Hey, it’s me. I know we don’t talk much these days, but I couldn’t let the moment pass without sharing an epiphany I just experienced.
Yesterday, as I was getting out of the shower, I caught a glimpse of you in the mirror. For the first time in a long time, I lingered, and I took a good, long look at what stared back at me. I confess, I hardly recognized what I saw. You looked war-torn: tired, dark circles under your eyes, wrinkles where I hadn’t noticed them before, you were pale, legs covered in bulging purple veins, stomach scribbled with stretch marks, skin speckled with age spots and freckles, and a bit saggy in (unmentionable) places. Although unexpected, none of this should *really* surprise me. After all, we’ve been around the block a few times, you and I. It wasn’t really what I saw that shocked me, but rather what I felt when I made eye contact with that body in the mirror…
Dear Body, I think I love you.
Now, don’t hear me wrong. This isn’t some weird infatuation or out of body (forgive the pun) experience. Rather, I think I love you in a “deep appreciation, unconditional acceptance, and wanting the best for your well-being” sort of way.
If you find these feelings difficult to accept as truth, I can’t say that I blame you. After all, we haven’t had the most cordial of relationships. For most of my life, I let others’ voices, combined with my own insecurities, dictate what I thought about you. I let their opinions become my standard for what I should expect from you. And to be honest, I expected (and demanded) nothing short of perfection.
You’ll remember I didn’t treat you very well during those days. In fact, I was downright abusive. I withheld food from you. I made you run and exercise beyond the point of exhaustion. I did things to hurt you physically in order to cope with my own emotional turmoil. When I saw you in the mirror, I spoke horrible things to you. I was verbally, physically, and emotionally manipulative in every way possible. I gave you every reason to betray me, to destroy me, and ultimately to kill me. For reasons too complicated to go into right now, I wanted that. You could have (should have) given up on me. I even asked you to on several occasions. But you refused to let me die.
God used you to show me what grace is.
You were incredibly patient with me. You waited as I learned through sound therapy and healthy relationships how to find alternate ways of coping with life’s problems, and to stop blaming you for everything that seemed awry in my life. I learned to forgive, to embrace truth over lies, to value laughter, and to embrace the comedy of life instead of expecting perfection. I learned to love life. I finally let go of controlling you and free you up to enjoy the richness that life has to offer – eating good foods, playing in the sunshine, smiling and laughing again. By the grace of God and through the help of those He placed in my life, I learned to take care of you, and thereby, to accept you again…but I don’t know that I would have said I loved you. I wondered if I ever would, but it didn’t seem likely. So I walked in acceptance.
And then, yesterday, I realized something has changed.
I don’t think there was a specific moment or time when it happened, but my feelings toward you have grown. The funny thing is, you don’t really *look* any better today than you did way back when I hated you, when I abused you, or even when I decided to accept you. Actually… by the world’s standards of perfection, you look worse. But there’s something about your imperfection that is irresistibly beautiful.
You see, when I saw you staring back at me in the mirror yesterday, I realized that everything imperfect about you tells a story about us, dear Body. Your sun spots tell of our love for sunshine, and specifically of months spent on the beaches of the Gulf Coast doing relief work in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The scars on your hands, legs, arms, and everywhere else tell a thousand stories of our quirky, clumsy personality. The wrinkles speak to moments of uncontrollable laughter or mile-wide smiles gathered while spending time with people we love. Your stretch marks, saggy skin, and varicose veins speak to the miracle of four beautiful children you defied all odds to bring into this world, even though the doctors said my years of self-abuse would take that opportunity from us. The bags under your eyes point to late nights spent rocking, feeding, and consoling these precious ones, or maybe even nights we’ve stayed up too late spending time with the man we love – moments to be treasured for a lifetime. And beyond all of that, behind those under-eye circles, there’s a spark in your eyes that can only be explained by the contentment I finally feel living this life in your skin.
Dear Body, THANK you for allowing me to live, even when I wanted to die. I THANK YOU for joining me in creating this beautiful life we now live in harmony. And THANK YOU for physically journaling these priceless moments in your “imperfections.” You are SO beautiful.
Dear Body, I finally, truly LOVE YOU.
**February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Month**
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or body acceptance, please know you are NOT ALONE and that there is HOPE and HELP for RECOVERY and HEALING. Please seek help. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Rogers Memorial Hospital – Located in Oconomowoc, WI (with other outpatient and day treatment satellite programs in the Milwaukee area), one of the top eating disorder treatment programs in the United States.
Mercy Multiplied – A faith-based treatment facility with various locations globally, offering help FREE of charge amd specializing in a variety of life-controlling issues including depression, self-harm, addictions, and eating disorders. Also offering books, counseling referrals, and other resources.
National Eating Disorders Association – A national source to connect individuals with counselors and treatment centers, as well as providing education relevant to eating disorder awareness amd recovery.