Day 5: My Stinking Thinking

 

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I stroll through Kirklands without a care in the world. My children were at home with baby daddy and no one was trying to break anything or poke each other in the eye or play tag amongst the breakables. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I was looking at horse manure. I was kidless and it was quiet and it was glorious. Out of nowhere I caught a glimpse of a figure.  A slim but shapely, beautiful figure.  For a brief second I didn’t realize that the figure was me…but distorted. I stood there with my head slightly tilted trying to make out my own reflection. This was magnificent! It was like the best Instagram filter ever right in front of me. I couldn’t stop staring at my thighs, they were so thin! I can’t imagine how I must have looked to the other customers.  I soon realized that this full length voodoo mirror was tilted upward. It was an optical illusion and I LOVED it. I immediately thought, “Ahhhhh if only that were real. If only that were my true reflection.” I felt deflated as I walked away…and my thighs inflated back to their normal, fleshy reality.

Today’s challenge was to identify the negative self talk that plays in our head and begin a 5 step process to change it. I immediately thought about my encounter with the magic mirror. The truth is, I have been much thinner than the mirror portrayed. Unfortunately, I can’t remember a time when have I been satisfied with my body.  If I actually had the thighs in the mirror, would I have been satisfied?

I remember going through nursing school, learning in depth details of the human body. I was shocked that anyone could know the intricacies of how our anatomy worked continuously in perfect harmony to sustain life and not believe in God. Our bodies are perhaps the greatest work of art ever created.  We have been given a gift far better than all the riches in the world.  My eyes have seen the most beautiful scenery from nature. I have visited ancient castles and tasted the best wine from their sprawling vineyards. I have felt the ocean waves and enjoyed the sun’s warmth on my skin. My nose has been able to smell the natural sweetness of my son’s skin where his forehead meets his thick, curly hair.  My eyes have seen the beauty of a baby coming into this world. My body has carried 4 humans.  I will forever cherish the privilege of seeing my husband’s face as the church doors opened and my daddy walked me down the isle. I watched him mouth, “I love you” and saw him biting his cheek…a trick I knew he used to hold back tears. Almost 15 years later, I’m hoping those were happy tears. I have used my hands to give life saving treatments and  provide comfort and care to my patients as a nurse. My body has never failed me. It is truly a gift. A gift that I have never fully appreciated. I can only imagine giving someone the most amazing gift my human hands could muster, only to repeatedly hear complaints about the way it was made. My body is so much more than what society has brainwashed me to believe is acceptable.

My plan of action seems simple, although I know this will not happen overnight. I will catch these negative thoughts as the first step in the process suggests, and I will slowly but deliberately change my flaws. Not the dimpled flaws on my thighs, but the thinking that has caused me to see my life giving, beautiful gift as less than.

Day 3: Mirror Work

Ummmm I kind of wanted to skip this day.  My relationship with the mirror is much like my relationship with the scale. It’s a necessary evil.  I weigh too much…that is, too often. I get anxiety when I can’t have access to a scale, i.e. vacation. My self worth has been tied to the scale and the mirror for quite some time.  There are times when I realize this flawed way of thinking and can kick it’s arse. However, most of the time it happens subconsciously and I only reap the aftermath it has on my day like the destruction of a tornado.  I can be having a perfectly fine day until the number on a small box tells me I am not up to par. I immediately think I’m a failure and the tidal wave of negativity snow balls. I know, how dare I allow a number to dictate my mood. I have even taken the battery out and placed the scale in the back of my closet so it would be difficult to pull out and put back together. Turns out it isn’t that much of a nuisance to put a battery back in.

The same goes for the mirror. Small glances from afar are usually not a problem. Most of the time, I can appreciate the image that stares back briefly. It has taken a long time to appreciate that reflection. From a very young age, I vowed to get my nose fixed as soon as I graduated high school.  Thankfully I have decided that my nose makes me look like…well…me. Changing it would feel like putting on someone else’s face, which just didn’t feel right for me. But my battle with acne has been an ugly one.  You would think at 35, I could catch a break. Not so much.

I feel guilty to admit these insecurities. I know I am a beautiful woman. Apparently that is a taboo thing to admit, but every woman has a beauty to reveal. I know this to be true. God created women and yes, he created them to be beautiful. If you haven’t read ‘Captivating’ by Stasi Eldredge, I would highly recommend it.

So today’s challenge to do “mirror work” seems a little daunting.  To look into my eyes, past my eyes, and to not focus on my face?  The directions are to say out loud, “I am lovable. I am worthy. My worth is not connected to the size of my body (or the clearness of my skin). I have purpose.” I have come a long way from the chubby middle school girl that was ridiculed for my weight. Or the dangerously thin high school freshman with an eating disorder.   My stretch marks that I once despised, I no longer notice.  They signify the strength of my body as it stretched to carry and nourish the children I so desperately prayed for.  I wear my scars as badges of honor. Some make for good stories like the huge one on my leg from flipping a three wheeler.  And of course my C section scars from which my babies were brought into the world. I have a long way to go. I want to accept it all. I want to love it all and appreciate what I see in the mirror in it’s entirity. I am lovable. I am worthy. And my God given purpose can not be wavered by a number or a reflection.

