In the first year of my kid’s life, I was desperate to find a schedule that solved every issue we faced. But even to this day, not one of the many schedule suggestions online worked for us. Namely because this kid wakes up between 6 and 6:30 almost every single morning, and apparently, the majority of the schedules out there cannot fathom a child getting up that early. The best piece of advice for us was “feed the baby when they are hungry and sleep when they sleep,” but it required me to slow down, tune into my kid’s body, and look and listen for cues.
That was extremely hard for me. And one of the reasons it was so difficult was because I wasn’t doing it with my own body. I hadn’t for a long time. I didn’t realize that this was a major barrier at the time, but looking back, and after an extremely good amount of therapy this last year, I discovered that somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting myself.
I stopped trusting my body. Instead, I let society, community, and culture dictate how I should take care of this body, what it should look like, what it should be able to do. I chased one diet after another, one schedule after another, researched every culturally successful person’s morning and evening routine, trying to glean some wisdom that would make me feel happy, healthy, put together, organized, and whole. Even church culture promoted a certain standard to chase, from the clothes I wore to how I should act in every relationship I had, even how to grieve.
But this spring, I started listening to my body. At first, it was chaotic because it had so much to say, but once I stilled, once I allowed it to speak, it reminded me of the truths that God had woven into my heart from a very small age. I am loved. I am beautiful. I am strong. I cannot be defined by the ideas around me because I will never completely fit. I was not made to completely fit. I was made to stand on my own, to shine, to sing, to dance, to smile and laugh, to be in relationship with the one true Creator of the universe.
Now, that sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But I am still in the early stages of this realization. I still struggle with the beauty of my body. Something that I’ve seen work for other women who have had children and are trying accept their body after it goes through so many changes in pregnancy is the fact that their body carried those babies and brought them into the world. But that doesn’t completely work for me. My body has a 25% success rate so far in that area. And before I had my kid, I was carrying the weight of failed pregnancies. So, how do I find beauty in a body I thought betrayed me?
It’s not easy. Surprisingly, or maybe not so, when I recently started doing 20-30 minutes of yoga a day, I started to feel more in tune with my body. I’ve been doing yoga for about 20 years now, off and on, but I don’t think there is something mystical or magical about yoga. It’s about breathing, listening to the basic breath coming into your body and releasing out of it. It’s about being aware when your muscles stretch and your bones creak or pop. It’s not about the positions or getting to the next level for me, it’s about the slowing down.
When I slow down, I see my body in action. It actually tells me much earlier than I realized exactly what it needs. There are the big signals, like the extreme pain of a kidney stone, but it also tells me in the small nudges towards hunger, loneliness, thirst. I also recognize that this isn’t new. We learn this in science class, but it’s drowned out by words like food addiction and laziness. These kinds of words have convinced me not to trust my body, that it is too broken to communicate. When in reality, it’s been communicating just fine, it’s just that how my body works doesn’t seem to match how my culture says it’s supposed to work. And that is what I have to unlearn and let go.
It’s a work in progress. For the longest time, being busy was considered the highest achievement, but I realize now that it was keeping me from listening to the body God created, to allow it to work the way it was made to, instead having to turn to other sources who could never know my body the way I do. Right now, I have a slight headache, and I realized I hadn’t had much water this morning. Now, I wouldn’t have realized that before, I would have taken a pain pill or tried to find some quick fix, or I would have tried to muscle through it, ending up more sick, usually with something sinus related. But I stopped, listened, and I’m sipping on water between sentences. Slowly, my headache is disappearing. Of course, if it didn’t, I would try other things, but I’m not chasing the quick fixes as much anymore.
And learning to embrace my body, to listen to its cues, will not be quickly fixed either. There are days I’m frustrated that I don’t look like I did when I was 20, or fit into clothes and styles I have loved in the past. But now, I have an opportunity to really find what I love, really know who I am, and build a confidence that will see me through this life with grace, compassion and love.