Saturday, October 3, 2015

Realizing what Counts

I am slowly--but surely--coming to terms with the fact that I will NEVER have abs like these.
Jillian Michaels an endosister and adoptive mama truly being extraordinary through fitness and helping others.
                                             I have stopped counting my steps.
                                  I have stopped counting weight watchers points.
          I have stopped joining online exercise groups and drinking shakes for breakfast.
                      I have stopped beating myself up for living an authentic life.
At 36 years-old, as an endometriosis surgical veteran and infertility survivor, having a body seen on most magazine covers would take extraordinary measures on my part. I would need to tirelessly watch what I eat, obsessively counting calories. I would need to dedicate a good portion of each day to exercising in a methodical and intense way. Trying to mold my body into what I see exalted in the media would have to be my top priority. Even if I did all of these things, there would be no guarantees that I would be happy with the results.
I recently had my annual physical with my GP. Life was incredibly stressful leading up to the physical. We were in the midst of a family crisis that needed some major life changes in order for us to be happy and thriving again.  There was little time to exercise and lots of times to stress eat. I dreaded going to my doctor. The number on the scale rivaled that of my pregnancy weight. I prepared myself for a lecture. Instead I got a, "Hey great job, your cholesterol is down and your blood pressure is good. You are doing great. See you next year." So wait, my GP didn't care that I don't look like a Victoria Secret model? Did she not care about the excess weight I gained? She is happy with how I am doing? Why am I NOT happy with how I am doing? I was counting on her to reprimand me seeing as I had been demeaning and yelling at myself for months. Where was this self-loathing coming from?
I recently went home for my Great Aunt's wake. No one mentioned anything about my Great Aunt's physical appearance at her wake or funeral. No one mentioned how thin she looked at that one wedding in 1985 or that year she gained a lot of weight then lost it. No one remembered and no one cared. Everyone talked about her legacy of selflessness, of thoughtfulness and of service. Her loved ones spoke about her endurance, humor and generosity. It was these qualities that were so greatly missed and will be mourned.
 While at home, I spent a lot of time with my mom, my aunts and my grandma. I was overwhelmed by the negative talk I heard many of them say about their own physical appearance. They said things like, "Oh, I look terrible!" or "My arms are so fat." or "I don't fit into any of my clothes anymore. I hate my stomach." I think if you asked them to rate their physical appearance they would not speak kindly of themselves. I realized that a lot of these attitudes are learned behavior. Who knows how many generations of women this line of thinking has been passed down to? How do I stop the cycle when we as a society thrive on picking apart people's weight and physical appearance?
 It came to me that it is not enough to tell our daughters, nieces, patients, students that they are smart and beautiful, but we need to deeply feel it ourselves.   It is confusing to these young impressionable women to see their role models have self-deprecating views on their body, who often look a lot like their own. We need to love ourselves, even our imperfections because they help make us who we are. We need to love our strengths and accept our challenges. We cannot let anyone else's thoughts or actions stop this from happening. Instead of picking ourselves apart or letting others do it for us, we need to keep ourselves whole by loving and accepting ourselves. 
My mom, my aunts and my grandma will also be remembered by their loved ones for how deep they loved. These women work to help support their families. These women put their families first. These women are incredible and thoughtful friends, neighbors and members of their community. Instead of worrying about our physical appearance and beating ourselves up for it, we need to appreciate who we are and all we do for those around us. We need to look at our priorities and ask ourselves if how we are spending every day is in line with the legacy we want to leave behind.
I do want to make self-care a priority, but I do not want to take extraordinary measures to reach the unreasonable standards society has put on women to "look amazing." I am not buying it!  I.AM.DONE. I want to work instead on BEING amazing.
What does this mean? I am going to keep up the exercise that makes me happy and healthy but not beat myself up over skipping a week of working out if I am overwhelmed. I am going to overall try to eat healthy, BUT take pleasure in eating, drinking wine and enjoying dessert. As hard as it is, I am not going to worry about my dress size or how much I weigh. I will not use the word gross or blech ever when looking in the mirror. I will look in the mirror and try to appreciate myself.
 I am also going to be gentle with my body. My body has been through a lot and the journey is not over. I was lucky to be able to have a daughter and gave birth via C-section to her 6 weeks early. I have had 5 endometriosis related surgeries, the last of which had four specialists scrubbed in. I have had four miscarriages and many failed fertility treatments. My body is worn and weary. It has been traumatized. There are days I am so exhausted that I cannot exercise. There are days I am in pain. There are some days I am so bloated I look pregnant (and have been asked if I am-- for the love of everything holy:  STOP ASKING WOMEN IF THEY ARE PREGNANT. Even if you see the baby coming out of her vagina, politely make other conversation until SHE brings it up. ) I have to remember that my body is my partner and continues to work with me under great duress. My body is doing its' best, as am I.
I am hoping this new freedom of acceptance leaves more mental space and energy to work on my legacy. How do I want to spiritually and mentally nourish myself and those around me? What footprints do I want to leave for those to follow?  How will I bring more love into this world?