This assignment is to write an ode to something about your body that kicks ass. Part two of the assignment is to provide a photo of yourself that pleases you, but doesn’t necessarily exemplify what kicks ass about your body. You can do it! Have I mentioned how nice you look today?
(For a more detailed description, follow this link.)
She had originally promised to make this assignment easier than the last one, to which I say “HA!” (I’m more than a little afraid to see what she comes up with next.)
My entry covers some familiar ground. I addressed this topic awhile ago with Beautiful, but hopefully, I’ve put a slightly different twist on it this time. I mean, you just can’t use an old piece of writing for a new assignment, can you? Can I have extra credit since I’ve technically done it twice?
So, without further ado, here is my entry for this month’s Living Out Loud challenge . . .
PART 1: The Writing
I am strong.
I find acceptance for my body in what it can do, how much it can lift, what it can endure because I cannot find acceptance for it in how it looks.
I cannot find acceptance for myself in how I look.
It’s all about being fat. I wasn’t a fat child. Puberty did me in. With the hormones came big breasts and a big belly. I didn’t want either. I wanted to be petite and lithe. I wanted to be small like my mother and my friends. I wanted a small waist and a long neck. I wanted graceful, curving hips and a heart-shaped ass.
I have often joked that I am good peasant stock. I am built to work a farm, plow the back 40 and shoulder heavy loads.
I have broad shoulders, a short neck, a wide back and a tendency to muscle up quickly. A high school friend, Chris, used to sing Jerry Lee Lewis’s song “Big Legged Woman” to me in tribute of my mighty thighs. He meant it as a compliment and I tried to take it as such.
Then there is the thick waist and the belly. I don’t curve in at the middle. If I’m thin, I’m a straight shot from the ribs to the hips. If I’m not thin (which is most of the time), I do curve through the middle. Just the wrong way. I curve out. At the gut. Oh, how I hate it.
I keep my belly under wraps ““ hidden from sight. It is the sole place on my body that isn’t covered with freckles because I never expose it to the sun. There was one summer ““ the summer after Nutri-System ““ when I wore a bikini. I was 20. I’ve never worn a bikini again.
17 years and two pregnancies later, the summer of Nutri-System is a distant memory. Bikinis are no longer a part of my reality (if they ever were.) Despite diets upon diets upon diets and an ongoing commitment to exercise, I’ve never been able to banish the belly. I’ve never been able to keep the fat from returning. Lord knows, it is not from lack of trying. I doubt I will ever be at peace with how I look because I doubt I will ever be completely successful in losing all the weight. Somehow it’s just not in my genetic make-up. Good peasant stock. Big round belly. That’s me.
I’ve tried to make peace with my body, find acceptance for it in other ways, though. I may not look good in a bikini, but I am strong. My legs are taut and muscled from dancing. These legs can hang an over at the same height as a 16 year old. They can pound out a hornpipe and a treble jig in time. I can kick over my head and probably over yours.
I can do 75 push-ups ““ on my hands and feet, not on my knees (even though IT Guy says I need to learn to keep my ass down.) I throw a right hook that sends a martial arts target rocking on its base. I can kick that same 7-foot target completely over with a well-placed sidekick. I can throw a 220 lb man to the mat. I can make my pecs jump ““ one side then the other. (I know that’s usually a guy thing, but I love that I can do it.) I admire the curve of my shoulder muscles when I raise my arms. I can do bicycles, crunches, reverse crunches, full sit-ups and then hold my legs 6 inches off the floor for 1 minute while others groan and give up around me. You can’t see it, but under the belly, I have real abs . . . maybe even a 6-pack . . . my concealed weapon.
I am not small. I am not thin. I am not petite or lithe. Despite the muscle on the top and bottom, I’m still round and jiggly in the middle. Muffin-top doesn’t even begin to cover it.
But I am strong. I can lift my children onto my shoulders. I can carry all my groceries. I can help a friend move a couch. I probably could plow the back 40.
I conceived two children. I carried them. I delivered them. I nursed them. All with this body. The belly that I’ve always despised housed my children, nourished them and kept them safe. I have swirls upon swirls of stretch marks as proof. I have a long, crooked knotty c-section scar. I have flabby droopy skin to cover the fat, but I try to remember why I have those things now. I earned them. They are marks of my motherhood. They are marks of my life. That, in itself, must be beautiful.
This body will never win me a modeling contract. I will never draw the eyes of men as I walk through the room.
But . . . I can swim. I can run. I can fight. I can dance.
I live. I live in this body and you can see the evidence in my wrinkles and scars and freckles and all the other non-airbrushed imperfections.
I don’t read women’ s magazines or look at pictures of fake, plastic-filled people rendered faker by a computer. I can never live up to that because you can’t actually LIVE and look like that.
I try now to find the beauty in the living, even though it leaves marks.
I may never be at peace with how my body looks, but I’ve come to find my sense of beauty in what it can do . . . in what I can do . . . in being strong . . . and in the living.
Part 2 : The Picture
I felt pretty good about myself after I wrote my essay. I felt so good about my muscles that I decided for part two of the assignment – the photo – I would try to show off those muscles. I knew I wouldn’t be posting any full body shots, but I thought I could get a good picture that showed the definition of my legs and then another picture of my arms. I’d just leave the middle part out. Simple enough, right?
I decided to get the shot in my underwear. The picture wouldn’t be OF my underwear, but I wanted to show all my legs. I felt good enough to stand in front of a camera in my underwear, but that good feeling didn’t last long.
I did get this shot. Look. Legs. Muscles.
But then I cried.
I have decades old body image issues and I thought I had put most of them behind me. (See Part 1.) I just learned I haven’t. I am not ready to stand in front of a camera in my underwear . . . even in my own house . . . even with my husband behind the camera. It wasn’t even a result of seeing the pictures. I just couldn’t stand there with a camera pointed at my body. First, I got frustrated. I was picking at Ben even though he was just trying to set up for the best possible lighting. Then I got agitated and then I started crying. I don’t know why. All those feelings of being OK with my body. . . all that talk about the beauty being in what I could do and what I had lived and not in what I look like . . . all of it evaporated and I dissolved into tears.
I guess I haven’t come as far as I’d thought.
In the interest of Living out Loud, I’m posting this picture. It doesn’t please me, but maybe that’s the point.
This is all of me. I hope someday I really will be OK with it.
To see a listing of all the entries, go here.