I believe in paradox. I look at the number on my bathroom scale, 161, and I know with certainty that I am not defined by that number. That is not who I am. I am a woman, a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a leader, a change agent, an inspiration, a strong member of my community. I am a dog lover, a new Mah Jong player, an email addict, a closet romance reader. I am unemployed. I am performing the most important job on Earth: parenthood. What does the number 161 have to do with who I am?
Well, everything. It is an indisputable part of me. 1 – 6 – 1. That’s how much I weigh. Yep, that’s me. My doctor needs my height in addition to my weight, but given both those numbers, she can make pretty accurate predictions about my longevity and health risks. When people look at me, they may not know that number, but they can guess it with reasonable precision and come close to it. There are many deductions that people can make from that number: undisciplined, struggling, matronly. There’s accuracy in what people glean from looking at me, yet there’s also no truth to what they see in a glance.
When people look at me, they cannot see my essence. They cannot see the fierceness in me that clawed through fertility surgery to bear children. They cannot see the playful energy that romps with my dog in the morning dew. They cannot see my dejection as I watch a dream wash down the river. They cannot see my glow of pride as I kiss my sleeping children. They cannot see my roar of anger over injustice.
A close friend once told me, “I am not my body.”
“Sure you are,” I shot back. “Doesn’t your body define you, serve you, guide you, communicate with you, communicate with others about you?” It’s a sacred vessel, it’s a dumping ground. It says everything about me, and it says nothing about me.
My body is a paradox, and it’s an expression of my life.
I believe my body is a mirror for how closely I’m living in integrity. There’s a clear relationship between my weight and my level of integrity. As I express who I am through my actions and my words, my weight goes down – my body no longer needs to perform that duty for me. As I slip away from who I am in my heart, my body betrays this change, and my weight climbs.
About three years and 25 pounds more ago, I posed nude for my friend’s art group, and I am still stunned by the reverence that group brought to that room. My body was an inspiration for artwork! “My body is FAR more interesting than Barbie’s,” I told my husband with pride after that affirmation, and I framed one of the sketches and put it up in my bedroom.
I believe in evolution of thought. In fact, I think it’s our reason for being: to grow, to learn, to discover, to experience, to explore. I used to believe that since I wasn’t pretty or slim or Barbie-like that I didn’t fit in, would never belong, could never be successful. Then I believed that my appearance meant nothing, and Gloria Steinem-like, I carried the raging feminist torch. Fat is a feminist issue, said the book title and my new thoughts. “Comfort before beauty” became my motto at age 30. I swore off nylons, stopped shaving my legs, and disappeared into fashion frump.
Now, instead of hating and then ignoring my body, I look to it for the wisdom it holds. I ask myself what it’s telling me about my hunger, about my desires, about my weight, both literal and metaphorical. And I listen. I listen to my weight, to my body, to my essence.
I believe in creating community. I know people are part of my community when they listen to my truth. Thank you for listening.
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