I used to mind the wrinkles gathering like old fabric around my middle. I cringed at the stripes I earned from one baby and then two, stripes that left once and then came back and never left.
I used to pull and tug on the undesirable parts, holding them in proper position, wishing they’d obey and just stay. right. there. But as soon as I let go, argh. They’d retreat back to the places gravity inspired them to rest. I would sigh, disappointed. Thinking the best years in this body must be over.
After my sons were born, I used to hope you’d tell me I didn’t look like I’d just had a baby. I gauged success by how quickly my zippers zipped and buttons buttoned in the old jeans I missed for nine months.
I used to envy the teenage girls at the neighborhood pool, with their long legs and evenly tanned skin, hair with the childhood sparkle, and all their feminine curves budding perfectly, enviably, into position.
But that’s when I thought my body was for impressing people. I know better now.
I used to think my body was some kind of living mannequin on which I hung the fashions everyone else told me to love that season. Some days, I was a display case with a smile.
I thought it was a competition, a Who Wore It Best runway every day. I was terrified of wrinkles, of watching my youthful beauty cave to gravity. I thought losing youthful beauty would leave me with no beauty at all.
But that’s before I learned what a body is for: A body is for loving.
Maybe you didn’t know. Maybe no one told you that taut, tight and skinny doesn’t make you loveable and it sure won’t make you feel loved.
Maybe this whole time you’ve been thinking bodies are for making people jealous, or for cramming into small things. Maybe you’ve been under the impression that bodies that take up less space are better bodies.
Maybe no one shared the secret that the leanest, skinniest version of you isn’t necessarily the healthiest.
It turns out the only body we need is one that can wake up today and love. Can yours do that?
Your body is your Soul-House. Your body is your story. Your body is all the good and the bad, the horrible and the beautiful moments of your life, shaped gently or suddenly, worn into layers, into you.
Your body is for love, and no matter the shape you’re in, you can do that.
Sure, you should take care of yourself. You should eat food that nourishes your body and soul. You should go for long walks with the people you love. You should get your beauty sleep. You should do what you can to stay here on earth with us as long as possible. But not so that you can impress with your curves in all the right places. We need you here to show us how to love in the silly, strong and beautiful way only you can.
All the good we do for our bodies only works when it starts with love because all the cramming and dieting, binging and purging, plucking and tucking won’t make us love ourselves one ounce more if we don’t already.
But your body is your Soul House. That is all. Can you love a body that holds a soul that loves?
I can love my body now because I love my story. And not only that, I love what I do in this body. I love snuggling my baby to sleep. I love hugging my big boy or falling into my husband’s arms. I love the embrace of a friend, or wrapping the fingers of a newborn around mine.
And a body that does so much loving deserves not just to be tolerated but to be thanked. So stop where you are and thank your body for doing all that it does, for giving you the skin and bones, the eyes and ears, the hands and feet to live this life in.
Say thank you to your hands that prepare your food and lead your toddler across the street. Thank the eyes that see words on the page or another set of eyes of ones you love. Thank your mouth for speaking life and your ears for hearing it. Thank your belly for holding in your most important parts. Thank your legs and feet for carrying you about on your sometimes boring, sometimes wild journey.
And then, if you believe in a Higher Power, thank them for looking at your body, soul and spirit with the crinkly, kind eyes and loving them all with a giant, never-ending love because you were imagined, just this way, long before you got here.
And maybe when you see yourself with this much gratitude and grace, you’ll be proud of this body in which you live, this body that loves, and maybe then you’ll say, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”