Wear and tear required

Four body shapes of females.
Four body shapes of females. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was lying in the bathtub the other night, doing what I’m sure many women do in the bathtub.

No—not that. Really? That’s where your mind goes?

I was being critical of myself, something many women do—but especially women who have reached their forties and beyond.

Bemoaning my abs and glutes not being what they used to be. Realizing that I used to take my body for granted—and that now I’d give a lot to have the time and gumption to get some of that body back.

And then, I stopped.

And remembered . . .

I’m 33 years old and two months from having my first baby. My then husband and I are sitting on the sofa in our tiny living room watching a show. Not a TV show. My belly show. My firstborn, who we’ve not officially met yet in any way but via ultrasound, is doing flips and tricks for us. A foot kicks and we see the outline of it. Ouch. My entire belly is rearranging itself as if an alien is trying desperately to claw its way out. Probably because I just had a beef chimichanga and this baby seems to like Latin food. We laugh as we watch. We have no idea this show is just a preview of what this boy will be like for years to come. A ball of energy who will turn our lives upside down.

This belly is big. Twenty pounds big (and on little ‘ole me, that looked more like 40 lbs. big). This belly is tight. The if-my-skin-stretches-any-further-I-will-pop kind of tight. This belly is beautiful, to my husband and to me.

As I look at my belly now, back in the bathtub, I tear up. You’re beautiful, belly. You’re a trooper. Abs of steel turned to mommy abs. Abs I plan to get back to whatever best shape I can get  them to—but lovingly. I appreciate the service, belly.

But oh, my hands. Skin that is starting to show its age. My hands are not soft and velvety. I wish they looked about 10 years younger.

I think back to a time, not quite 10 years ago, when my little one was sick. Raging fever, in the emergency room at the children’s hospital, with a weird rash and a face that looked like he’d been scalded. And I think of my hand holding his little baby hand. Of the hundreds of washings those hands of mine got when we finally found a doctor who diagnosed him with a series of staph infections. When we were told hand washing and a lot of bleach baths were a good antidote to staph recurring. And they are—but they’re hard on your hands. I think of staying up at night as his little fingers held my finger so tightly. How when I’d let go, he’d sense the difference and cry.

You know what, hands? You’re not so bad after all. Velvety and soft are great but do not denote living to me. They doesn’t stand for mothering, gardening, cooking, dog walking and all those things that help make a house a home. I’ve earned these hands. They’ve done a lot of good over the years.

But these fine lines around my eyes and mouth. Now those could go.

Then again . . . the nights I’ve stayed up howling with my best friends over some caper helped to create those laugh lines. The consternation I felt at my dying parents’ bedsides might have contributed to that furrow between my brows. I would not trade either experience for anything. That’s living. Being in the thick of it, for better or for worse.

I guess I’ll keep the lines. They show you I’ve lived. I’ve felt. I’ve been brave enough to dive in with all I’ve got.

I think back to my mother, dying. I told her, in those last few weeks, that she still had pretty feet. She scoffed and said, “Oh, phooey. You’re just trying to make me feel better.” But she smiled.

I remember thinking, as her body began to slowly deteriorate and move toward death in so many ways—her hair turning limp and white, her pallor, the loss of muscle tone—that if you just looked at her feet, you wouldn’t know she was dying. I cried, thinking how I wished I could just focus on those feet and pretend the rest wasn’t happening.

But you can’t do that, can you? And I don’t intend to do it now, with my own body.

I want to see myself clearly. I don’t want to kid myself into thinking I can, or should, look like I did at 25. But I also want to look as good as possible. While loving the body that’s gotten me to this point.

So, ladies, I think it’s about the self talk. Do you look at where you’ve been and what you’ve done? Do you see that you’ve earned what you’ve got? And that, to the right person, that is beautiful?

I don’t have that right person in my life right now. But if and when he comes into it, I have a feeling he may show a bit of wear and tear. And I will respect the lines, dents and dings he brings with him because they’re relics of where he has been—and the person he has become.

As famed writer Hunter S. Thompson said: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’.”

I believe I’m more than halfway there. And enjoying the ride.


30 Comments Add yours

  1. Well from the sound of this, I should be most proud of myself. LOL. Eh. Sigh. lol.

    Engaging and

    “that if you just looked at her feet, you wouldn’t know she was dying.”

    painfully beautiful.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for the kind words. When your mom is in hospice over the holidays, it changes the way you look at them from then on. I think each year now if families going through pain. It truly changes your perspective.

      1. Ann Lamott in Bird by Bird said of her visits to the elderly: “I continued to go there, and I struggled to find meaning in their bleak existence..a medieval monk, Brother Lawrence…saw all of us as trees in winter, with little to give, stripped of leaves and color and growth, whom God loves unconditionally ANYWAY. My friend who works with the aged and who shared this image with me, wanted me to see that even though these old people are no longer useful in any traditional meaning of the word…they are there to be loved unconditionally, like trees in the winter.”

      2. candidkay says:

        Loved that book! My mother was lucky enough to live a full life and chose to go when that no longer seemed possible. If only we could all be so lucky.

  2. I love this post!!! I am really hard on myself regarding my body – what it was and what it is. I hate that feeling! I dread getting dressed in the morning, finding something that is comfortable (hides certain things) and stylish – or just something that fits! I love how you slowed it down and put things in a beautiful new perspective. I also happen to adore HST and was thrilled to see his quote at the end!

