Thursday, December 6, 2012

My body is AMAZING (even when it hurts).

Welcome to the Body: AMAZING Carnival!

This post was written as a part of the Body: AMAZING Carnival co-hosted by Jennifer of True Confessions of a Real Mommy and Amy of Anktangle. Carnival participants were invited to write about how we learn to appreciate the ways our bodies grow and change. Our posts explain some incredible ways our bodies impress and amaze us.

Please read to the bottom to find a list of submissions from all of today's carnival participants.

I have chronic pain. I'm in pain most days, sometimes all day long. Lots of things make the pain worse, and a few things can make it better.

Spending the majority of my time in pain has given me plenty of opportunities to think about all the things I don't like about my body and all the things I wish I could change. (No pain? Yes, please!) I really value the places and people with whom I feel welcome and able to experience the grief I feel about this aspect of my life.

The other side of that coin, though, is that if I spend too much time focusing on the things I wish were different about the way my body works (or doesn't), I can get discouraged and lose perspective. When I focus on what I can do, however, it's easier for me to realize again that my body is pretty darn amazing.

One of the strategies I use to refocus my attention on what I can do is to think back to one of my favorite subjects to study in nursing school: physiology.

It can be easy to focus on outward signs of discomfort or malfunction when I forget what's going on inside me: there are so many systems at work, so many incredible processes working perfectly, constantly, beautifully inside me in any given second. And—even in my hurting body!—they go on largely without any conscious effort on my part.

When I think about what's going on inside me, I feel connected to my body on a whole different level from where I usually operate, and that gives me a new and deeper appreciation for how awesome my body truly is. 

It can feel almost meditative for me to think about everything that's happening underneath my skin.

Take a moment to think about breathing: When you breathe in, your intercostal (between-the-rib) muscles and your diaphragm all contract to increase the size of your chest cavity, and the resulting lower pressure in the lungs causes you to breathe in. The air travels through your nose where it is filtered, warmed, and moistened. It moves through your pharynx and trachea, then into the large branches (bronchi) of the lungs. The air continues to travel through the complex network of smaller and smaller tubes (secondary and tertiary bronchi) until it reaches the tiniest of all the tubes (bronchioles) which end in grape-like clusters of hundreds of millions of alveoli, where all the important gas-exchange begins.

Now past the relatively simple mechanical act of inhalation, respiration begins: Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged from your alveoli to your pulmonary capillaries through simple diffusion (due to a perfect balance of pressures and a lubricating substance called surfactant). The oxygen moves from the alveoli into the blood vessels, just as the carbon dioxide moves from the vessels to the alveoli. (Here's where I'm going to skip over the most technical parts.) Oxygen is then distributed to all the cells in the body, where it is reacted with glucose to produce ATP, the energy all the cells in our bodies need to do what they do best. One of the byproducts of the ATP-making process is carbon dioxide, which now has to go!

While your millions of tiny alveoli fill up with carbon dioxide, the muscles in your ribs and belly relax, shortening the space in your chest and forcing the carbon dioxide and other waste products out. As you exhale, the gasses and vapor passes through your bronchioles, then bronchi, then your trachea, pharynx, and finally out through your nose again.

This happens an average of 12 to 20 times each and every minute, and over 23,000 breaths per day. That's about 4 seconds per breath, and so many important things happen inside your body in that short time.

Take a deep breath.

Now just try and tell me that your body isn't amazing.

I know mine is!

More to read and love about honoring our bodies at these other blogs. Please visit them all and leave some comment love!

Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy is moved to trust her body, even the fuzzy parts. You can also find Jennifer on Facebook and Twitter.

Amy of Anktangle writes about living with chronic pain and how she appreciates the ways her body functions in spite of its challenges. You can also find Amy on Facebook and Twitter.

Mari from Honey on the Bum talks a little bit about how her body has changed and how she loves it and what it does for her. You can also find Mari on Twitter.

Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about why she's not worried about how her body looks, because it has a much more important job right now.

Joella from Fine and Fair discusses her love and respect for her body as it grows and changes during pregnancy over. Hear more from Joella on Twitter and Facebook.

Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow on how Paganism taught her to accept reality and by extension herself and her body. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares about her love/hate relationship with a nose that she saw as ugly . . . until she started to learn to love it. Amy W. can also be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

Destany at They Are All of Me writes about releasing the negative notions she was taught about her period, and embracing it instead.

Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children talks about how she had to push through her pre-conditioned comfort level and found herself in a position to naturally be open and honest with her children. More great stuff from Mandy on Facebook.

Lauren at Hobo Mama is not a runner . . . but she proved herself wrong by completing a race. Keep up with Lauren's adventures on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. I fully admit that I do not always keep such a balanced perspective about my body, but I'm doing my best! Writing about it definitely helps, too.

  2. Focusing on breath is truly grounding, and amazing! I love how while it is an autonomic body function, it is also one we can exert some control over, with incredible results.

  3. It is wonderful you can look past the pain to see something so glorious in something most of us take for granted until we can't do it anymore.

    1. It's all too easy to take so many amazing things for granted, isn't it?

  4. I am constantly amazed at my breath. I'm glad thinking about the inner workings of your body is helping you come to peace with your pain.

    1. Thank you so much, Shannon. Breath is truly incredible!

  5. What a great perspective! The more I learn about my body, the more I'm astounded by how complex and brilliant it is. I'm sorry about your pain — thanks for sharing one of the lessons it's taught you. I hope it can be further mitigated or eradicated at some point for you!

    1. Thank you, Lauren. I have a few medications that are working well for me right now, but I still hold out some hope to find more permanent relief in the future.

  6. This is such a GREAT post! I'm glad that thinking about and appreciating the inner-workings of your body have helped you cope with your pain. I think envisioning my body at work when I breathe and how amazing that is may help me in relaxing and learning to meditate. Thanks for this post!

    1. Focusing on breathing really helps me a lot with meditating! I hope you have the same experience. <3

  7. I often remind myself to focus on my breathing as a way to calm down. I think it's great that your post focuses on the internal workings of our bodies rather than the external. Our bodies are so much more than outward appearance.

    1. This is so true, Mandy! Our culture focuses so much on how our bodies look instead of what they can do and how incredibly functional they are, and that can have a huge a detrimental effect on self-esteem and self-image. I hope to teach Daniel that his body is always amazing just the way it is—regardless of what it looks like in the mirror on any given day.


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