Archive for July 23rd, 2008

This one’s all about body-image issues.

As you probably know if you’ve read any of my posts, I have a problem with mirrors.  Actually the mirrors aren’t the problem, it’s what I see in them – which is not necessarily what they are actually showing me.  I tend to see a reflection not of myself, but rather of what my mindset is – happiness, confidence or high energy will typically show me someone pretty attractive, while depression, anxiety or fatigue will give me something out of a horror story.  The only good thing about it is that I have finally realized it’s happening, so I’m slowly learning not to take it seriously.  🙂

I’m aware that I’m far from unique in this; in fact, I’d venture to say it’s a leading factor in girls/women beginning the yo-yo dieting cycle that ends, as we all know, in disaster – if it ever ends.

But the other day, something surprising happened when I was doing my usual pre-shower self-critique.  I wasn’t feeling upbeat that day; actually, I’d been bemoaning the loss of muscle tone I’ve experienced due to spotty exercise habits and thinking about how much ground I need to regain.  But as I was examining my poor, long-suffering and much-maligned body, I found myself doing something completely new.  I found myself (and I use the passive form because it was completely unplanned on my part) evaluating my body from a non-judgmental perspective.

I looked at my legs, and thought, “Hmm…okay, there’s a little more fat there than there was a year ago.  We’ve lost some ground there.  But wow, the muscle tone has really held up.  That walking has been doing more good than I thought.  We’ve got a great infrastructure to build on, there.”

I looked at my butt and thought, “Well, it might be sagging a little more than a year ago; it’s hard to tell.  Definitely hasn’t gotten any bigger, though.  That’s great.  That should tighten up really nicely once we’re back in the groove.”

I looked at my stomach and thought, “Oh, definitely not as flat.  I think some of that is bloating though, I really do.  And it’s not super flabby.  I can tighten up the muscles and feel them pull pretty strongly, so we haven’t lost a ton of ground there, either.  That’ll tighten up pretty well, too.”

I went through the whole body that way, but I won’t detail it; I’m sure you get the picture.  For once, I was thinking of my body in terms of a starting point, not in terms of a pathetically inadequate end result.

And that was, for me, a bit of an epiphany.  I’m not done yet! And from that came, I don’t have to be done yet.  I am a work in progress.

I have always said that this process is a marathon, not a sprint.  I have always said that I have the rest of my life to get where I’m going, because the rest of my life is how long I will be doing this anyway.  And for the love of God, my flipping tagline on this blog says, “Notes from a Work in Progress.”  It’s not like this is really news to me. But as I’ve said before, it’s one thing to know this intellectually and another to really feel it.

It’s an amazing thing to be able to look at your body as a great template for the work you know you can and will be doing.  It’s freeing and a little intoxicating to be able to look at your body and simultaneously see the work you need to do and the great things that have already been done.  To be able to see what you need to do and still feel good about it.

I know that there’s a good chance that in a few days, I’ll have lost the immediacy of that experience and be back to sighing over batwings and (a friend said this and it’s too funny not to repeat) the upper-thigh fat that feels like “mudflaps for my vagina”.   Which is, of course, why I blog.  So that when I forget, I can be reminded.  And I need to be reminded, because:

If we’d walked into the Sistine Chapel when Michaelangelo was halfway through the ceiling, would we have been all that impressed?  If we’d seen the Taj Majal when only the foundation was there, would we have sighed in delight at the potential, or would we have shrugged and wandered away?  If we’d watched Da Vinci smudging in the background for the Mona Lisa, would we have shuddered and questioned his artistic ability?

Or would we have known better?  Would we have pursed our lips and said, “Okay, it doesn’t look like much now…but there’s something good coming, I can just tell by the way he holds that brush…”?  I’d like to think we would have.  Knowing what we know now, we’d never judge any of these works of art based on their beginnings.

So don’t judge yourself that way either.  No, you’re not perfect now.  You won’t ever be.  Sorry, that’s just the truth.  Even the Mona Lisa isn’t perfect…but it’s a classic and enduring work of art, and so are you.  You just aren’t done yet.  And that’s okay.  You don’t have to be done yet.

Because remember, Da Vinci didn’t give up halfway through either.  He didn’t look at the half-done canvas and say, “God, this looks like crap.  I’ve worked my tail off, I can’t believe it still looks that bad!  I’m never going to get there.  Forget it.  I’m just going to set this in the corner and go do a nice paint-by-number.  And look for a day job.”

It’s okay to be a work in progress.  It’s okay to know there’s still a lot to be done.  And I have to believe that as difficult and exhausting as it must have been to paint the Sistine Chapel, still Michaelangelo spent every moment knowing it was a labor of love, and a life’s work.  And that passion and joy in creation show in the finished product.

That’s what passes for wisdom from me today.  You are a life’s work, too, and a masterpiece in the making.  Don’t judge yourself on the basis of what you are, what you have, or what you look like today.  Remember that you’re not done yet, and put every ounce of passion and joy you have into the making of what you will be.  And at the end of it all, when you move on to the next life (whatever your belief of that may be), know that you are the work of a Master.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, and a wonderful week!


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