I laced up my shoes, slipped my husband's Red Sox winter hat over my morning head of hair, and headed out my front door. The neighborhood was calm and quiet, post-rush-hour and pre-I've-got-to-get-to-work. I put my headphones in my ears, pushed play on the podcast of the day, and walked down my driveway for a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
Anyone who knows me, or who has ever known me, is often surprised and a little shocked that I would do such a thing.
Because, for the first time in my life, I'm intentionally going on walks that are more than walks, but an effort to get and stay healthy. I'm buying exercise gear and actually wearing it out of the house during daylight hours. I've been a member of different gyms, and still try to go with regularity, but I've never made the move towards actually getting out and doing this exercise in such a public way.
Why? I've been too embarrassed, convinced that people will see me, out and about, sweaty, jiggly, and gross, and they will laugh at me. I've been convinced that I need to be in that perfect toned shape that you see on the cover of running magazines in order to don the gear and go outside with any semblance of dignity.
We are told in our culture that we're supposed to hate our bodies. We're supposed to want to change everything about them, more in some places, less in others, a different slope of the nose, a different...well, everything. I once had someone look with horror at my calves, sincerely distressed by just how huge they were. How huge they are. (Side note: I can not, and have never been able to, wear those cute knee high boots that come out every winter. My calves are just simply too big in circumference).
As a result, we're given guide after guide about how to form and mold and shape our bodies into the picture of perfect ideals. And we strive for it...going as far as punishing our bodies, subjecting them to grueling workouts or undergoing radical surgeries...but also spending a fortune on body shaping undergarments, reminiscent of the corsets of days long past, or dying our hair, slathering makeup on our faces, or wearing impossibly high heels in order to reach a desired height. We strive and we strive, always reaching for that ideal that we pin up on our wall or our refrigerator as a reminder to not eat so much.
And as a result, we're so unhealthy...maybe not physically, but spiritually and emotionally. We spend so much time picking out the flaws and the imperfections, and focusing so much of our time and energy onto eliminating those flaws and imperfections from our bodies and our lives....that we forget to celebrate and thank God for what we do have, and the way that we are created. We forget to recognize that we, in fact, are all created in the image of God. No matter what we look like or how we are built.
We forget to care for the bodies that we have been given, in all their beautiful diversity. We forget to nurture the bodies that we have been given. We forget to embrace and celebrate the bodies that we have been given.
I eat mostly right. I exercise regularly. I am pretty healthy, except for a genetic predisposition towards hypertension that reared it's ugly head in my 36th year of life. But I am short, with huge calves. I have had a child, which has ever changed my body shape and weight distribution (also made some other changes, preventing me from wearing high heels for any longer than an hour or so at a time). I am never going to look like a model...nor am I ever going to look lie the women on the cover of Running Magazine.
I am thankful for the body that I have, and I will continue to care for it to the best of my ability. I will celebrate the flaws and acknowledge them as as part of me as my height and eye color.
I will not be ashamed.
And so, I will continue to lace up my shoes, get out there, and walk...maybe someday jog, but today, I will walk...
And I will do so, huffing and puffing, with my head held high.