Thursday, May 16, 2013

What If?

Photo courtesy of Google Images

My pants are too tight. I mean, like the part of my day I dread the most is getting dressed, too tight. For those of you who have kept up with me through my blog you know that I made some major diet changes over the last couple of years in order to alleviate some health problems. An awesome bonus of those changes was losing weight. I had even gotten into a smaller size than I was in high school. It made me happy, happy, happy. :)

Well, things changed. I stopped teaching dance six hours a week and started working a desk job that also made the whole healthy eating thing more of a challenge as it meant actually preparing things ahead of time, and come to find out, I stink at that. :) And holidays came. And went. And after eating horribly for 7 months suddenly-boom! My pants don't fit. Even my shirts started feeling tight. For a while I got away with the eating normal thing. I didn't gain weight right away. I even still felt okay. So, I kind of convinced myself my body was healed and I could eat M&M's on the way home from work everyday if I wanted to. 

Of course, all good things must come to an end. A couple of  months ago two of my co-workers told me that I looked like I was expecting. They said I had the glow. I know that was nice talk for "wow, your belly is growing".  There was a day and time when their comments would have led to a complete emotional breakdown when I got home (if I made it that far before the waterworks started). But you know what? It didn't really bother me. The truth is, yeah I have gained weight. I also have a medical condition that at certain times causes my belly to swell like I'm six months along carrying twins. It's not the most thrilling part of my life, but I realized it's also not the worst thing ever. In fact, my co-workers seemed as though they were being complimentary. Now, I do not particularly want to look pregnant (been there, done that, couldn't fit in the t-shirt), but for the first time, maybe ever, it dawned on me that perhaps gaining some weight was not the end of the world. 

And I began thinking, what if we were taught to see things differently in our culture? What if, instead of dreading pregnant and post-baby bodies, we celebrated them? What if we were taught that stretch marks and saggy skin and wider hips are awesome? Not because they are necessarily beautiful to look at, but just because it is amazing what those pregnant and post-baby bodies have done? What if younger girls looked at older women the way that older women look at younger women? With longing for a body different than their own. Even for those who have never experienced pregnancy, there are so many changes that happen. Lines that come from laughter. Hair that grays with experience. 

I once had a friend's mom tell me how you could always tell a woman's age by her hands because women are always dutiful to take care of their faces, but not so much their hands. I've always thought about that. And worried about it. I hate the way lotion feels on my hands and have always felt sure my hands will look 80 years old any day now. But with this new found outlook, I began to think about what that meant. I hope my hands age. I hope that they look like I've done something with them. Because despite what our culture would have us to think, we are not just here to be looked at. 

I recently discovered a website that says all of these things so much better than me. It is called Beauty Redefined and has many articles that discuss this very thing. The idea that beauty is not necessarily what we've been taught that it is. Do you know what one of the greatest things has been about my roller coaster weight journey? It has been the fact that I have finally been able to grasp the fact that I am the same person whether my clothes are a size 6 or a size 12. I prefer how I look at certain sizes better than others, but at the end of the day whatever size my body is, it is housing Emily. You see, it has just been in the last few months that it really dawned on me how much I placed my value in being a certain size or looking a certain way. Like so many, I had bought in to the idea that physical beauty is the only thing that matters about a person. Let's face it, we have that crammed down our throats all the time. Only the beautiful people get to be the lead characters in love stories. Beautiful people apparently get away with crimes because they're better looking. We hear that good looking people are more likely to get promotions. And the idea we internalize is that looks trump every other quality a person has and we only exist to be looked at. Can I tell you something as someone who has been with the same person for 15 years? You can only look at each other so much. :)

Sadly, generations upon generations have grown up thinking that being pretty is more important than being kind. That being skinny or curvy in all the right places is better than being smart. That having a tan beats out being funny. Good hair is way better than being honest. White teeth? Totally trumps talent. It sounds silly, but it's so ingrained in us that it's hard to grasp that it's not the truth. That people are important and valuable even if they could lose a few pounds or need braces. 

When I had lost so much weight I would get lots of compliments about my size. But over the last several months I've had several people compliment me and say, "You look good. You look so happy."   And, maybe those M&M's had something to do with it :), but I like to think that for once what was happening inside of me stood out more than what was going on physically. 

I think that is exactly what this verse is talking about:

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

1Peter 3:3-4

What if?

What if, we spent as much time working on our minds, spirits, and the health of our bodies as we did on just appearing a certain way?

What if, we stopped talking negatively about ourselves and leading to more insecurity of those around us?

What if, we valued the bodies of those who have aged and experienced things we haven't?

What if, we devoted ourselves to growing and doing and serving instead of just appearing?

What if, we decided that if we are okay with ourselves it doesn't matter if anybody else is?

What if, we measured the impact our life has on someone else instead of our waist?

What if, we could learn to not only accept ourselves, but others as well?

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

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