It’s been a long summer, and not the kind full of happy memories by the lake or long weekends at the beach. I contemplated for some time what to share with you all and how much to share; while I am open, there is quite a bit that I hold back and barricade with me.
I haven’t written or worked on anything in two weeks now. For anyone that knows me, they know that I’ve always strived to write something every day, even if it was just a few lines. Progress is progress, no matter how small.
1. My daughter was in summer school, and whether she will progress to the next grade is still unknown. Any parent knows the anxiety this might cause. We are waiting on a single reply that will determine much of my child’s future.
2. My youngest son, Roman, has full-blown autism. (My oldest son has Aspergers.) I drove down to South Florida on June 20th to discover this. We have a lot of follow-up appointments and more assessments to complete, which, without insurance, are financially taxing. There are moments I feel like a failure because I can’t afford anything close to what I need to be able to, yet I’m above the poverty line and don’t qualify for government aid. Social Security Disability takes a while, and even once approved – if we’re approved – nothing will be in effect immediately. This runs through my head every single night.
3. Most recently, my children’s grandmother passed away. Three weeks prior, the doctors told us there was nothing more they could do and called in Hospice. Wednesday, she dropped my oldest son off to me with her husband and seemed fine, if a bit drowsy from the medicine she had been taking. Thursday, she was okay, but sounded closer to loopy. She was present, but struggled with cognizance at times. Friday was the day she dropped off drastically. She could no longer walk, could hardly move, and had so few moments of clarity I feared no one would be able to say a proper good-bye. For the next three days, I was with her every minute I could be for over 15 hours a day…until she passed away on Monday. It was time though. I laid in bed with her all day Monday, singing to her, rubbing her head and talking to her about the kids, assuring her everyone would be okay. She moaned in pain all day though, despite my efforts. It wasn’t until about an hour before she passed away, after they had pumped an extremely high amount of meds into her, that she finally calmed down. I saw her take her last breath and I was the last to kiss her cold head for a final good-bye.
Friday to Monday was all the time we were given to process this, to get everyone there to say good-bye. It happened so fast. She was given a 6-month timeframe by the doctors, and it ended up being 3-weeks from start to finish. What they don’t tell you, though, is, once they pass, there is a ton of stuff to do. You aren’t given the proper chance to grieve for a while. There are closets and drawers to clean out, funeral arrangements to make, a massive stack of paperwork to do all while you’re attempting to console everyone around you, all while your phone continuously goes off because concerned friends want to check on you, all while you’re still in shock, merely going through the tiresome motions.
At her service, a video of photos was displayed. I saw her so often and spent so much time with her, I didn’t notice how much she had changed physically. I saw her losing weight, and found myself buying her smaller sized clothes, and of course she lost her hair, but I didn’t realize how much life had been zapped from her figure, from her features, until I looked back. And that had me thinking hard about:
We spend so much time hating our bodies, trying to hide it, feeling ashamed of it, picking out its flaws and comparing it to worldly standards…until one day, it’s ravaged with disease, and the body we once loathed becomes the one we are fighting to reclaim. I don’t care whether you are 98 lbs, 198 lbs, 298 lbs or 398 lbs, I don’t care whether you are boyish and flat or extra curvy and wider than most chairs accommodate, we are all beautifully and wonderfully made, and we need to spend less time focusing on what’s wrong with our bodies and more time doing all that we can, in the time that we’re given, with our bodies. Do you realize how many memories we miss out on, how much of our life, of our happiness, we give up because we’re afraid of what someone else thinks, because we’re worried about how we’ll look doing something rather than just doing it?
My children’s grandmother never liked pictures of herself. Thankfully, she still took them, but when she saw them, she usually made a negative comment. She never wore a bathing suit, never showed her legs because they were “pins” and she was always fussing with her hair. Looking back at it all though, I saw nothing but beauty. With age, she became a little thicker in the middle, but she was never considered plus size. Those skinny legs she hated (oddly because they weren’t fuller and more shapely like mine) are the legs of Jessica Simpson, the legs celebrities bust their tails to have and display in short shorts. Her round face kept her youthful and young, even though she was in her late forties at the time. She struggled to see her beauty, to appreciate her own beauty for what is was, until it was too late.
