At the start of the pandemic, and with my office now steps away from my bed, I replaced the time I would have spent commuting with a regular stretching routine. It became a grounding way to begin each day and something I continue to practice and value.
Most days, I step away and into my morning feeling powerful, strong, and ready to hit the ground running. But I have a distinct memory of a day last summer where I was stretching in my typical running leggings and a sports bra when I caught my reflection in the full length mirror that hangs over my closet door.
I texted my friend later that day, horrified by what I had seen in the reflection. The way my body was folded over itself was not a very flattering image. Ever calm, graceful, and reassuring, my friend told me that all bodies look different when they’re contorted or shifted in certain directions.
I knew they were right but I wanted to mope about it for a bit longer.
Before I continue, I feel it's important to express that I’ve been very blessed to have had a fairly decent body image most of my life. Outside typical insecurities, I’ve not lived with body dysmorphia, disordered eating, or anything similar and so I don’t want this blog to act like a feel good piece to a serious issue. Please know I’m coming at this with a simple reflection from my own life… simply speaking as an able-bodied, cisgender woman.
Then, yesterday, I wanted to post a selfie with my vaccination card. I used to have a strict rule for taking pictures/selfies—one and done. I never wanted to take a million to get to the perfect shot. I figured if that one picture was the moment we captured, then it was. But for some reason, that front facing camera seemed very daunting to me last night. In the first picture, my eye seemed a little droopy. In the second one, my smile seemed insincere. In the third one, my face just looked weird.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, other than to say that I didn’t like the face that I was looking at. Eventually, I settled on a photo and moved on with my evening, still unable to shake the feeling. Today, I found myself working from home in the kitchen and helping myself to snacks as a replacement for an actual balanced meal. I didn’t know where this was coming from, this thankfully-unusual-to-me sensation of frustration with the way my body looked and felt.
I haven’t been running as much as I typically do. I haven’t been eating as healthy as I normally would. I haven’t been sleeping as much as I know I should. And so I briefly wanted to let myself spiral, thawing an old batch of black and white cookies to nibble on throughout the day. I was back in mope mode, hating the lack of energy I was experiencing and hating that I knew my recent habits were to blame.
But then tonight, after work, I grabbed my ball cap and left for “a short walk,” dialing my friend’s phone number on the way out. We talked for over 3 hours. I walked over 11 miles. And I didn’t think anything of it.
Later, after a shower, as I wrapped my hair in a towel above my head, I thought about how—while I’m meticulously dedicated to achieving 10,000 steps every single day—11 miles of hills hits a little different. I crinkled my toes back and forth and felt the fresh energy in my legs.
I realized that I have a body that can casually walk 11 miles after work just because the phone conversation was too engaging to leave. I have a body that does jumping jacks breaks in the middle of the work day for no reason other than to take a breather from my screen. I have a body that wakes me up in the morning and digests my breakfast and responds to joy and love and fear and anger and I have a body that protects me from harm.
My hair’s still in a towel as I type this… sometimes the a-ha moment comes 11 months late. But I have a body that maybe sometimes folds in a way I don’t understand… a body that sometimes I don’t treat as well as I should… but a body that I am deeply grateful for. And a body that holds my heart. And if it’s holding my heart, maybe I can place a little love for it in there too.