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.