“Hair toss, check my nails, baby how you feelin’? Feelin’ good as hell!”
Lizzo’s voice rang out clear and strong in the shower. And I was feeling good. Good as hell, as a matter of fact.
It was one of those lazy summer quarantine mornings when the kids were (miraculously) playing quietly with one another, breakfast had been had, and I stole some time for a nice long, hot shower. I turned on a little waterproof speaker I keep in the bathroom and found my “confidence playlist” on Spotify.
I haven’t always had the best relationship with my body (kind of in the way that France and Germany weren’t besties when the Nazis were occupying Paris), and have struggled with weight and body image since I was about twelve years old. This 38-year-old body has been through so many weight loss gimmicks, over-enthusiastic exercise routines, hyper-restrictive diets, and the equal and opposite reaction of bingeing that came when my willpower ran out.
In that time it also birthed and nursed three babies, hiked in fifteen national parks, summited mountains in three different ranges, kayaked in bioluminescent waters, and sustained me over the course of three graduate degrees. All while I was scanning my reflection and mentally taking inventory of all the parts of my body I wanted to change. Tying my hopes on the next cabbage soup diet that would “fix” me once and for all.
Spoiler alert — the cabbage soup diet didn’t fix me.
Partly because that wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle for me (and oh dear God the gas…)
Partly because I hadn’t looked at the emotional component of my relationship with my body (something I’m still in the process of sorting out).
And partly because I wasn’t broken. I was a body (and a person, and a life) in progress.
And I had (and still have) a lot of growth to do when it comes to learning to joyfully inhabit this body. It’s something I’ve been working on with an entirely different focus and urgency, now that I have a daughter who is looking to me to tell her what the value of women’s bodies are.
While I haven’t quite figured out the whole “joyfully inhabiting” thing, my body and I have reached something of a truce. We try to do right by one another, mess up a lot, apologize, and try to do better (and acknowledge that whatever the right balance is has to involve ice cream sometimes). We do our best to parent these three children so that hopefully they won’t be forming awkward truces with their own bodies when they’re nearly forty.
That day, though, my body and I were having a good day. On this particular morning, the water was scalding hot (because in my mind it’s only a shower if I come out looking like I have second degree burns all over my body), the music was exactly right, and I was dancing in the shower with all my usual grace. (For reference, I’m the kind of graceful that regularly bumps into doorways. I’ve had to limit my dancing in the kitchen, because last time I did, I spilled hot coffee down my arm. So when I say “my usual grace,” I just mean that I’m lucky if no small children are accidentally harmed in the process of me dancing around the house.)
In the middle of my assumed-to-be-private dance party, I saw a little shadow through the frosted glass of the shower door dancing with me and heard a little voice piping along with the music. It was Lila. I peeked out of the shower door, and she gave me a conspiratorial grin. It was just us there, dancing away to Lizzo. After a few minutes, the shadow had gone from the door and I was alone, rinsing off and getting ready to move forward with my day. I was grateful, though, that my daughter had caught me enjoying being in this body of mine. This imperfect body that I was working toward strengthening (by the way, has anyone else noticed that boxing is wonderful stress relief? Who’s been keeping that secret all these years?). Lila saw me in a brief moment of moving joyfully in the body I have right this second, and I hoped that she took that in.
Because while I’m always so careful to use nothing other than body positive language around my kids, I know that they are watching us so much more than we think they are. I hope that she hasn’t seen me staring my body down in the mirror, like it was high noon in the wild west and we were preparing to draw our weapons. That she hasn’t noticed how often my eyes flick up to the shelf in the pantry where we have the little container of treat foods.
I hope that she remembers when I told her my stretch marks were her and her brothers’ first art project, and that they make me smile when I see them. That my feet are calloused and cracked from having hiked so many wonderful trails, and that I’m grateful to them for carrying me where I want to go. That the creases by my eyes are because her dad has a great sense of humor and makes me laugh, and we’ve been together so long that I have lines to remind me of all of the fun we’ve had. So many stories fade away as we grow up, though.
Later in the evening it was shower time, and I was working on an assignment for a class while keeping an ear out in case Lila needed anything. I heard something and went to check on her, but it was a little voice from the bathroom singing out “Feelin’ good as hell! Ooh, child, feelin’ good as hell!”
And I hoped she was dancing.
More than that, I hoped she would keep dancing in her amazing, strong body her entire life long.