A couple weeks ago I attended my first yoga class since my children were born, and somewhere between my shaky downward dog and my less-than-menacing warrior pose I heard a phrase I hadn’t thought of in years; “My body is a temple.”
My body is a temple? Snort. Could anything be farther from the truth?
Temples are houses of worship and piety. They are pristine, silent and cavernous. Ok, the cavernous part might be true, but the rest would be laughable if it weren’t so depressing. My body has nothing in common with the cold, unyielding, stone beauty of a temple. Most of the time, it is a hot mess.
The ancient Greeks designed their temples to reflect the perfection of the Gods. Their beauty was in their simplicity and symmetry. There is no order or perfection left in my body: two children and thirty plus years of gravity have seen to that. Symmetry? I have two of everything that’s supposed to come in pairs, but that’s the best I can do. My breasts are lopsided, my hips are wider than my chest, and I’m fairly sure that one of my feet is bigger than the other. My body has none of the flawlessness of a Greek temple. I could (maybe) pull off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but only if I worked out.
In addition to their impressive architecture, temples are meant to be pure and clean. I’m reasonably sure that Cheetos, Fruit Loops, cheesecake, cheese in either liquid or powder form, and anything carbonated would be considered heresies and thus banned from any self-respecting temple. I, on the other hand, welcome junk food with open arms into the dilapidated shelter that masquerades for my temple. The result of which is peeling paint, asbestos in the ceilings, and a gas leak of which I can’t seem to locate the source. It’s a disaster. My body may once have been considered beautiful, and there were those who lined up to worship. Ok, it wasn’t so much a line as a very small gathering of weirdos, like Comic Con. Either way, it held a certain appeal for some people. But over the years, what was once a peaceful retreat has been ransacked and thrown into chaos.
My body has created and housed two beautiful creatures and borne them into the world, but it was not without a price. Those precious little creatures did more damage to my temple than the Vikings ever dreamed. They stripped every fancy adornment and gold fixture from the walls. They tore apart the furniture and set fire to the curtains. They chased away the priests and worshipers, turned over the tables, and boarded up the door. My once flawed, but well-loved, temple now lies in ruins, ignored by passersby, apart from the occasional cat seeking shelter. The little Vikings relish in their victory holding lavish and bacchanal parties beneath its leaky roof. My temple has been reduced to a site for warehouse raves.
What does one do with an abandoned temple? There comes a time when a building has fallen into such disrepair that the cost of fixing it outweighs the cost of bulldozing it and starting over. Where does that leave me when, unfortunately, selling the land to a property developer, making a million dollars, and moving to the Caribbean doesn’t appear to be an option? Perhaps one day, I will learn to appreciate the ruins of my fallen temple the way we do the ancient cities of Athens or Rome. Tourists travel from far and wide to marvel at their remains. Their beauty remains despite their imperfection. Their divinity is in their rich history: they housed some of the most important people of their times.
Perhaps, so has mine.