Monday, February 23, 2015

Tattoos, Food, and Our Bodies

Each month this year I'm sharing a reflection on this one question: What do I already have?  You can check out January's post here and let me know your thoughts below.  

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It was this past summer on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains.  0ur Saturn Vue slowly descended into a curve of land, winding through trees and streams, rocks and ferns.  We put our windows down and let the cool air roll in. The boys kicked their little feet and we kept our eyes peeled in the excitement of discovery.  Silence and awe made their way into the car too, for how could something so absolutely simple (the stuff out of dirt and sky) be so immensely breathtaking? How could the humble greens & browns before our eyes piece together in time and somehow reach into our car and work as if medicine pierced and pouring deep into our souls? 

Nature, you are the good stuff, and I have found no alternative to put in your place. 

But today I type not only of the nature we find when we take our family along for a small hike or for a trip out fishing.  I'm talking about you too.  Yes, you reading this post.  The way your arms can reach to hug a friend.  The length of your legs.  The strength of your back.  That cascade of hair that frames your face.  We're looking at you, Jared Leto. ;)

You, whomever you are, are beautiful. Absolutely! 

These guys are definitely cute just as they are,  blossoming mullets or not. ;)
Beauty. Do we know beauty when we see it? Do we stop and see things for what they are, just as they are? Are we content with the beauty right at our feet, right in our neighborhood, right now and not "plus a little more"?

Mom forbid "beauty" magazines from the house.  Once, I broke the rule and checked out a few from the library and flipped through them in my bedroom with my sister.  When mom found them, she simply asked me to return them to the library.  She was onto something but was low key about it.  It took a great deal of time for her purpose in doing so to sink in, but her actions truly did speak louder than any words she might have used.

There are many things I can't ever repay my mom for, but the way in which she intentionally trained me to think about my body is high on the list.  And maybe I give her too much credit here. Maybe I don't give her enough. But what I came to know about myself growing up was that my worth had nothing to do with how I put together an outfit, how fashionable I appeared in front of my peers, or if I knew how to apply eye shadow above my hazel eyes (I didn't).

No. My worth was, it seemed to me, 1. inherent and 2. endlessly larger than my looks.  

I'm a late bloomer in general and my know-how with clothes and makeup has been no exception.  I'm still learning how to navigate my hooded eyelids and I just recently started trying out new products for fun as a sort of late-in-life closet hobby. (so now you know).  Oh, so that's how you get your eyebrows to look like that? Wow. Ok. I believe in the joy of dressing up, thickening my lashes, and giving Paul that look that says, go ahead and tell me I'm pretty.  

But at the end of the day, I wash my face and look in the mirror and think to myself that I am beautiful just as I am. Not in a I-just-read-an-article-about-self-affirmations-way. Not because I've told myself to do so. Not because I am beautiful in scientific terms.  Not because I particularly love the color of my eyes or the shape of my nose. Maybe even because I don't pay more attention to them than I do the cry of my toddlers or the smell of lunch as it comes together.  

See, I feel beautiful because I feel that me as I am, in the all disclosing form and flesh that I've been tied to, was fearfully and wonderfully made.  A miracle sprung from the love of my parents, here I am, staring back at myself at the close of another day and grateful for all the messiness and imperfections and mysterious things that I am, beautiful because I live and work and love as a miracle dressed up in clothes.

I want to share something with you that I think about from time-to-time but is thorny to share. Heaven help me because if there are two things true about me and only two things they are that:

1. I would rather die than offend someone  {not that I don't....yikes, my mouth}
2. I feel things deeply 

So please know I'm going to tread lightly here and be as tender with my words as I can be without diluting my truth. (and yes, we all have our own truths. good thing, right? yes!) 

Here goes.  My perspective of seeing beauty in people (yes, all people) just as they are runs so vibrant and so strong, that I'm mystified and saddened each time I see a tattoo freshly set in skin. 

I'm 30 years old.  At some point, the shock will dissipate, right? And yet, when I let myself really think about the ingenious ink, that creative, artistic, and often meaningful expression for just a moment, I'm almost lost in breath at the great divide.  The massive leap from this form of beauty in front of me, dull black, bright green, flashing red, and your first and foremost beauty, that freckled skin that glows a little after you've been kissed by summer's sun.  The beauty of you changing, aging, growing, evolving, learning and being a slashing, gorging stretch distant from something so fixed and fading.  

