"Are we really going to spend our whole lives like this, feeling the wrong shape and the wrong weight in the wrong skin?"
Like most women, I've struggled with my relationship to and with my body.
Religion taught me my body was to be covered, my dress modest; but religion also taught me my body was a temple and should be treated as such, pure and holy because the holy spirit resides within. I became detached from my physical nature and confused as to how to connect to my spirituality.
Society taught me my proportions were wrong.
I've changed my mind about my body.
For my 29th birthday, I had my first cosmetic procedure. From time to time, I've considered other slight surgeries - my experience was a positive one I don't regret in the least - but as I get older, I'm less inclined to follow through. I suppose tattoos could be considered a kind of cosmetic adjustment; a needle filled with ink leaving permanent, beautiful art inside the deepest layers of my skin. In that case, I am no stranger to cosmetic changes.
But even with cosmetic procedures, I've still not stopped judging my size and shape.
Recently, Mat and I bought some new clothes. There was one particular store I wanted to stop at because I knew I'd likely find some pants. I wound up disappointed, standing in line with a single shirt while Mat carried a handful of finds.
I sighed, "My body type just isn't made for their clothes I guess."
Mat countered, "You mean the way they make their clothes is off. There is nothing wrong with your body."
Even now, I have to actively choose to stop believing there is something wrong with the shape of my body. It's the surest thing to distract me from who I know I am.
I am creative, strong, and healthy.
A few weeks ago, I stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror and began speaking to my body. I expressed my thanks for every mole, every pucker of cellulite, every muscle. For the entire day, I found myself grateful for everything my body expressed in return - the aches to tell me to rest, the energy to tell me to keep going.
"I have a neighbor who gets tattoos all the time. I asked her once how she could allow her body to be marked up so casually with permanent ink, she said, 'Oh, but you misunderstand! It's not permanent. It's just temporary.'
Confused, I asked, 'You mean, all your tattoos are temporary?'
She smiled and said, 'No, Liz. My tattoos are permanent; it's just my body that's temporary. So is yours. We're only here on earth for a short while, so I decided a long time ago that I wanted to decorate myself as playfully as I can, while I still have time.'"
Elizabeth Gilbert, BIG MAGIC
Tattoos decorate my body and remind me of my beauty; my fragility and sensitivity, my strength and resilience. My body is a temple - sure, I like the analogy - but even still it's a temporary one. I'm learning it's less about the size and shape of my temple and more about the way I appreciate it and use it while I have it.
When I love my body, my body responds.
Loving my body is a daily practice, and when I practice love regularly my body doesn't disappoint. It's easier said than done, but when it's done it's life-changing.
I will weigh more sometimes and I will weigh less at times. I will always have cellulite. I will always have another tattoo to get. I will always work out because I want to maintain a high level of endurance so I can outrun the undead when the zombie apocalypse happens.
I am grateful for hands that work, fingers that can type and articulate my creativity. I am grateful for every single toe, for feet that carry me outside and take me on new adventures. I am grateful for every hair on my head. I am grateful for my digestion, the inner workings of my intestines. I am grateful for the beating of my heart and the thinking of my mind.
Because I am grateful for my body, my body is grateful for me. And my body is a work of art.