The body I need right now

Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I looked at my legs while I stretched, and I thought, huh, these are just my legs. And I thought about how 15 years ago, I was embarrassed by my legs, thinking they were too big, too bulky, too athletic, despite being told otherwise, honestly, quite often. I remember one friend being surprised I didn’t like my legs, and saying to me while we were at the beach one summer day, “but you have beautiful legs, why would you not like them?” And I just thought, how is that I can look at my legs and shrug now, when years ago, they made me nervous to take off my shorts at the beach?

I am no longer the athletic, small person I was in college. Not even close. Yet I have more acceptance of my body – both what it looks like and what it can do – and that acceptance seems to build with each passing year. But this year has really brought into sharp relief how okay I am with my body. Sometimes neutral, sometime positive, and rarely and naturally the slightest bit negative. Despite having had a child that has widened my hips and dropped my boobs, I look at my body and mostly just shrug. And on occasion, give her a wink when I’m looking strong or feeling particularly saucy in a favorite dress (probably one I am just trying on in the middle of a pandemic to make myself feel some semblance of normal). 

I sometimes wonder if I am accepting of my body because I’ve settled into a good place with it, an equilibrium of sorts. I work out or don’t, eat well or don’t, and I might go up or down 5 lbs, but that’s it, and with no real conscious effort anymore. And when it does change, I am not really pleased or displeased, one way or another. I am not small, but I am not big, I just am. I don’t use either word pejoratively, just as relative descriptors. And that “am,” that equilibrium, has put me in this medium place where I am bigger than my college-aged, compact yet insecure self, but smaller than I was for the majority of my 20s, than before I had my son. And I think, am I ok with my body because I am closer to my former ideal than I was say, five years ago? Or perhaps it’s because I am closer to the very normal body I had before I started thinking about my body so much? Or because I am actually just good with this body? And today’s answer is this: I am ok with today’s body, because it is the body I need right now.

This is the body I need now. It is strong enough to lift my gigantic toddler and soft enough to be a nice place to snuggle while watching Sesame Street. Athletic enough to run a mile or two when I want or need to, but not so obsessed with working out and fine tuning that I have no energy left for creative or emotional pursuits. It can be pushed, but knows to yell out when it’s in pain and needs a break, because now I actually listen to it when it tells me to slow down.

The body I had in college was not the body I needed then. It consumed my thoughts and allowed only so much time for me to not consider what it looked like. It had to work so very hard to be what it was. Conversely, the body I had in my early and mid 20s, after I went on antidepressants and gained a significant amount of weight, partially due to the medication and partially due to unresolved issues I tamped down with food, was not the body I needed then either. It didn’t know how to tell me what it required to function physically and let me function emotionally (and to be fair, I would not have known how to listen even if it had shouted my name).

But since my late 20s, my body has worked with me and for me, it started talking to me again, telling me who and what it needed to be. Maybe it’s the pandemic (I think we could all stand to sympathize with our bodies a little more right now, and at least try to listen to them in this weird time) and all of the uncertainty in the world, or maybe, for me, it’s just age and being tired of fighting with myself and who I am naturally, in body and in mind. But here it is. A body (and a whole self, really) I am still building a relationship with, but a body that is becoming the one I need, more and more every day.

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