All I can think, as if a bell reverberating in my core, is that she can not know, she can not possibly begin to know how beautiful she already is...because if she did, the thought of something on top of her already stunningly and naturally, gloriously and yet quietly humble skin would be a non-option. A non-option. 

And yet. Even though the drive to tattoo continues to evade me, I grow in grace.  The choices of others to decorate and beautify their bodies, temporary or not, matters little to me in contrast to the thing, the one thing, that does matter: how we treat each other (and ourselves!). 

And if I could only get that one right. Oh, how I wish I could get that one right.  There's my intentions and then there's reality, and I really wish they would come to middle ground and hold hands because my typical experience is that Miss Intentions has real fat hopes of being dazzlingly kind and Mrs. Reality often frowns, laughs, or does that raised eyebrow look at all that nonsense.  How we treat each other. This is what matters! Yes. And that brings me back to our bodies, the dignity of them, the wonder of them, the way in which they are often much more than we give them credit for.

I started the Whole 30 last week, and I'm thinking that despite my wonder and awe at our naturally beautiful bodies, the things that I eat and drink do not often reflect that.  The wisdom and beauty of our bodies is lost, buried, drowned, and silenced when we pile on top of it, dress it up cheaply, in all kinds of convoluted, cultural nonsense. . .  

+Yes, diet coke doesn't make any sense materially, but don't read those ingredients. Tell those ingredients to shut up.

+Yes, your body wants more babies, but girl, you know we've worked hard to free you from that stupidly natural impulse. Tell your body to shut up.

+Yes, it could be harmful to load your body with sugar to get more energy, but it's there, so you can have it. You can! So tell your conscience to shut up.  

+Yes, your middle bulges over your jeans and you hate it something fierce, but so-and-so celebrity says "I love my body so very much even though I'm large and it matters to me none at all" and so I guess I'm wrong about how to feel about my size. The jeans are wrong, so tell those jeans to shut up.

+Yes, your options to buy things at the store are limited because this doesn't look right and that doesn't feel quite right and this might, but no...but you don't say so because you probably just shouldn't feel that way, right? It's not your fault. It's that store's fault!! So tell that store to shut up & hire better designers.

Well, I'm tired of silencing my body.  I'm ready to listen. Oh, you're exhausted? Oh, you crash every time I binge on sugar? Oh, you're anxious. Oh, you don't think we should actually be this size? Ok. Let's talk about that. 

See, all the articles, songs, interviews and videos about loving our bodies NO MATTER WHAT are GOOD.  We should do that.  100%.  But that doesn't excuse us from taking care of them too. It doesn't take away that we also just don't feel good at the end of the day or subtract the fact that, despite what anyone cares about you, you still want to look good in a swimsuit just because your body can, and you know it can because it is capable. Some days you can feel that capability pulsing & tugging at your heart. So let's listen to it and give it way more room to speak than the cacophony in magazines and the ridiculousness of the hottest trend or the loudest voice in the room. 

We SHOULD look in the mirror each and every day, in any size, shape, color, and whatever mild to wild decorative, fashionable, dressed up form (and mix of stuff bubbling inside too!) and feel downright good about ourselves. Not because everything we've done is good. (although hard work & good choices are a whole other wonderful set of things to experience) But because we are at our core good. Your body is good. You are good.  You are beautiful. Just as you are, as you were meant to be. All the rest---the expensive purse, the nails, the extensions, the designer jeans, the tattoo, the highlights, the gorgeous smoky eyes---those are BONUS. They are extra. They are the things beyond the one thing. Your body. My body. Our bodies.

They are, when we really get down to it in their honest and unabashed forms, beautifully and wonderfully made.

And so for this month, as I curb my sugar habit, roast more veggies, and have fun dressing up my eyes in the shadows Paul bought me for Christmas, I will be thinking about how good a thing it is that I have this body and that it is my responsibility and privilege to treat it with all the respect that it deserves, that down below a lot of mucky muck (many hundred cups of sugary, creamy coffee drinks stuck around my middle) is a glowing me begging to be set free.

Much love,


** I will be sharing some thoughts & experiences with the Whole 30 at some point. If you are curious about the short-term diet, let me know what you want to hear about below. 

1 comment:

  1. Gosh, I don't even have a coherent response to this because it's just so much to think about. I love being privy to some of the thoughts in your head. I also dislike tattoos but my reflection hasn't ever gone beyond "Why would anyone do that???" You've said it so much more eloquently.