I am posting these pictures as an exercise because it is hard for me to post them. Sometimes it is so important to do hard things.
Some time ago I decided that we should take family photos at least once a year. And for a while, we did. And then three years ago, we stopped. We stopped because I was waiting. Waiting to look better. Waiting to look cuter. Waiting to look smaller.
Ever since Betsy was born I have struggled a lot with my weight. After Poppy, my body sprang back, and I assumed it would be the same the second time around. It was not. I have always been able to make my body do what I wanted it to do – granted through lots of restrictive eating and overexercise. But after two kids and growing older I’ve found that is no longer the case. I’ve never managed to again hit my “goal weight,” and instead my weight has oscillated up and down, always hovering a good chunk above that goal.
Struggling with body image is nothing new for me; I have a decades-long history with disordered eating, complete with stints in treatment. When I was a teenager I would start each new school year by attempting to be small and mousy. I thought this would make me seem mysterious and attractive. I chuckle at it now, because, as anyone who knows me can attest to, small and mousy I am not. But this is the message I had taken to heart – that I needed to be smaller, quieter, less seen. This message wove itself in with the “not good enough” mantra, and together they wreaked quiet havoc on my life for many years.
Lately, I have noticed two competing voices in my head, talking to me about my body. One says that I need to work harder, that I need to watch what I eat more, that I need to exercise more, that I need to fit into a box. The other says “fuck it.”
The “fuck it” voice tells me that, in fact, I should have deep gratitude for my body. For the most part, my body works the way I want it to. As I get older I know more and more people for whom this is not the case, for whom illness or injury has resulted in their body challenging them, or letting them down. I have friends who have kids whose bodies don’t work the way they expected them too. I have friends whose babies have died, whose souls no longer inhabit their bodies. Yet here I am complaining about my not good enough body that actually works just fine, and that allows me to be present, to be here in this world. A body that has been good to me, a body that has served me well. The “fuck it” voice also reminds me that I am a mother to two awesome girls, who watch and model what I do. Learning to love and embrace myself is one of the most important things I can do for them so that they learn that they may do that for themselves.
Perspective. This is one of the greatest gifts in life. There is so much we can’t control, but we can choose how we take things, we can choose how we see things, we can choose how we march forth. I am working, working, working on changing my perspective about my body, on appreciating it and embracing it for all that it is. I am learning that it is okay to embrace my power and to take up space. Bit by bit things are shifting, though it feels like there is still plenty of work to do.
My hope is that with work and intention I will get there. And, this shit is hard.