Day 2: What Would Love Do?

This question almost seems to be rhetorical. Mostly because it comes with such a loaded response, it can’t possibly be able to be answered. Not fully. My short answer would be that LOVE WOULD CHANGE EVERYTHING. Yes, I mean everything. The bible says that christians will be set apart by the way they love. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. Hypocrisy and judgment and exclusion are not loving nor are they biblical. But I digress. this post is not about the actions of the misguided…or is it?

My oldest son has autism. One of the most heartbreaking realizations was that, while you can teach someone what to do in a given situation in order to be socially acceptable, you can’t teach emotions. Once when I told him I loved him, he responded with, “I love you too…I think…I mean I think I love you. It’s hard! How am I supposed to know what love is? What does that even mean? What does it feel like?” Heartbroken, I didn’t really have an answer, other than tears. My son doesn’t even know whether or not he loves me.  After a lot of thought and prayer and acceptance and mommy tantrums, I think I have made sense of his questions. Love is not an emotion at all. It evokes emotions that are wonderful and euphoric. But loving someone also unleashes a passion which means that person can also hurt you the most, even cause anger or rage. Someone that means nothing to you can not cause such responses, not on the same level.  Anyone that has been married for any length of time can surely attest to this.

Love is a verb. Love is an action, a continuous and conscious effort that doesn’t always come easy. It takes maturity, self awareness, and most importantly, it takes selflessness. To imagine a world filled with love would be to imagine a Utopia. Something that surely won’t be seen this side of heaven. But what if love started with me, with you? Can we change our world for the better with love? Would it even make a difference? The bible says that without love, you are nothing, it’s all in vain.  “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1Corinthians 13:2-3)

So I get it, love is important. But what does that mean? How do you show love, exude love, emanate  love in our daily life. Apart from His love, our love will never be perfect. But how do we strive for this magical potion that changes the world? In 1 Corinthians it goes on to say that love is patient, kind, humble, selfless, honorable, is not easily angered and does not hold grudges (emphasis mine because I may or may not have…ummm…issues with the latter two…uh, let’s move on).

If love embodied every person on this earth, truly filling their heart to the brim, overflowing to their actions, wouldn’t that change every single wrong doing?  But what if we showed ourselves these same mercies. What if we were patient and kind to ourselves? I can only imagine that it would put us in a different headspace. A space that could repel and forgive the negativity even if it came from our own thoughts. A space that could love the unloveable and allow past transgressions to melt away, including our own. This isn’t something that can fully be achieved, but the journey can be encouraging, empowering, rejuvenating, and all together lovely.

 

Day One: New Year, New Me

I was invited to a Facebook group which gives you writing prompts for 31 days and calls itself the 31 Day Self Love Diet Writing Challenge.  I love to write…I could use some self love….why not?

Day One: Write a self love letter or prayer or mantra (whatever that means).

It is New Year’s Eve which is basically a giant Sunday before the Monday that you start something big. Isn’t that always how it happens? “I’ll start my (diet/behavior/exercise program/project, etc) on Monday.” The New Year always comes with such hope and longing for new beginnings.  It’s a giant reset button to finally get your hot mess self together and act like an adult.

I always say I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because it’s so cliché.  This could also possibly be a cop out because I won’t have to face failures. However, one thing I would love to, no NEED to do differently this year is to love myself.  Not just accept but love. Not just resolving to be okay with myself, but learn to give grace every step of the way.  So on this new journey to love me, here is my letter to myself…

First of all breath. This mothering, wifing, friending, life-ing thing is hard. Just because it seems like everyone else feeds their kids kale smoothies after waking them up post 5 am workout, no one has it all together.  If everyone threw their problems in a pile, you would want to take yours back. Your littles won’t be little for long and you will mourn those hand prints on the mirror and the legos left on every square inch of the house. You will miss the incessant questions because they show the innocent wonder of a child. You will miss the tiny socks on the floor and even the big ones from your husband.

You know how you look at old picture and miss THAT body? Remember how you felt about your body when the picture was taken? We never enjoy or love what we have. Beauty seems to be something that is right out of our grasp. But what if you already possess it. Not past tense, but right now.  Not when you lose 20 more pounds, or when you get your sagging boobs fixed from nursing two babies, or when you repair your diastasis from carrying those miracles you so vigilantly prayed for. But right now. You ARE beautiful. You are a good mother. You are a good wife. You are a good friend. You are enough. You have abilities and gifts that God has given you that no one else was granted. Not in the exact same way, at least. You were put on this earth for a purpose and only YOU can fulfill it. Give grace as you go through this journey to love YOU. Look for the blessings and give thanks for them often. Gratitude  is what leads the way to having a life that you love. Being in a body that you love.  Accepting your destiny and the roles you were born to fill.  Focus on the beauty, focus on the love, the rest will fall into place.