282 Days Remaining
Something weird has been happening to me since I started this dating hiatus thingy."The human body is the best work of art." - Jess C. Scott
Now don't get me wrong, it's not weird in a bad way; quite the contrary, in fact. It's something that really surprises me, and at the same time pleases me tremendously.
You see, I've begun to like my body.
And by that I mean, I like it. I look in the mirror and think, yeah, that looks nice! I don't criticize, or scrutinize the parts that have always bugged me to see whether they still look as bumpy or as saggy as they used to, or scowl at my reflection. I catch a glimpse of the Lisa in the mirror and think she is a pretty darn nice-looking girl with a decent body that I want to make sure I keep taking care of.
As far as I can tell, my body has not changed at all in the last 82 days. Maybe it's gotten slightly thinner in some places or a tiny bit heavier in others, but all in all it's basically the same generally pear-shaped, small-breasted, wide-hipped body I've been living in for a long time. My chest - long ago deflated from breastfeeding three children for a mind-boggling (for me, at least) total of 44 months - hasn't suddenly ripened into Partonesque proportions, and my jiggly rearview parts slightly south of the border still resemble a rather generous portion of Jell-O. My knees still look somewhat bony and my calves could perhaps be judged too slender to be proportionate to my thighs; my ears still stick out further than I'd like; and the curve of my belly pooches out a little further than what I'd say is ideal. But here's the thing: to my eyes, now, it is beautiful. I actually even felt comfortable enough with my body to venture out without a bra (those of you who know my insecurity about my bosom will understand why this is such a big deal - I pretty much don`t have a bosom without the padding from my brassiere) because it was in character for my Halloween costume.
What has changed? Why am I suddenly able to look at my own body with the objectiveness that I've long been using with everyone else (remember way back when, in my 43Things list, I wanted to find something beautiful in every person), and see it differently? I've been wondering this for the past couple of weeks as I've gradually come to notice that a) I'm not finding the need to look in the mirror as often as I used to, and b) when I do, I'm not picking myself apart. Is it because I don't have a boyfriend or husband, and no one is looking at my body? Is it because I'm not as concerned as I used to be with how I look to other people? Or is it because my ideas of what beauty is have slowly been changing?
The fleeting thoughts of why have been answered as I've slowly come to realize that when I look at other people, the things that I see as beautiful in them are the things that show me who they are, and what they've been through. I look at the wrinkles around the eyes of a ninety-year-old woman and see that she has spent many, many years smiling. The puckered scar of a gunshot wound on someone I once knew was beautiful to me, because it was proof of what he had been through, and evidence that he was strong enough to survive a traumatic experience. Even a gummy smile of a toothless person I might see on the street is beautiful, because no matter what, she is still finding something to smile about. For most people - even lacking teeth - a smile transforms a face, and brings to it a radiance that means you can't help but answer with a smile of your own.
On the outside, nothing has changed. If I really wanted to start picking myself apart, I certainly still could. I wouldn't have any trouble finding things on this body that don't work as well as they used to, or don't live up to the standards that society seems to hold as the norm. If I really wanted to start looking for things on my body that were "flaws", of course, I would see them. I do see them. The difference is that instead of seeing my flaws as something that makes me less attractive, I see them as brushstrokes in the complete picture of who Lisa Grace is.
My stretch marks are beautiful. They are representative of the four (one little one did not make it past 13 weeks' gestation) children I nourished inside me; they show that my amazing skin was able to stretch to accomodate the growth of the miraculous organs that cradled each of my babies. Even looking at them without thinking about what caused them, their snaking patterns across the skin are interesting, their silvery color nearly iridescent, and the slight indentation of them in the darker pink of the surrounding tissue is fascinating to run your fingers over.
My hips are beautiful. They curve out from my waist and remind me that once there was someone who loved to slip his hands around my waist and pull me close, and that maybe someday there will be someone who will wrap his arms around me and never let me go.
My scars are beautiful. The scar on my chin from when I was dropped on my face at a high-school Air Guitar competition gave me a great story to tell people. The scar on my knee shows that when I fell up the stairs (yes, you can do that, apparently) as a child and tore my knee open, my dad (who was at the time without a vehicle) loved and worried about me enough to race me to the Edmonton emergency room on the back of his bicycle. The scar on the heel of my left hand reminds me that at one time I was an overzealous prep cook who attacked a ten-kilogram block of cheese with such force that the back of the knife went through my hand. And of course, my most recent scar - the still-healing second-degree burn on my left arm - is evidence of how quickly life can change, and how we need to be present for every second of it.
The reason that I can see these things as beautiful is because I have finally learned to really love who I am.
The stories that have come out about these gorgeous, amazing young people being bullied and taking their own lives just tear at my heart. I want to reach out to them to tell them how incredible they are; how every part of their body is a miracle and everything within them is worth applauding. I want to say it to you, all of you readers out there who celebrate my successes and weep along with my tears, or any of you who may have stumbled across this blog: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. I want you to feel it and I want you to say it. Go to the mirror and take the time to find the beauty. Look at your eyes and see how deep and lovely the color is; how they're not quite the same as any other pair of eyes you've seen. Mess your hair up and then look at how shiny or how dark or how long or how curly or how kinky or how BIG it is. No one else is just like you. YOU ARE AMAZING! Take off your clothes and look at how all the parts of your body work together; how your skin bends around every curve and muscle; how your freckles or your moles or even your body hairs make a distinct map across your arms and back and face. Smile at yourself and look at those teeth. Maybe you've got a gap between them. Maybe some overlap each other. Maybe they're straight and maybe you're missing one or two. SMILE!!! Look for your scars. Trace them with your fingers and see how even reminders of past wounds can have their own sort of loveliness. Find the beauty in who you are!
I know you`re beautiful, even without you standing in front of me right now. And I guarantee that if you were standing in front of me, I would find a thousand things that show your beauty, and I wouldn`t hesitate to point them out to you. You wouldn't be able to shut me up as I told you every little gorgeous thing about you. Think about it: you`d do it for me, wouldn`t you? Do it for yourself too.
Don`t look for the imperfections. Look for the stories, those already lived and those yet to come. And then rejoice in them.