This weekend I was laying on the couch for a very rare moment where I couldn’t think of an emergency that needed tending to. Gia was napping and Will was running and errand and it was just me and the couch. Just laying there. Like heaven. Then something weird happened.
I started paying attention to how my body was feeling. I noticed my feet were pulsing with tiredness from a busy couple days. I noticed my back and shoulders were a little sore and tight from carrying Gia around. And then I felt it. It started seeping into those places that were tired and a little sore. Gratitude.
Can I just tell you how bizarre it was for me to feel this? It wasn’t like I was making a cognitive choice to “be thankful.” It just snuck right up on me.
I spend my days not really living in my body. I did it before Gia was born, but I really do it now. How does my body feel? Um, I’m not sure. I haven’t checked in with it for a few months. Prior to this couch time, I can’t honestly say when I last stopped to notice how my body was feeling. I’ve got bigger things to think about, like bills and babies and work and making it to bedtime.
This is, in part, a blessing. I am blessed to have no aches and pains that are so strong I cannot ignore them. My body has been faithful to my needs. It has never let me down when I need to lift Gia up or walk across the yard with her in my arms. It has never told me “NO” when I wanted to do something physically. My body has said – yes, we can go on a walk. Yes, we can chase a toddler. Yes, we can crawl around on the floor with her. Yes, we can swing with her, run with her, throw her in the air, and pack her around on my hip.
How amazing is that? How amazing, and yet I take it for granted each and every day. I berate myself for not looking like a Victoria’s Secret model in a bikini. I write posts about how I just can’t get over how much my body has let me down. How it is never good enough. I think about how for YEARS I have waged mental wars with certain parts of my body.
And in that moment on the couch, the years of complete meanness, of being completely ungrateful to my body caught up to me for a brief moment and I saw them all playing like a highlight reel of cruel moments. And tears welled up in my eyes. They are welling up again as I write this.
My body effortlessly gave me Gia. It blows my mind. I didn’t endure a single moment of struggle in trying to conceive a child. My body carried her for exactly nine months with not a single hiccup. My body grew a big, healthy baby and birthed her when people told me I couldn’t. I single-handedly fed her and grew her healthy and strong even after she was born. My body healed itself completely. I did nothing. My body did it all for me. These are things some women can only dream of. Each one of these things is nothing short of a complete and utter miracle.
And still I berate it for not being thin enough. I still yell “DAMNIT STOMACH WHY CANT YOU JUST BE FLATTER??” during 90% of my trips to the mirror.
When we were little, my sister and I used to beg my mom to take us swimming. We would beg and beg and beg. It was the one thing my mom resisted. She didn’t want to take us, because she didn’t want to be seen in a swimsuit. I can vividly remember one time she took us. I am pretty sure it was the only time. I remember being SO. HAPPY. Sure, my dad would take us. And we did swimming lessons every summer. But we wanted our mom. We wanted her splashing with us. We wanted her to feel the cold water that numbed your body WITH US.
In this moment of complete clarity on the couch, I stumbled through an apology to my body. It was weird talking to my body in a nice way. Um, hi there body. It’s me, Ashley. Yeah, the one who is always complaining. Yeah, the same one who is always scolding you. Uh, yeah, the one who at times looks at you with disappointment, disgust and frustration. So, um, yeah, the thing is….
I’m sorry. You know the things I have said to you. I am so sorry. You let me see, hear, taste, smell, and feel this incredible world. You let me run and jump and swim and cuddle and love and laugh and let me BE PRESENT in this world.
Anne Lamott says:
“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heat. Don’t let this happen.”
I think often about how sad I would be if I listened to all the critical voices instead of the ones inside that know my truths. What if I never would have dated Will again because our past was too complicated and people said it was “too soon.” What if I never would have asked my boss to work part-time from home because people thought that was unrealistic, and we didn’t know how bills would get paid. What if I never would have had the guts to blog because I was afraid of the reactions of people who believe a good girl is seen and not heard, and a good girl is definitely not one who makes her opinions and thoughts and personal struggles known on the internet.
I have vowed to go swimming with my daughter as much as I can. BECAUSE SWIMMING IS FUN. I am going to do it. I’m not going to look back on my life and say, “I wish I would have gone swimming with Gia.” Fuck that. I’m not doing that. I’m going swimming.