I've come to understand that the way I feel about myself is very much influenced by how I'm spending my time. I've been on a mission lately to position myself in the world so that I'm constantly being exposed to positive messages about my worth, as a person.
If I'm feeling obsessed with my appearance, if I'm worried about not being good enough, it means that I'm not living my life in the way I was meant to. If I'm trying to change myself so that I'll be more palatable to other people, based on standards that I didn't invent, I am not living my best life.
The thing is... I do have a holy life. We all do. There is a way I can exist in the world that creates MORE love and MORE beauty and MORE peace. Dieting and scrutinizing myself in the mirror doesn't make any positive difference to anybody. All I can accomplish being obsessed with the way I look is to make myself feel like shit.
I'm not shit, though. I'm amazing.
It's hard, though, because I can't tell anybody else how to love themselves.
For me, loving myself has something to do with growing.
Going to the beach with my girls was more than a vacation. It forced them to try something new. They slept in new beds and woke up under a new sun. They rode a boat into the middle of the ocean. The ground shifted under their feet. After a year of waking up, having breakfast, watching tv, getting ready for school, reading a story, taking a bath and going to bed... it shook them up to take a walk and gather sea shells before breakfast.
They came home bigger than they were, before.
That, for me, is the key to loving myself. It's about getting bigger, every day. It's about not endeavoring to be smaller or prettier or more fashionable. It's about not loving my possessions more than my experiences. It's about growing things, food and flowers and senses of wonder. I want to grow so big, I can't be stopped. I want to grow so solid and real, I could hold my own in a forest of thousand year old trees.
Instead of counting my calories, I dig in the dirt. I go out into the yard with a knife and bring in an armload of kale for my morning juice. I write myself into a trance, where nothing is real and tiny sentences put the entire world in a shadow. I fall asleep at night next to my baby girl after spending all day in the sun, teaching her how to swim. I don't lie awake anymore, worrying about how I'll look in my friend's wedding pictures. I don't wake up and prepare myself for a day of not eating, or of failing to not eat. I wake up and we have big bowls of strawberries on the front porch while Louise swings and swings and swings.
I make things. I cut and I sew and I rip with my teeth. Instead of trying to be beautiful, I make beauty out of the air. I feel beautiful with a measuring tape around my neck and pins clenched in my teeth. I feel beautiful when I create something that didn't exist before.
Kind of like with my children. I made them. I'm not being arrogant. I see myself in them all the time. When Scouty thanks Louise before bed by saying, "Thank you for eating pretzels with me and being my friend," I see that my love for them and for their daddy made their love for one another. When Louise points her little finger and tells me, "No whining!"... I see how she's only expressing what I've shown her how to express. Someday they'll take everything they've learned and turn it into their own lives, separate from me, but I'll always be a part of them. A big part of them. And I don't want them to remember a single time that I called myself FAT or UGLY or NO GOOD.
I don't want them to diet and to lie awake at night, hungry and scared. Not ever.
I want them to wander the world, work their perfect muscles, fill their perfect lungs with air. I want them to be able to travel over the earth, strong and healthy and in love. I want them to live lives that are holy and full of beauty. Not the made up sort of beauty that makes people feel bad about themselves, but the dirty kind where you fall asleep at night because you hiked so deep into the woods that you weren't a person anymore. You went so far and everything was so green and there was mud and there were bugs and the green smell of being alive was everywhere. There was a hillside of honeysuckles that made you cry, they were so unexpected and smelled so wonderful. You found a patch of wild berries that turned your fingertips purple.
I buy clothes that fit me just so. I do. I dress up for dates and cut my hair and lots of times I look fucking hot. I never said I wasn't attractive. I just said that I'm not that sort of girl.
Here's to getting bigger, any way we can, and leaving the size of our bodies out of it. Here's to wandering far and wide, to gardens and greens and sweat and health and holiness. Here's to dissolving obsession, to seeing the world, to making beauty with our guts and teeth and hands. Here's to being human, to growing and changing taking care of ourselves. Here's to beauty, because we know what beauty really is, and it doesn't have anything to do with getting smaller.