Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's reflected in the mirror

Since I finished the unpacking and setting up process, and began job hunting, it has been a little awkward trying to establish a routine. Having been, in the past, a very physically active person, I thought that I couldn’t wait to get back into working out, but strangely enough I’ve avoided getting that started. I’ve been watching movies and tv and reading – things I didn’t have time for while I was finishing my degree and working. I understand the desire to enjoy my free time, but I also want to feel more energetic, and I know that getting into better shape will help that.

This morning, finally, it was cold outside. My little indoor/outdoor thermometer said 35F when I came downstairs. After I took M to school, I decided to go for a long walk. There are leaves on the ground and a wonderful freshness in the air. I felt the muscles in my legs and hips responding to my stride, and it felt good. I’ve always been a strong walker. It was a beautiful morning. The sky was cloudless and blue, and as I walked through the greenbelt and watched the fat, round bellied Prairie dogs standing alert in the sunshine, and listened to the rustle of the Cottonwood trees in the gentle breeze, I wondered why I wasn’t doing this every day. When I crested the hill on my way back home, I stopped to inhale the scent of the river basin rising on the air. I felt such a wave of peace and gratitude to be here in this place that is so beautiful to me.

Tonight, after my daughter’s bedtime, I sat down to watch an Oprah show that I’d DVR’d, and it was about a young woman who had survived a plane crash that had left her burned on 80% of her body. She has four little children, and demonstrated remarkable spirit letting everyone see how she now lives.

I thought about how I’ve been kvetching about getting older and the signs of aging I’ve noticed in my skin and my hair, and I felt the tears roll down my cheeks. How easy it is to be shallow. How easy to really think that it matters how smooth and flawless the skin around my mouth is or is not. To feel distress over the fact of the curiously curlier white hair that is becoming more noticeable near my ears. To turn in front of a full length mirror and regard my upper arms, my stomach, and my thighs, and to feel anything but joy.

I am strong, and whole, and my body has done everything I’ve ever asked of it. I am in perfect health, and I had a successful and unremarkable pregnancy at 42. I can lift and carry, bend over and touch my toes, and make it to the top of any mountain. Why do I disrespect my body by lamenting its changes? How do we lose sight of the incredible gift that is just being ordinary?

I am not beating myself up; I am feeling curious about how we women, especially, view our bodies and are so skewed about what we are capable of. I feel less inclined to have a bad body image because I was athletic, and I want my daughter to have that same advantage, but I still succumb to the unrealistic and meaningless images that are all around us, telling us what we are supposed to expect our bodies to be for us. If no one ever looked at me – if I was always alone and didn’t ever wonder what someone else thought when they saw my body – would it ever occur to me to scrutinize my crows-feet? Or would I only be aware of how my legs can stretch to eat up the miles?

I have always thought that I would enjoy being an old woman, but I see that the in between stage might be a little challenging to my ego. I saw an elderly woman on the trail this morning, and as we exchanged a friendly hello, I thought about losing my powerful gait. I thought it was high time I got myself back into the weight room. Not to cling in vain to a youthful image, but to try to retain my independence as long as I can. I’d really miss my walks.


  1. Fantastic post, as always. You are SO right, and I need to remember these sentiments more often. Thank you for the reminder.

    Also? You're gorgeous.

  2. Fantastic, indeed! So well written. I love the imagery of the round bellied Prairie dogs.

    My comment on a previous post still stand.