But lately... I have felt a certain estrangement from my body. I have gained weight, and don't really know why. I have increased my exercise level, and still the weight stays stuck. I look in the mirror and what I see seems like it isn't really me. I always thought I would age gracefully, but it seems my body has other ideas.
I have been on the fence about whether what I need is a new diet and exercise plan, an attitude adjustment, or a stylist. Probably, I need all three.
The buzz around the essay that jackass wrote in praise of 42 year old women has certainly not helped this 42 year old woman be at peace with her body, but since I have refused to read the essay, perhaps I am being unfair to the author. I have no intention of finding out.
I had the idea that maybe it would help to write a list of the things I like about my body, to counteract the litany of flaws I usually hear in my head. So I started thinking things like: "I have nice ankles."
But then I realized that is the wrong approach. I will never make peace with my body by focusing on what it looks like. I need to focus on what it can do.
I am strong. Several times on our recent vacation, I walked the last 10 minutes or so of a hike holding Petunia, who weighs a little more than 40 lbs.
|Exhibit A: hiking with a 4 year old|
My body can do other things, too. I grew two babies inside it, and fed them from it for two years each, give or take a month or so. It can still snuggle my kids and make them feel better when something has gone wrong.
My body is resilient. My feet started hurting recently, but some time in orthotics helped them bounce back. I need to wear the orthotics or shoes with good arch support more often than not, but I can still wear my favorite red mary janes, too.
I started running again, and just this week I ran the furthest I have in years- despite my asthma and the extra pounds. It felt great.
So I guess I can learn to forgive my body the poochy tummy and the extra pounds it seems to want to retain. I can learn to overlook the spider veins on my thighs and the growing number of wrinkles on my face. I can learn to laugh at the fact that my blonde hair is turning dingy instead of grey, just like my maternal grandmother's did. In fact, I can cherish that link with the great-grandmother my kids never got the chance to meet, and use it as an excuse to tell them stories about her. Every time I look at my hair and think it is getting dingy, I hear her voice complaining about the same thing, and that is truly a gift. Her voice has otherwise receded from my memory.
I doubt I'll ever learn to truly embrace the changes age is bringing. I have spent 42 years living in a beauty and youth obsessed culture, after all. But I can try to retrain myself to focus on more important things in addition to how I look. I should probably learn how to dress to minimize the flaws I cannot exercise away, if only to make myself happier when I see pictures of myself. But I should also celebrate what I can do, flaws and all.