Monday, February 2, 2009

Bodylicious

I had a realization on Saturday. It didn't come about in a great way, but it was a great thing nonetheless.

India was running around naked, like she does pretty much every morning taking forty-five minutes to get dressed when it should take her five, when out of the blue I heard her crying and saying awful things. She walked into my bedroom and said, "Momma, I hate my legs. Look at them. They're so fat and they jiggle when I walk."

My first response was to tell her how ridiculous that was. India is all skin and bones, and for awhile I worried about her being underweight, so the idea of her legs being "fat" was hilarious. But, I realized that the last thing I wanted to do was to feed into this idea that her body has to look a certain way, and that if it does, it's good, and if it doesn't that's bad. So I thought of Anne Lamott and her thighs and how she calls them her aunts and says sweet things to them, and I told India, "Baby, you have a beautiful body with legs that are strong and healthy and take you where you need to go. You tell those legs of yours, 'Legs, I like you. You are good legs. Thanks for being a part of my body.'"

She thought that was pretty funny and we talked to her body awhile and we giggled about it, and I asked her where in the world she had heard such silly talk about her legs being jiggly and fat. She couldn't remember, and really, who can say? The girls at her school, her friends, some woman in the locker room? I don't know, but what I do know, and what I realized is that she has never heard that kind of talk from me, because... I like my body. I do. I think it's great. I thoroughly enjoy it, and man alive, it feels good to know that.

One of the funny side affects of having a baby was that after, when I still had large breasts and a round tummy and round arms and round everything, I started loving my body and feeling good in it in a way that I never had when I was skinnier. I loved it because it felt like my friend. It had given me a daughter, it took me through labour, it was stronger and tougher than I ever would have guessed.

But then, of course, when my marriage fell apart I forgot I had a body, and then I hated my body, and then I took pleasure in being mean to it, and watching it shrink, and feeling it starve. Weird. And sad. And scary. I know. But the truth.

And then, things changed again. I survived the loss of my husband, I survived being alone, being sick, losing my home, being a mom, getting on with life, rethinking my body. And so, I find myself here, a few years later, and realize that I have not once said something ugly about my body or anyone else's body to my daughter, and that generally speaking I feel good about it despite its imperfections.

Hospitality as a fruit of the Spirit is providing a safe place for hearts to rest inside. My heart is a home to my body. It can be a place of hostility or hospitality: forgiving weaknesses, overlooking flaws, enjoying the beautiful, providing a safe place to rest inside. I live in a good house. I know it. And that is such a good thing.

10 comments:

deanna said...

You and your body are there for India in just the right way. I've been through seasons with my physical self and, no, it hasn't always been love and roses. But the pressures to hate what I know is a good thing come from outside me. Being thankful. Yeah. A good reminder. Anne Lamott does a great job with that subject, too.

sandy's notes said...

"Hospitality as a fruit of the Spirit is providing a safe place for hearts to rest inside. My heart is a home to my body. It can be a place of hostility or hospitality: forgiving weaknesses, overlooking flaws, enjoying the beautiful, providing a safe place to rest inside. I live in a good house. I know it. And that is such a good thing."

Now that's a lady that's got her head together. Maybe you've been through some rough times, but boy or boy these words are worth remembering.

Good for you for bringing India to that safe place.

I was given an award that I'd like to share with you. Please take the award just because you should, and do what you want with it, because you deserve more. Just click on my name, it'll take you to the post.

Amber@theRunaMuck said...

Angela, this is one of the best posts I've read. I needed it, and I'll practice this now before my daughter arrives.

Do you remember my heart thing - how I had to have surgery a while back? My chest still hurts very often, and now when it does, I put my hand there and feel it beating (though it may be irregular at times), and I thank God for my heart. It has changed my life.

Gratitude is gorgeous. You wear it very well.

Angela said...

deanna,
reading your comment brought me back to the reality of seasons. this is a good season. i'm running with it. one day, i might get my ass running, too.

sandy, sandy. da da da da da da da da da. you are dandy. sugar candy, da da da da da da da da da. sandy, sandy.

so, amber, i spent a ton of time reading old posts of yours when i was trying to write the mother letter for you. how did i miss this heart thing? that's huge.
tell me where to read it?

Cherie said...

Nice save, Angela! India could have gone either way right then and you came along and swept her up into the very safe place you write of. Good going!

Funny how the older we get and the more our bodies become anything but the 'ideal', the more we appreciate their character, their strength, their loyalty through it all.

I like this post. And I like you.

cecily said...

Sigh. I am not in this place right now, but I like, like, like it. I have a post/piece ticking over on the edge of my brain after being on the beach in NSW and observing all the different shapes and sizes and realising it doesn't matter a speck. It was beautiful to see all this women out in their swimmers on the beach just enjoying the summer and not letting their body phobia/ self loathing get in the way of that. I started to feel free. Then I came back to work and someone quietly suggested I 'had a pot, was I pregnant?' to someone else, only it backfired because I heard him say my name so I kept asking what he said until he/they told me. Now I'm all obsessing about my stomach and doing sit ups each day, eating less and walking more (which is probably all a good necessary thing anyway!). I read your post and thought 'hey yeah, I want to be in that place' so I told the guy today that my stomach is there to nourish the child I may one day have. 'Keep thinking like that Cecily, cherish that body, remember all it does.'

Thanks for another thought provoking post. I'm going to send my friend the link because her 6 or 7 year old very thing daughter thinks she is fat because of what the girls at school said!

Kimberly said...

Damn.

This is good.

I think I'm going to go home and talk to my body tonight, and thank God for it.

Thanks.

myleswerntz said...

this is fantastic. I'd love to share this with others if you'd not be offended.

Angela said...

hey myles,
take what you like. i love when people pass my stuff around. thanks for that.

Angela said...

myles,
ah, just to clarify - i love it when people pass the stuff i post here around. not, you know, drafts of essays people may have. those make me feel very vulnerable and not for just anyone to see. ya?