Me, Naked

This is not a pornographic essay (my parents read this, and not really my thing). Nor is it an expression of artistic nudity (parents still reading and – you guessed it – also not my thing).

This is an essay about why each of us – and especially women – must learn to love and embrace our imperfect bodies. Because they’ll never be perfect – not by our body-obsessed culture’s standards, anyway. Why not save time and be happy now?

 I recently watched an interview with a woman who had lost a huge amount of weight (over 170 pounds), and proudly (yes, proudly!) submitted a post-weight-loss bikini photo to Shape magazine. Problem was, she was a real woman modeling real effects of massive weight loss untouched by plastic surgery. This meant that, though her arms and thighs were trim and her waistline had shrunk a great deal, she had significantly large folds of extra skin hanging from her torso. Because that’s what really happens, people!! Shocking, I know.

 The thing is – she felt GREAT about this photo, because it signified how far she’d come, extra skin and all – and was stunned and offended when Shape initially refused to publish it, asking her to put a shirt on (they changed their mind amid a media firestorm; full story here: http://www.today.com/health/woman-whose-weight-loss-bikini-pic-went-viral-gets-shape-2D79644325 ).

 Moral of the story is this: She knew she was healthy, regardless of the fact that the resulting image of her healthy body was far from what any of us see on magazine covers or billboards.

 Which got me thinking – “Wait a minute, I know I’m healthy, too – even if a large lunch and lack of sit-ups can make me temporarily look 3-months pregnant. Even if my breasts were stretched from 13 months of breastfeeding and have a newfound interest in gravity, and I may never have a truly “flat” stomach again because it was stretched out by a 9 ½ pound tenant who left it in not-quite-the-same shape (in other words – Anderson, you’re not getting that damage deposit back). “

 My BMI (body mass index) is right where it should be, I can run 5 miles, and my blood pressure has never been lower. Maybe I’ll never look quite like my pre-pregnancy self naked, or in a bikini, but I can feel great in a one-piece (what’s wrong with that?) and if anyone other than my husband or doctor has a vested interest in seeing me naked, I question their motives.

 I know, for sure, that though I may look a bit looser and rounder and softer, and somehow “less than” in society’s most skeptical eyes – I am, in fact, stronger, healthier, and more capable than I have ever physically been.

I’m not saying I’m impermeable to our culture’s influences or expectations. But I’m working on standing firm in what I know is true – I’m working on it every day. And you know what? Honest to God, in many ways – I’ve never felt more beautiful. And no one can take that away from me.

 

 

Flying Solo

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Earlier this month I took a big leap outside of my stay-at-home mom bubble and hopped a plane – alone! – to Chicago for three days. My old college roommate, Catherine, was about to turn 30 and graduate from med school and I thought it was the perfect time to plan a trip to celebrate. I also selfishly was ready to spread my wings a bit and prove that I could do this – be apart overnight from my 14-month-old for the first time ever!
I eagerly awaited this trip for weeks and weeks and dreamed of it being this relaxing, rejuvenating and luxurious time where I could stretch my legs walking the big city, read for four uninterrupted hours on the plane, indulge in bubble baths in my OWN hotel room…. You get the idea.

In some ways the trip was exactly what I had felt I needed and hoped for, and in some ways it wasn’t.

First, the flight:
The last four flights I had been on included Anderson, so it was quite the change not having to juggle a diaper bag, nurse, change diapers, or get a baby to nap on my lap while on the plane. It almost seemed too easy, like I was cheating or something, to board the plane with just myself, a small bag and a book. It was nice to be able to listen to music and zone out, to get lost in a book and not be accountable to anyone else on the plane. But I also got nostalgic and a bit homesick every time I heard a baby cry. It never annoyed me in the slightest, in fact I actually found the sound comforting. I sort of missed the sweet soft skin and warmth of a baby’s body against mine on the flight, of shuffling through board books and watching the hustle and bustle of an airport and flight through a baby’s eyes. There were things that were nice about flying alone – don’t get me wrong – but I was reminded that the extra baggage required to take a baby on board was ultimately pretty priceless.

The hotel:
Yes, it was nice to have a bed to hog and a TV to watch whatever I wanted, but I was also loneliest at night all alone, towering above this foreign place. I had the hardest time sleeping and tossed and turned until well into the early morning hours both nights. It was almost as if things were too quiet, too sterile, too simplified. I missed my own hastily made bed, the hum of Anderson’s monitor beside me, the random knocking sound of our quirky refrigerator. A hotel, no matter how nice, doesn’t hold a candle to home (and mine wasn’t THAT nice…. Here’s looking at you tiny square pillows made for a guinnea pig).

The celebrating:
It was good to see my longtime friend. We had a lot of catching up to do on our very different lives. She introduced me to three amazing restaurants and made sure I was well-fed and well-acquainted with where I was going (I would have been lost without her…). I was reminded that emails and texts can’t replace the ground you can cover catching up in person. I’m glad we made the time for each other, and that I got to walk with her in her home city of the last four years before she moves across the country yet again. I find it fascinating to witness a life path so different than mine, and am so proud of all she has accomplished!
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The city:
It was a bizarre sensation to be so completely untethered to the identity I wear like clothing every day here in Seattle – that of a mother. I have typically one or two small blocks of time on my own each week at home, to run errands, do my appointments and so on. But having an ENTIRE WEEKEND devoid of my mom hat entirely was a strange and almost disorienting feeling. As I walked for miles through the city, smelled the food and crossed over the river, window shopped, and got coffee, I figured I probably could have passed for a single, local woman about town. I did things I never ever do by myself or at home.

Like spend two blissfully quiet, meditative hours meandering through an art museum:
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Or spontaneously attend an Aretha Franklin (yes, seriously – Aretha Franklin!!) concert at the famous Chicago Theatre:
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I had a good time in Chicago. But undoubtedly and by a mile, the BEST part of my trip, was coming home to this:
back home with baby
I did not fully realize how much I had missed him until he was in my arms again. We were glued to each other for about an hour; I didn’t want to let him go. My coming home again to Anderson was one of the sweetest moments of my life. He made these sweet cooing sounds and showed me smiles I’d never seen before at the sheer joy of our reunion. I knew in that moment there was no place in the world better than this.