Comparatively Speaking

Everything about the giraffe’s body is built for one thing: reaching towering heights. As the world’s tallest land animal, they have an unrivaled reach. With legs that are taller than many humans — about 6 feet — to a neck that weighs over 600 pounds, the whole structure enables the giraffe to eat tasty treats unavailable to others constrained closer to earth.

Yet you don’t see other animals lamenting the fact that they can’t reach what’s easy for the giraffe to reach. The zebra or lion don’t appear to be jealous. You don’t see them being melancholy over the fact that they are height-challenged in comparison.

It seems a purely human trait to compare ourselves to others, only to find ourselves lacking in one way or another.

I do consulting work at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the largest and most established retreat center for yoga, health, and holistic living in North America. On any given day, I can look around the cafeteria during lunch to see lots of fit, young bodies. I notice my mind comparing my middle-aged body that gave birth to two children to those younger bodies.

Those thoughts are, of course, useless. But they are there nonetheless.

Wanting to cultivate a peaceful approach to my maturing body and do less comparing, I shared my experience with a friend of mine. I wanted some advice from this wise woman I admired. We chatted as we walked the grounds of Kripalu after lunch, confirming that yes, indeed, no matter how well you eat, no matter how much yoga you practice, the body ages and changes.

It’s like the shirt I saw on an older person in the Kripalu cafeteria. It read, “I eat well. I exercise. And still I’m gonna die.”

Well, that’s it in a nutshell, right?

As my friend and I walked, we started laughing. Unfortunately for me, I did not take a bathroom break before our walk. So as our giggles ramped up, so did my need for a stronger bladder muscle. Since those muscles have never been the same since giving birth, I improvised. I did what every woman instinctively knows to do — I crossed my legs and squeezed.

There I was, right in the middle of the picturesque road leading to a meditative retreat center, hunched over my crossed legs hysterically laughing for everybody driving by to see.

Which only made us laugh all the harder. Then my friend let out an unexpected burp.

All we needed was a good old fart to finish off the image of two aging bodies out of control.

All ended well. I made it to the bathroom without incident, and my friend’s excess gas was worked out. And the laughing fit continues to nourish me any time a thought arises about the maturing process. If I can still laugh hysterically because of bathroom humor, all is not lost.

Even as I write this essay, I am laughing hysterically. Laughing really is the best medicine.

Yes, the giraffe can reach great heights. But what happens when he wants to get a drink of water? His height hampers. He becomes vulnerable to attack as that long neck that can reach the heavens cannot reach the earth, causing him to spread his legs wide or even kneel in order to drink. In fact, the giraffe’s jugular vein contains a series of one-way valves that prevent the back flow of blood when the head is down to drink water, thus preventing a blackout.

No great gift, like the height of a giraffe, comes without a corresponding downside. The great gift of maturity is perspective. The downside is a weak bladder.

I can handle that.

  • Megan’s latest book, A Minute for Me, is now available. Please contact Megan McDonough through the community to join her writing group in central Massachusetts.
  • [tags]comparing, self confidence , vulnerable, giraffe, stretching, human, trait [/tags]

    Author: Megan McDonough

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