Thursday, August 18, 2016

Just an Ordinary Masterpiece


Do you love your body? 

Anybody? 

No one?

Good. We're not alone.

We've actually come a long way, my body and me. We 're on pretty good terms today, and that's a lot more than I can say for our relationship back in the 80s.

Back then, we really couldn't stand each other. I was always mad at my body for not looking like I thought it should, and it was always mad at me for trying to force it into something it was never meant to be.

It wasn't my really body's fault at all. I realize that now. My body was trying its best to comply with my all-over-the-board demands. It always responded appropriately based on the input it received from me. 

When I ran, it got stronger.

When I ate less, it got thinner.

When I ate too much, it used up everything it possibly could and then hung onto the rest for dear life. 

But then my body would get bigger . . . and I would get madder.

I'm sure my body was thoroughly confused by this. I'm sure it wanted to say, "Look, what do you want from me here? I told you we had room for, like, a carrot or something, and you sent me an entire funnel cake? What did you think was going to happen?"

I guess I thought my body would have some respect and work with me to stay swimsuit-ready all year long. No matter what.

But my body always reminded me that wasn't the case by letting my clothes get too tight or making the numbers on the scale reach new heights (even first thing in the morning!). Then I would embark on some crazy new diet plan that was sure to work - and by work, I mean it would magically keep me thin and fit through no effort of my own.

Right. Sure.

But the more I tried to keep up with my latest dieting tactics, the more I would think about food. 

There were times when the last thing in the world I wanted was to put one more bite of cake in my mouth, yet I would find myself having seconds, thirds, sometimes more. I was like Godzilla on a rampage. I couldn't stop, so I would get even madder and blame my diet, my body, or the cake. 

I wanted to be thin, but I couldn't seem to pull it off.

(Because I already was.)

I was out of control, and I knew it.

(I was beautiful.)

I felt like it was all God's fault because he had made me this way, hadn't he?

(I was His masterpiece.)

It was okay, though, because when the diets didn't "work," there were always laxitives and water pills and gag reflexes and running suits waiting to comfort me. 

(I deserved better.)

When I got married, I went into high gear to get my body in tip-top shape for my wedding dress. 

(But I was already good enough.)

Then married life and military moves added more stress. The cycle of binging, purging, and dieting continued. 

But when I discovered I was expecting our first child, I knew the craziness had to stop.

So I waited . . . and I watched. 

I watched as my body grew into a miracle. I watched it grow bigger and bigger until I didn't recognize it anymore.

And I was genuinely surprised to find I was still the same person inside.

There was intense healing in that discovery. It gave me my first taste of freedom. Freedom from the burden of having to look a certain way and weigh a certain weight.

Now, years later, I have found some more healing through yoga. Yoga has shown me how my body can hold me up and move me where I want to go. It has shown me my body is capable of powerful things as it grows stronger with every class. It has reminded me my body is nothing more than a home for The Real Me. 

The me that matters.

The struggle isn't completely over, but these days it's just a shadow of what it once was. I am slowly winning the struggle to love myself just as I am, and not as I think I should be. Inside and out. That's not to say there isn't always room for improvement, or that I don't still try to eat healthy or exercise. In fact, it's just the opposite. This body has served me well so far, and I want to take good care of it so I can get the most out of the years I've been given.

Freedom.

It's been a long time coming, but I am finally learning what God has been trying to teach me all along.

My body was carefully and lovingly crafted by the creator of the universe and 

 I

am


work of art.











Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The View from Up Here


Sometimes it's good to feel insignificant.

Not all of the time, of course. But every now and then, it's a healthy thing for us to be put in our place.

Most of the time, we tend to feel fairly big and awfully important.  Like our own life takes up more space in the universe than it actually does.

But then there are those moments, those tiny epiphanies that descend from nowhere to remind us we are merely pieces of a puzzle far greater than ourselves.

I just experienced a moment like that this morning. I am sitting on a plane for a 26-minute flight from a fairly obscure Midwestern cornfield toward the famous skyline of Chicago. It's early, and the sky is still striped with pink like a scene out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I half expect an oompa-loompa to skip down the aisle and offer me a lollipop.

(Instead, the toddler in front of me just spilled an entire bag of goldfish crackers all over her lap, the floor, and my bags that are stowed neatly under her seat.)

But that sky.

It's so brilliant.

Literally brilliant.

And all the miniature houses and tiny ribbons of highways stretched so far below the pink streaks and fluffy clouds I am flying through look just like the town in my sons' old train set. The entire Illinois half of the Quad Cities is displayed down there, still sleepy in the early-morning dusk, and yet it looks like nothing more than a child's playset. A lifelike model of an honest-to-goodness town.

But there is a family filling up the beds in each of those tiny houses, and an individual sitting behind the wheel of each of those tiny cars driving down those tiny, winding roads.

I can't look away, and I'm suddenly struck by the thought that all those tiny people down there are about to be consumed by whatever this new day has in store for them. I find myself wondering what each family will be facing.

Maybe that family in that house right down there is preparing to head to the hospital to have their first baby and be initiated into the life-altering experience called parenting.

Maybe the family next door will soon be waking up to catch a plane themselves, heading off to a vacation they've been planning for months.

Maybe the family in the house across the street will wake up to realize their son or daughter didn't come home last night, and the beauty of their pink-tinged morning will be overshadowed by dark clouds of worry.

Or maybe today is the day that family in the house with the pool will get dreaded test results, or a notice of a reduction-in-force, or a letter from an attorney specializing in family law.

I hope not.

I hope they all wake up to whatever news they've been hoping for; but the thing is, none of us really ever knows, do we?

But one thing is clear. From up here, none of that matters as much as it does down there. From up here, every single person is just another tiny little person on an earth full of tiny little people, and the grand sum of all their hopes and dreams and fears are really just like everyone else's.

And nothing down there - good or bad - can even compare to the splendor that is going on up here.

I want to hang onto that.

When I land in Chicago later today, and in Los Angeles after that, when I'm standing in line for my rental car and then checking into my hotel and later registering for my conference, I don't want to lose sight of the view I had this morning. I want to remember the pink clouds and the tiny houses and the narrow ribbons of highways.

Because the view from up here changes everything.