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The Best Kind of Dare

“Look at this!” I turn my arm to show her a bruise from yet another random mishap.
“Woah! You’re getting pipes!”
I’m confused by the genuine excitement in her voice. “What? Really?”
“Yeah! Look at those!”
I turn to the mirror, flex, and laugh. Maybe not pipes but certainly less pipe cleaner than usual.
“Ooh, do you think maybe now I can do a push-up!? I’m going to try.”
I cannot do push-ups. Not even one. Not even a girly push-up. It’s an ongoing joke in my life.
But I kick off my slippers and put my face against the carpet – and lift. I groan, Gnnnnnnnnnn. And I do it. I DO A PUSH-UP. It is measly and it is girly, but it is a push-up. And then I do another. And then, just for good measure, ¾ of one more.
How did this happen? I have not been working my arms on purpose. Ultimate Frisbee? Maybe. Probably. What else?

“Great game, Beth,” he says, and I look up from the stuck zipper on my coat.
“You’re definitely getting better. You’re faster and your cuts are sharper. Are you feeling more confident?”
“Yeah…kinda. I definitely feel like I’ve improved since the summer… But I still feel like there’s a lot left to work on. Trying to just figure out one thing at a time, you know?”
“Sure. And it doesn’t help when we all bunch up like tonight.”
“Thank you. This is good to hear. Thanks.”  I am grinning as I walk away.

I am looking down in the shower, water running over me and my brain slowly waking up. This is not a morning stomach. This is an evening stomach. You should look like this after three meals, not before I’ve eaten anything. You should stick out less, I tell my belly.
When did this happen? How long have I been eating and eating and when was the last time my stomach rumbled for more than 5 minutes before I fed it? And whatever happened to taking a break from baked goods?Ugh. This is an unfortunate start to the day. 

I am still thinking about this. I am thinking about the little paunch, and the faster stride, and the sit-up, and wonder why the latter two don’t outweigh the first. How is it that my brain fixates on this one specific thing, when other evidence indicates growing health and fitness?

I remember reading this dare to love your body, and how the line “I will define what it means to be a woman for myself and for my one thousand daughters,” reminds me that we inherit and pass along our identities and insecurities – not just within our family, but within this bigger family of women. And I want to be one who praises instead of criticizes others and ought I not do the same for myself?

A 4-day-old angel baby named Sebastian.

I think about how amazing it is that my sister’s body has grown a little boy and now her body is nourishing him and that deserves celebration and yet so many mothers I know struggle to love their changed bodies. Their beautiful life-creating, life-nourishing, life-sustaining bodies. These beautiful women I respect and admire. And yet a little voice says to me, Maybe it’s for the best that childbirth isn't in your current forecast. Could you handle the changes? Would you be able to love yourself with more marks and rolls, when your body is quite literally at another’s service?

And I think about The Nu Project: portraits of women undressed and unashamed (NSFW). I have pored over the images, studied the forms, loved these strangers. These brave souls with bodies both beautiful and normal, with curves and scars and wrinkles. Their eyes are bright and their smiles woo me. I want to befriend them. I want their approval, because if they can love themselves so much, maybe they can show me how to do the same?

The idea of loving my body is not an unfamiliar one. Women talk about it, write about it, it’s a thing. But I’m only just getting to the point where it feels like a possibility. Like maybe it could happen to me, and not just the girls who are smaller, cuter, better at their make-up, have a personal sense of style, are chased by boys.

I want to cultivate a perspective that sees my body and knows my body and loves my body for all the things it is and does. I want my sense of self to include this actual body with all its flaws and strengths and unpredictable ways. I want to look in the mirror and think, YEAH! Before I think AAH! I want to walk past a mirror or a window without feeling compelled to look in it.

I think I’m on the right road. When I look back a dozen years, I see a scared and shame-filled teenager. I wish I could show her how to hold her chin up, pull her shoulders back and listen for the soft voice of truth that is in there with all the lies.

When I look forward a dozen years, I have hope that I will measure my beauty not by the softness of my belly or size of my pipes but by the increase in my laugh lines and the scars that will tell stories of giving and receiving love, of sacrifice and patience. I hope the fondness I have for my blue eyes and freckles and wild crazy hair will be without qualification, and that I will love parts of myself below the chin.
(photo taken by my 5 year-old nephew)

I usually turn down dares; the more pressure I feel, the more I dig in these stubborn heels of mine. But this time, it’s a dare I know I won’t regret.


MLW said…
Like! Love! Really, really like! It also raises questions for further discussion when next we meet.
Beth said…
Thanks. And sounds good :)
Beautiful post Beth! When will we all just realize that we are made in His image for His glory, and the outside is not important to Him!!! I need to learn it as well!!!!!
Mia De Vries said…
Dear Beth
I just love your wish for laugh lines. Yes, we find it hard at times to accept our bodies the way our Pappa God has created it. Best of all, He is not ashamed of our bodies and loves every wrinkle, every new roll around the belly and that is enough reason for me to look with new, loving eyes at my body. Thank you for a nice post. Over via Emily's.
Much love
Emily Wierenga said…
oh friend, i am so glad you linked this week. i love getting to know you, and i love your laughter lines and your pipes and your honesty. it's in being open about our struggles and our weaknesses that we'll realize, we're acceptable--and more than that--we're delightful. YOU, friend, are beautiful. truly. so much love, e.
Beth said…
Margo & Mia - thanks, ladies! Thanks for clicking on over :)

Emily - thank YOU for living and writing in a way that invites others to join in.

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