Thursday, September 06, 2018
I'm not calling you a ghost. Just stop haunting me.
Last month, Nick took this photo of me at camp.
Isn't Moose Pond spectacular? I've taken a photo of this view myriad times with and without people in it.
So I wanted to be in a photo with that particular backdrop.
And still, when I saw the picture, my immediate response was to cringe and delete it.
I wear a bikini because it's easier to get in and out of. I learned this when I bought a shaper one-piece after I had Jordan. I got stuck in a bathroom with a wet bathing suit, struggling to pry it up or down. Two pieces are easier.
But I typically wear a sun shirt over it. For SPF rather than modesty. But I looked at this photo of me sitting down and I thought, why, why wasn't I wearing my sun shirt? Or a tee shirt or a towel? And makeup? Or better yet, my sunglasses?
Then I paused. Because I've recently seen some high school photos of myself. I was so young and fit, so fresh and pretty.
Do you know what I said about myself at the time? Same things I say now. Negative, critical and negative.
But look, look at me then. I was lovely.
And I do remember. I remember all my criticisms of myself at the time.
I was raised to seek external validation. But it didn't actually make me feel good about myself.
I know, looking at those photos of my youth, how bad I felt about myself then. I remember how inadequate I felt. If only I were taller. If only I were thinner. If only were prettier. If only...
The fact was, I could only starve myself so much. I could only run so many miles. I tried very hard to do more of both.
And just as with moving from place to place, you're still you with your same issues, until you deal with them. You can't run from them, you can't starve them out, and you can't move away from them.
As it turns out, you just have to work through them. And sucks for a while, and then it makes you feel better.
I can take a photo tour of myself across time. Sometimes I look pretty. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I am beaming or laughing, genuinely delighted. And sometimes, despite a smile, I can see through the facade to profound misery.
And still, the person in those photos is never the gorgon she imagined herself to be.
My reaction to my high school photos was to wish I'd appreciated who I was and what I had when I had it.
From my current vantage point, my skin then--always too pale and freckled for my liking, and why was I so unfairly pale?--was unwrinkled, lush and beautiful. My thighs, my dread thighs, were strong and athletic, smaller than they are now, back when I imagined they were enormous.
I look at this picture of myself at camp, and my eyes go to my flaws. But let's be honest. I'll never be younger than I am now.
This body created and carried two babies, one of them almost nine pounds, to term. This body had its abdominal muscles cut, and recovered.
This body has done the Everest trek, and ridden camels, and slept on the roof of houses in the desert in Rajasthan.
This body can do push-ups, and climb, and lift an 86-pound kid, and walk over 16 miles overnight.
I work out at home regularly. My kids see me lift weights and do push-ups. I tell them how proud I am to be strong. How strength and fitness are what I'm working for.
I don't focus (out loud) on size. I shush that voice for them, and I try to quell it within myself.
I've had more and less toned abs. I've had larger and smaller thighs.Sometimes my butt is bigger and rounder and wider. Sometimes it's less so.
Last year I ate a pint of ice cream every night and grew out of all my pants. Like, I literally could not squeeze them up past my thighs, or if I could, they weren't office-appropriate. My skirts were like sausage casings. So when I returned to the office last winter, I bought two pairs of black work pants, vowing to fit back into my wardrobe.
And I started working, really really hard, on fitting back into my clothes. It's more difficult than it used to be. Just eating well didn't do it. Just exercising hard didn't do it. I had to do both, and diligently.
Now I fit back in my clothes, and for the most part, I feel good.
As for my freckled Irish skin, well, I spent too much time without sunscreen in the Indian sun, and that's just a fact.
So back to this photo. I saw it and deleted it. And then I made myself stop and reevaluate. Not the photo. My response.
I decided I needed to change my internal narrative. Because the issue is not actually the size of this body part or that. The issue is my brain.
We swim often, and we wear bathing suits while we do so. And it's OK for me to post photos of myself in a bikini, no matter how old I might be now, no matter how much fitter I might have been back when.
My body has done some amazing things. My body is strong.
I do my best, most days. Regardless of how I look, or think I look, I am enough.
And this is my body.