Twenty years ago today, this moment, I was lying in a hospital bed, holding my brand new baby son. It had been my bravest and best day to date.
Twenty minutes ago today, I was looking in the mirror, full of loathing. Loathing the veins that I can see poking up through my skin; and the way everything seems to be sort of sagging; and the lumps and bumps and bruises that are popping up out of nowhere these days. Loathing my lower back for aching and taking away the easy pleasure of running and doing yoga and moving freely. Loathing the recurring pinched nerve in the right side of my neck, and my diminishing eyesight that forces me to remember to take my reading glasses with me everywhere.
If I talked to a friend the way I talk to myself, it would be shocking.
Let’s recap: this is the same body that brought a baby who would grow up to become a good man into the world. This is the body that, almost 16 years ago, ushered in a baby girl who would grow up to become a strong woman. This is the body that has walked and run every mile I’ve ever asked it to, digested food I really shouldn’t have eaten, healed time after time after time from falls and scrapes and even deeper hurts. This is the body that kept me going on not nearly enough sleep when I begged it to, that has carried me around in the world for 47 years, its heart faithfully beating. And this is the body that will one day fall away, and let me go home, when I need it to. And even though its complexity is unfathomable to me, even though I’ll never even begin to have a clue what a miracle it is, I have the nerve to stand there, and look at it with a critical eye…and bash it. And compare it. And feel bad about it.
So here’s a question for anyone who can relate to this situation: (Those of you who are fully secure and content, God love you, need not read on.) When does this stop? When do we finally insist on talking to ourselves the way we would talk to a dear friend? When can we look deeply into our own eyes and see a beautiful soul peering out?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So why do we keep forgetting that we are the beholder? And that where we see beauty, there is, indeed, real beauty, and that it is so much more, runs so much deeper, than the lines on our faces.
So today, as I celebrate not only my son’s birthday, but the gracious, beautiful body that helped God bring him into the world, I am throwing away the loathing. Trading it for gratitude. And when the magazine covers haunt me just a little bit, or I am tempted to buy in to the latest lotion or cream that promises to turn back the hands of time, I will stop myself. I will take a deep breath. And on the exhale, I will whisper, “Enough.” I have had enough. I am enough.