Body Love

Children change your body. Time changes your body. Illness can change your body, too. Recently I’ve been struggling with these changes. Some I’ve been battling for a couple years. (When stressed, I eat. I have twin 3 year olds.) Some are more subtle. (I find myself buying boxes of hair dye more frequently.) And others come as a surprise. (Did you know that strep can lead to guttate psoriasis, requiring two to three UV light treatments a week for two to three months to resolve? Yeah …)

Last night I was sitting in bed, trying hard not to scratch my itchy arms and legs, silently criticizing the puffiness of my face in a picture posted on Facebook when Sophie wandered in, notebook and pencil in hand.

She climbed up into a big leather chair, draping her back and legs over the two arm rests while letting the rest of her body sink in the middle. She tapped her pencil on her notebook.

“I’m going to interview you,” she said.

She had already interviewed James and Andy—it was my turn.

Her questions were typical: favorite color, favorite shape, best friend, favorite number.

But it was her second question that gave me pause.

“What part of your body do you like the best?” she asked.

Having now spent years trying to even (my skin tone), straighten (my back), sculpt (my arms), grow (a baby), make (milk), shrink (after babies), forever tame (my hair), I realized I’ve given very little thought to the part (or parts) of my body I like best. And I had no idea how to answer my daughter, who (I joyfully realized) viewed one’s body as something to be loved, rather than something to be improved.

I itched my soft stomach.

Although I questioned it in my head, I said, “my hair,” out loud, with confidence. (For as much as I talk about taming it, I’ve actually learned to love its curliness and bigness—it’s one thing people stop me to comment on, regularly.)

She smiled, wrote and moved on.

And silently I hoped that her body love—of her own and of others—remains sound and strong always, despite time, despite someday-maybe children, despite others, despite illness, despite societal standards.

“… this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now … with its aches and its pleasures … is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” —Pema Chodron