Looking at my body naked in the mirror this morning, I discovered that I look like a goddess. This may seem like the opening to a rather narcissistic post or a least some celebratory bit of self love, but it’s anything but.
I don’t know what’s more disturbing, how much weight I can put on in a short period of time, or that I am at a place in time in our culture where looking like I belong in a Renaissance painting is sadly disappointing.
A friend recently stated that she loves her body, then after a short pause followed with “on the right day, in the right lighting, wearing or not wearing just the right thing.” The topic of body image and identification is so vast, where can one begin to fleshed out the complexity of it all? I suppose this taxing season is one place.
What’s striking to me is how much where our bodies are at affect most women. I would even argue all women if it wasn’t dangerous to do so. At a Christmas party yesterday, I don’t think one woman made it through the night without complaining about the extra pounds. It’s almost as though we’re all telling each other ‘don’t worry, I know I got fatter, I know I am disgusting and I know I have to do something about it.” And then everyone assures each other how beautiful we all still look and we carry on shoving sweets in our faces and downing wine.
What is with that? All of it? What would it be like to stand around at a Christmas party all plump and sexy and celebrate the shifting seasons within our own physical form? Or not having to be disappointed that yet again our bodies morphed with the season of hibernation? As much as I understand the laws of change, as much as I am able to flow with the shifting seasons of life and spontaneously meet whatever is arising, I seem to find myself aching for the solution to the body problem. I, like many women I know and love, want to perfect meal plan or perfect activity regimen that will keep my body from shifting and changing, that will help it become some perfect, air brushed ideal and somewhere it the back of my unconscious there is a belief that that will make me a better woman.
I can see all sorts of possible ways to grow out of these pathologies, but I see the beliefs that permeate our culture, our young girls, all girls, to be something that needs to be scrutinized, exposed and owned before we can start to move out the pain of striving for something that isn’t what we’re actually aching for. That is, the solution in our culture to our dissatisfaction seems to automatically look like diet and exercise.
I’d argue that what we’re actually aching for is not a body that feels tight and perfect all the time, but for an open hearted embrace of the changes that occur day by day in our bodies, that we can feel sexy when our hip bones press into our belt and also when our hips flesh spills over our belt. Our ache isn’t really to get somewhere, but to be deeply satisfied being here. Our ache is to be healthy and whole. Because when I look in the mirror and am repulsed by the goddess looking back, I know that the sickness has a hold on me, a sickness where the solution is neither fewer cookies nor harder runs, but something greater and deeper and way more difficult to pin down.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not knocking a healthy lifestyle. The thing is, I am neither overweight nor unhealthy, this fleshy, curvy Christmas cherub body is only inadequate in so much as I don’t approve of its aesthetic. Of course a healthy lifestyle is important, but many of us keep turning to our diet and fitness as a solution to our body issues and I think we all need to be having a more honest conversation about what’s underneath all that and begin insisting that new solutions are fleshed out in our communities rather than (or at least in addition to) committing to one more bootcamp class.