It happens all the time though. We miss out on so much because we have this fear about our bodies that literally keeps us frozen in place. We’re afraid of what others will say or think, until we realize anyone with anything negative to say isn’t a friend and isn’t anyone we should allow to govern the joy in our life. We’re afraid of how bad we’ll look in photos, until one day, we find ourselves looking back on those photos with longing. We’re afraid of being happy, until we reflect and realize that we closed the door on a slew of opportunities. We hold ourselves back. It’s easy to blame life, to blame our situations, to blame circumstances, and when it comes to the larger things, like finances, that is true to a degree, but for the smaller things like emotion, we are the gatekeepers, we are the supervisors, we are the responsible ones.
Stop being afraid of your body. Stop being ashamed of a body that is probably working close to perfect today. Stop robbing yourself and your family of memories that they will need later, that you all will cherish later. Disease doesn’t discriminate. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. (Blunt moments ahead!) You could develop it tomorrow, and then the body you were hating on today would be the very body you would have to fight hard to reclaim, with no guarantee of ever reclaiming it. There are no exclusions when it comes to this disease. Children get it. High school students get it. Young adults get it. New parents get it. Aging parents get it. Senior citizens get it. You can’t protect yourself from it the way you can many other diseases. It’s one of the few diseases that both carnivores and vegans get in kind, that both health nuts and lazy Janes get in kind, that both the overly conscious and the naively unaware get in kind.
Embrace the body you have today. Appreciate the body you have today. It may not be perfect when checked against society’s standards, but if you’re healthy enough to read this, then your body is doing better than you’re probably giving it credit for. She couldn’t read at the end. She could barely eat, could barely take her medicine and I had to hoist, support, and move every pound of her. You don’t know shame until your body can no longer do what it was designed to do. You don’t know fear until death is knocking at your door and no matter how hard you fight, you can’t elude it. You don’t know opportunity until you consider chemo and radiation as opportunities to regain a portion of the life you once lived. You don’t know figure flaws until you have a breast hacked off, until you have ports protruding in various locations, until your flesh is discolored from treatment after treatment.
Love the body you have today, no matter its weight, no matter its shape, no matter its size. Love the body that has gotten you to this point in life without failing, without being seized and overrun. Love this imperfectly perfect body while you can, every day that you can. In high school, I thought I was fat. I hid behind large clothes and shame. Looking back, I was far from. I was plus size at a size 14/16, but I wasn’t any of the things I thought I was. Neither was my children’s grandmother. The problem is, we can’t keep looking back in longing, only appreciating our bodies in reverse. We need to act now. We need to appreciate what we have now, not from a hospital bed weak and withered, not from your own bed frail and faint.
Never be afraid of your body. We are all beautifully and wonderfully made. Beyond that, you never know when disease may ravage that body. Love it while you can, every day that you can. You will never regret loving yourself. You will regret the opportunities you passed up because you were uncomfortable and ashamed of yourself. I really can’t impress this upon you enough.
You never know when you will go from this:
Love yourself while you can, every day that you can. Embrace every curve, every edge, every imperfection as perfection.
Love the body you have today, not the one you’ll have x amount of pounds from now. Love your body for all it is today, not x amount of years from now when you’re staring in disbelief at a photo you once loathed of yourself. Love your body unconditionally, because, for x amount of years, it’s done its job; it’s protected you from disease, it’s kept you going and it’s given you every minute you’ve wasted. It’s ensured you could take every breath, consume every meal, get out of bed every morning and climb into bed each night. And for all of that, for all its years of service, doesn’t it deserve your appreciation, your love?
How many of you would continue to give your very best to a company, to a boss, that didn’t appreciate you, that didn’t like you and that constantly diminished your worth every single day?
Now realize, you’re the boss of your own body. You can choose to love it or loathe it, to embrace it or rebuke it. But it will always be yours.
My advice? Love it while you can, every day that you can.