wash" my entire body with anti-bacterial wipes in preparation for the next day. As I stood in our bedroom scrubbing away, I was again surprisingly flooded with intense gratitude. I looked at my body and thought, "You have carried me through life for 62 years--these legs, these arms, this corpus. I am so grateful to you."
It was a bit of a snively moment, actually. Like many women, I have spent significant amounts of time not particularly loving my body, criticizing each new bulge, working on toning, and just not quite accepting myself as worthy, as fundamentally okay. But here God was, working through me, reminding me of the wonder of my body. Yes, it has a sell-by date. Yes, I know I won't be here forever, and that's all right. It truly is. The blood still surges through my veins, my heart still pumps reassuringly, my lungs suck in and out, my feet walk, and the brain mostly still works, although we won't talk much about memory. Why do I remember paying $13.95 for my first two-piece Rose Marie Reid bathing suit when I was 14? How is that useful?
The lesson I took away from these experiences is that I need to remember gratitude. To praise God for my breasts. To thank God for my feet, even the Vulcan salute due to two broken toes. To praise our creator for this astonishing corpus which still delights in life, for "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."