Form over Depth

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I’m persuaded by beauty.

In yoga I look all around and am mesmerized by the incredible postures. I know what the post ‘should look like,’ and want my body to  BE THERE ALREADY!, but that’s not how it works. Because wrenching my body into a pose only ends up simulating beauty. So, instead, I focus on form, knowing that depth of posture will end up in beauty in the long run.

It’s hard for me, though, to stand in a posture and see myself in my mind’s eye doing the full posture. My leg extended nicely, my hand reaching forward, my abs tight, body strong. But when I look in the mirror I’m only standing there, with a semi straight leg. My imagination doesn’t match up with reality. And yet, when I’ve focused on good form, wherever I am currently in my posture journey, I begin to notice the subtlety over time…how I am able to now wrap my arms around my leg, or that I can feel my shoulders extending. These are things that 6 months ago I didn’t know I would ever be able to do, and the progress has been a snail’s pace slow, but beauty is coming.

Bathing Suit Body

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Bathing suit season is upon us. It’s a time that many women dread, as it comes unexpectedly (after a few cold spring months were they vow to do a few more crunches to get ready) and then one day it’s here. But, to be honest, bathing suit season has never really bothered me in the body-image sense. My love of being in the water, of being in a swimsuit to SWIM, that I never paid much attention to any nagging voices that might persuade me that I would not be good enough to wear that swimsuit this year.

But, as I’ve gotten older, and spent more time around women with significant body image issues, I find myself slowly analyzing my body. Post-baby, with 20lbs still lingering on an already-too-big-frame (according to the magical medical science BMI standard), it’s been a little rocky to try and think “hmm, maybe I will stay a size 18, instead of getting back to the 14/16…how would that feel?” and the fear that another baby will make me balloon even more.

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But, I’ve got to be honest. The ocean calls. And my love of being in a swimsuit (I used to own 17…as I was a lifeguard and swim instructor for 5 years!) has outweighed my tiny nagging doubts about my ability to pull of a bathing suit in public. There are blogs and articles talking about mothers not being in the picture, and I think that’s selfish of mothers…get out there, get in the action, even if your slightly bigger saddle-bag thighs are out there in the picture, too. Because, to be honest, I think my 85% adventurous spirit is outweighing the 15% of nagging body fears, and nobody really gives a damn about it, but me. Right? I mean, I’ve never gotten a negative comment about “flaunting” my white fleshy legs out in public…

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So here I am, soaking up the sunshine on the Oregon Coast, spending a good twenty minutes out in the water wave jumping by myself. My body felt strong, not perfect, but able to carry myself out into the water and I had the biggest smile on my face ever. And, even when I realized that I would have to walk back to the campsite in my bathing suit, sans towel (Potamus stole that towel, little bugger), I was okay. Because so what if people notice my bigger-than-normal white thighs…I mean…they need to tan sometimes, ammiright?

So, are you going to rock your bathing suit body this summer season?

I’m Beautiful

Yesterday I read an amazing powerful post over on Offbeat Mama, entitled “I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful.” What struck me about this article was how strikingly beautiful the words were on the page and how they fit perfectly with the subject matter of the post. Not every author can have that magically difficult combination. The words are so powerful that I want to quote them,but have difficulty chopping the writing down into those bite size pieces to try and hand out. Much like beauty itself, this piece needs to be taken in one sweeping gaze, so I’m going to quote it all, here, and then respond:

I’ve started telling my girls that I think I’m beautiful. It’s been so easy to tell them how beautiful THEY are, because it’s obvious. They are the thing beauty is made of. They are the reason we started worshipping beauty. They sparkle and dance. When they’re sleeping, they turn into soft cloud babies, little perfect tufts of white on the moonlight.

There are a lot of people like me. Women who know things. Women who have seen things. Women with diseases in their livers. There are a lot of women with scars on their arms and words that carry themselves like sparrows. There are women who were too big for this town, who had their backs bent carrying things like religion and a history that originated somewhere in the crook of a branch that extended over a stream. A place where a patch of the sky was visible through the leaves, where a little girl let her bare leg dangle too far down.

There are a lot of people like me, because we’re all the same. We’re all blood and electricity. We’re lonely under the gaze of god. We’re all wet with dew and swallowing hard against DO THIS, CONSUME, SHUT UP and BE AFRAID to die.

All of you women with lines on your brow, with cracks between your fingers… it’s been a long winter. All of you, you are beautiful and so am I.

The thing is, my children are perfect. I am the grown up, so I’m supposed to show them everything about life. When they wake up in the morning, though, I stare at them and they’re new. They teach me everything. They are babies and they teach me what it means to be a person. It’s easy to see that they’re beautiful.

I am slow and I am tired. I am round and sagging. I am harried. I am sexless. I am getting older.

I am beautiful. How can this be? How can any of this be true?

I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that’s what women do. That’s what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.

“Look at me, girls!” I say to them. “Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today.”

I see it behind their eyes, the calculating and impression. I see it behind their shining brown eyes, how glad they are that I believe I am beautiful. They love me. To them, I am love and guidance and warm, soft blankets and early mornings. They have never doubted how wonderful I am. They have never doubted my beauty. How confusing it must have been for them to see me furrowing my brow in the mirror and sucking in my stomach and sighing.

How confusing it must have been to have me say to them, “You think I am beautiful, but you are wrong. You are small and you love me, so you’re not smart enough to know how unattractive I am. I know I am ugly because I see myself with mean eyes. You are my child and I love you, but I will not allow myself to be pretty, for you. No matter how shining you are when you watch me brushing my hair and pulling my dress over my head. No matter how much you want to be just like me, I can’t be beautiful for you and I don’t know why.”

It’s working, a little bit. I’ve even stopped hating myself, a little bit.

I’ll be what they see. They see me through eyes of love. I’d do anything for them, even this.

I am beautiful.

by Amanda at http://www.lastmomonearth.com

I am struck by this whole piece for many different reasons. I mostly think of my mom, who wanders through my memories without makeup and with a quiet confidence that I sometimes think, now, bordered on obliviousness to looks. She was gorgeous, tiny, dark hair, and olive skin that didn’t need foundation or blush or blemish covers. While thin and much smaller than me, she was never a dieter or someone who was concerned about weight. And her confidence passed on to me. I guess there was concern when I was a child that I was growing too fast and was too thin, but for all the stress and subtle messaging I received about other areas of life, being self-conscious about my looks was never one of them. While I never thought of myself as “beautiful,” I certainly did not think I was ugly. And even now, with stretch marks and extra poundage, I still do not see myself as ugly.

And yet, recently, I was surprised to see, when I took a cell-phone picture, how much like MamaE I seemed, which made me take a step back and evaluate my own relationship to familial beauty. The family I grew up with looks nothing like me, with their dark hair and olive skin. And the mother I do look like has been ravaged by meth and alcohol and Joe Camel. How can I see myself as beautiful, when my face is turning into hers?

I was perplexed by my emotion in relation to Potamus as I read this, as it is geared towards mothers of girl-children. But it makes me think about his view of women, and what he will see as he looks at me and then looks around at women he encounters. If he ends up in a relationship with a woman, what will his expectation of her be in relationship to beauty and body? And I think of Boof and his relationship to me, how it has been influenced by his own mother, and sisters. And how my own relationship to myself has been influenced by those women, too, and for all the love I have for them, I have also noticed a sense of comparison and bonding over body image or dieting that I did not have before they entered into my life.

I am still beautiful, even if I struggle sometimes.