I watched my son through the rear view mirror as he grinned and laughed. He tried out new words over and over again, studying his reflection with the glee of meeting a friend with his own face. I glanced at my eyes in the mirror- my brows unplucked, skin that could use some scrubbing and make up, hair falling out of my last-ditch bun. Sigh! What a mess.
It got me thinking. I don't know when I stopped really looking in the mirror- face front, joyful to meet myself through the looking glass. Oh, I do catch myself in the mirror on the way to the restroom- usually turned to the side, head craned; I suck in my post-baby tummy, riddled with strechmarks, push my hand flat against my clothes and think, eh, not so bad. I often take my clothes off before a bath with my back to the mirror and anxiously race to get in before I see that older, chubbier version of me reflected back. I celebrate my mind, my spirit and my actions, but my body? An afterthought; worse, a sometimes starved, put down, over-exercised and ignored vehicle. How had it come to this?
I grew up with a mom who was often told I can't believe you have children this age. Are these two your sisters? Wow, you look the same as you did 20 years ago. And it is true (my sister and I would alternatively puff our chests out with pride and roll our eyes at these comments). She is lovely, inside and out. Svelte, smooth-skinned and petite- all the things a nice Indian girl hoped to grow up to be. She also has a strong spirit and mind, somehow racking up a PhD and MD while having two kids. Born from such a stock, the genetic cards were in my favor.
This played out in my sister, who is also petite and brilliant. I, on the other hand, am regular- one size bigger than the two of them. Sari blouses had to be let out and hand-me-downs could not be handed down. I remember the year I started to suck in my tummy; I was eleven. I started counting calories at thirteen. When my husband and I started that famous no-carb diet fad 7 years ago and I complained after 1 day, he said don't worry, its only week 2 of the strict no carb and sugar part and the diet is only for a month. I grumbled and said it's been 12 years of dieting for me.
Clearly I didn,t start out wanting my body to be different. Looking through my son's eyes, I too probably marveled at the movement in each limb, the fingers that flexed, the ears that stuck out, my tongue that tasted. My mom probably traced every eyelash and nuzzled my soft hair, like I do for my baby. This body was well loved and liked. And then, at some point, it wasn't enough; I began to look at everyone else and I began to compare.
In many traditions (Hinduism, new age, shamanism/native traditions) that believe in reincarnation, human incarnation is highly prized. The interaction of the mind and soul with the body is hailed as the way to experience our true nature. Compassion, art and beauty can flow through such a vessel, as well as hate, anger and despair. From my reading and studies, I believe that the universe has no judgment with either set of emotions, they just are. And experiencing them is truly necessary in order to know ourselves. While we often look at our life and feel victimized, there is a lot of evidence (through past life regression and life between lives hypnosis) that our souls not only choose the life to experience and the lessons to learn, but also the body to live it in. That combination of the body, mind and soul is like a snowflake- unique and intricate, creating the experience that will benefit the journey of the soul. So who am I to throw part of the mind, body, spirit equation away?
Step one in the healing process was to admit I have a problem. Step two was to start looking at myself again. With this longer look, I began to see the poetry contained in this body and to map the journey of my life.
Beautiful lips, that have kissed and been kissed; that have sung and talked and smiled brilliantly. They are like my father's and as a kid I was always self conscious of them as being too big (until Angelina Jolie showed up!)
A strong back that curves beautifully. There is a story in my family about when we moved from Virginia to Texas, how I helped to pick up furniture and boxes. I was two. This strong back was also the one who easily lifts heavy groceries, not-so-easily hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and picks up my ever-growing son, balances him on my hip and cooks dinner simultaneously.
My hands that could never play the piano well were often called healing by my grandmother when I would rub her back. I remember this compliment so vividly because my soul longed to heal and I felt like I might be magic if my grandma said so. Today these hands comfort my son and husband, share my stories and have learned to channel energy to heal chakras.
Our homework for the month: Look at yourself again. Re-view yourself and remember your bigger journey. Yes you can try to make your body better, but not until you love as it is, because who wants to perform for a critical taskmaster? Bless those stretch marks as reminders that you are a mother and/or that you had a time in life where you were asked to grow rapidly. Look in the mirror and see the person who earned every line and mark by getting older and wiser.