By all accounts, including Darwin’s, you probably should not be alive. Never in the 4.5 billion year history of our planet has any species been so incredibly self-destructive, obtuse, and downright moronic. For example, I have never seen a giraffe smoke.
Despite plagues, floods, locusts, and terms like “shelf-stable” and “Crisco,” our species has managed to prevail. And, arguably, thrive. If we aren’t thriving, we are at least still procreating most effectively.
This is made possible by a few complex, intricate, and potentially magic systems in the remarkably adaptable human body, many of them subsisting on just Netflix and mocha Frappucinos.
We fuel our bodies with processed foods, stimulants, sugars, and bizarre levels of those “Stress B Complex” supplements we take. We ask it to perform ten-hour workdays on five hours of sleep. We take antibiotics instead of naps when we are sick. (“Don’t worry body. You just keep working, and I’ll take care of the infection for you.”) We run marathons, ski 100 days, wake up early to get our laps in at the pool, ride centuries on the weekend, go to CrossFit, and feed off adrenaline for “fun” because, somehow, our fight or flight instinct is now a hobby. Survival mechanisms were never so trendy as they are today.
Then, exhausted from the challenge of keeping up with our expectations, we compare ourselves with others on social media, read the horrors of the news, and go to sleep for a few restless hours so we can wake up, chug coffee, and do it all over again. Every day, your body willingly participates. In fact, it works hard to impress you, like a neglected middle child, hopeful that if it just sets a new PR, you’ll give it a damn day off. Or maybe even some praise.
Worse than the chronic abuse is our chronic dissatisfaction. Even as my single-mom friend is telling me about completing her yoga training, kicking ass at some boxing class, and then getting promoted at her senior management position in the medical industry, she is complaining about the double chin in a photograph.
“What’s happened to me?” she asks as she stretches her neck out and pulls the skin back with a disappointed frown.
A young man in my clinic, strong and able, healthy and intelligent, tells me he wants to gain muscle. I ask what his body is not capable of that this extra muscle will facilitate. Is there a competition? A task that requires more strength? Eating to gain unnatural weight becomes an expensive chore. “I just feel like I should have more muscle,” he says.
Even while our bodies maintain the miracle of homeostasis, we’ve got nothing better to do than criticize the bejesus out of it. Our thighs are too big, our cellulite too prolific, our breasts too saggy, our chests too narrow, our bellies too round. And don’t get me started on faces and hair.
How about we take a minute to thank these fleshy vessels for what they give us? For the orgasms? The sense of taste? The places they take us in the mountains and trees? How about we send them messages of gratitude, pride, and amazement instead of telling them they are never, ever going to be thin, strong, fast, or resilient enough?
If you hear the voice in your head complaining about a made-up inadequacy of your body, imagine it was another person. What would you tell someone who said that to you? Like a drunk cousin at a wedding, you’d politely escort that toxic mofo out the side door. Do that.
Ammi Midstokke can put chains on any vehicle from any position in any weather. When it becomes an Olympic sport, she will compete internationally if it fits her nap schedule. Last month, she wrote about eating cake for dinner.