What’s Your “So What?”
If you missed the Huffington Post article “Your Body Is Not Your Masterpiece” a few weeks ago, take five minutes to read it now. Here’s a teaser:
“Your body is not your masterpiece – your life is. It is suggested to us a million times a day that our bodies are projects. They aren’t. Our lives are. Our spirituality is. Our relationships are. Our work is.”
These few words have incredible power to re-frame the way we all think about our bodies and our lives.
At the end of the short piece, the author (Glennon Melton, who writes the blog Momastery) talks about thanking your body for everything it helps you do – thanking your eyes for helping you take in the world’s glorious sights, thanking your legs for carrying you up stunning mountains, and thanking your arms for embracing the people you love. This deep gratitude for all of the things our bodies make possible relates to something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: the “SO WHAT” of a healthy lifestyle.
The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives. Every precious day contains 24 precious hours that we can use as we see fit. There is a lot of competition for these hours – children, partners, work, play – and carving out time for sleep, workouts, and going the extra mile to cook healthy meals isn’t always easy. Making time and space for these things requires intention and commitment – two things that are underpinned by a clear line of sight into why these things matter and what impact they have not just on our bodies and minds, but on the people and the world around us. To sustain our commitments over time and to make peace with the tradeoffs they require, our SO WHAT needs to be greater than creating “a masterpiece.”
While the external (media) dialogue about the SO WHAT may focus on the “masterpiece,” we have huge power to define what the SO WHAT is for each of us. Exercise is more than a way to shave off an inch; it’s a way to build a different relationship with mountains we climb and the oceans we swim in and the air we breathe. Healthy food isn’t just a way to achieve a flat belly; it’s a way to celebrate the earth’s abundant flavors and textures and colors with people we love. Sleep isn’t an indulgence; it’s a time of restoration – necessary downtime to regain the energy and resilience we need to be patient and graceful and kind when we wake up. All of the things we do to keep ourselves well contribute to so much more than create a masterpiece – they give us the vitality we need to be more present…to be more alive…and to give more to the people we love.
Balancing our individual needs with the needs of others is the crux of well-being and core to the magnificent dynamism of life. Over indexing on our own needs can scream narcissism, and focusing exclusively on the needs of others can put us on the fast track to burnout. The middle ground is a solid foundation that helps us sustain ourselves so that we can sustain others, teaching our friends and neighbors and children that creating a beautiful body may be a nice byproduct, but creating a beautiful world is our true masterpiece.