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s a pact then:) I’ll go easy on myself and you do the same.

      1. Yes! (I’ll try really hard!) 😄

  3. Great post. One of favorite songs is “Bad Body Double” by British singer Imogen Heap. Play it loud!

    I’m turning (holy shit) 57 in June. I now have age spots on my hands and wrinkling there that’s a dead giveaway to the observant. Luckily, strangers with good eyesight in broad daylight (i.e. no need to flatter) still guess me a decade younger. I don’t care much, but I compete with much-younger people in my field (and work with them) so that’s an issue.

    I had my left hip replaced in Feb. 2012. That was a re-set. Now everything else pales when I can run and jump and take 3 dance classes a week with all the young skinnies…:-)

  4. hi candid kay. natural beauty is the way to go. i live in south korea, where too many beautiful women uglify themselves with cosmetic surgery, turning themselves into freaks. by the way, i wanted to ask you something. i noticed you’ve been on freshly pressed. turns out i have too (it was news to me until a moment ago, when i stumbled on a comment that revealed the fact). anyway, i was wondering if i could advertise this honor on my blog, or is that a privilege you have to pay for? if you don’t know the answer, you don’t have to go out of your way to reply. sorry for the longwinded comment!

    1. candidkay says:

      Hi there–Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! You can advertise and there’s a widget for this. In your settings/controls, you can find it and drag it to the ones you use.

      And it’s too bad about the women in S. Korea. I hate it here in U.S. when they have women’s “health” conferences and plastic surgery seminars are included along with real health sessions. As if being an object of beauty has to do with health . . .

  5. Oh how I love that quote of Hunter S. Thompson’s! And I agree with every word you wrote – I bemoan the aging process, the body rather than the laugh lines, but I value the service my body has given me (and the children, of course!). Childbirth is the greatest physical achievement of my life!

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree! Childbirth is amazing–and the nine months prior is no picnic. But we all power through it and should be proud:)

  6. catalina says:

    A love letter to your body – what an idea! Lovely 🙂

  7. I feel this way–where I love every inch of myself and in the same breath, I hate every inch of myself. Or not hate but I find issue with myself. This is a constant battle. If I am not perfect enough for my viewpoint, I am bothered. I wish I were a man sometimes.

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah yes, perfection. I had a mother who pushed for that and didn’t accept much else. Unfortunately, that voice sticks with us throughout life and only gets echoed by pop culture and Madison Avenue. I’m learning to cultivate the kinder, gentler voice that counteracts it. I hope you do too.

  8. Absolutely love this!! I have been working on self-love lately. And for me, I am trying to get into the habit of being grateful for my body; for what it has done, and what it can do. From nursing my son for a long as we could (3 1/2 mos.), to carrying me up and down ten decks of steel back when I was working on ship. To healing from injury, and also to acting up when there is something energetically stuck in my body that I need to pay attention to, and to do some energy work around (currently, my unhappy left knee). I am consciously viewing my body as a self-healing miracle that began as less than an atom- when it was just a swirl of energy of becoming (me). And I love my multi-tonal, hair that some people would call gray, until they get up close and really look at it.

    I also remember loving to sit in our recliner, when I was pregnant, and watch the afternoon show: tummy morphing. Thank you for reminding us that Madison Ave has got it all wrong. Youth has nothing on me, except skin that shows life’s inexperience.

    1. PS. I’m glad I worked in a field where youth equaled inexperience. And in shipping, inexperience can get you killed.

      1. candidkay says:

        Our culture doesn’t seem to respect age and wisdom as much as we could–you make a good pt.

  9. Anne says:

    Yes, comfortable with these age spots, gray hairs, laugh wrinkles because it has nothing to do with my spirit. I act at times like I am 30 but my looks are about 10 yrs older than I am. Life is too short to color my hair & inject myself. I am so glad that you are accepting that aging is not necessarily a bad thing. I feel so bad for woman who obviously are older but dress & try to look like they are much younger. I do confess though that when I see an older woman & she looks fabulous I do feel a twinge of jelousy but then I think I wonder how much money she spent to get there & is it all real. At least people will know I am for real!

    1. candidkay says:

      And who you are for real is beautiful:)

  10. What a well written post! There’s a lot of stuff stored in our bodies— wouldn’t it be nice if we could just give it a break…and let it be as is — without all the negativity? It’s a tall order for many of us.

    1. candidkay says:

      Amen. But I’m working on it!

  11. If I could hug you I would, sending a virtual huggle your way. Your words have touched me and moved me, brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat because I understand completely what you say and it resonates with me so much. Thankyou 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Just about the nicest thing you can say to a writer is that she has moved you. I’m glad my words resonated . . . I think a lot of us feel this but can’t always articulate it. And it takes some time to learn kindness for yourself–at least for me it does.

  12. lserf13 says:

    Wow, how I love this. I haven’t given birth, but at the age of 31 I have been thinking of how it will affect my body when I do get pregnant. But you just put it into perspective…so beautiful!

    1. candidkay says:

      So many phenom things these bodies of ours endure and can do . . .

  13. Kristine – wish you were with me at my annual dermatology appt earlier this week. The doctor asked “Are you ready to try a little botox for those wrinkles and “11s” on your forehead? Hmmm….of course she is a young whipper snapper at 35 and her forehead is picture perfect! I may go with bangs soon!

    1. candidkay says:

      I hear you–I know a lot of gals going with botox and fillers. I’m still 100% organic:) Holding steady. Good for you!

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