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Monday, July 30, 2007

Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.

-Richard G. Scott, Nov. '95

This quote is posted on a wall in the room where I take my class. What? I didn't tell you that I'm taking a class this term? Well, I most certainly am. Summer term, Monday through Thursday.

Which class?

Aerobic dance.

You know, I don't often vocalize my true feelings about my body: it's too much for me to talk about. Those "talks" are reserved for myself, in my head, usually when I'm alone. But on days like today, when I'm okay with it all, I can talk about it, and by talk, I mean blog. I don't vocalize it for the protection of my children, particularly my daughters. Did I ever tell you about when I had one of my worst breakdowns ever? It was almost two years ago, maybe three, I'm not certain. It involved one of my daughters telling me that her friends told her, "Your mom is fat." That cut me more deeply than anything had, in a very, very long time, or has since. In fact, just typing it, I cringed, and now tears are welling. For a very long time, I tried to find out why that bothered me so much. I only recently came to terms with that little (HUGE) upset when I realized something: the friend who said that to my daughter? Her mom is way more into appearances than I am. Waaaaaay more. And since I like me, and I like how I am, I was able to close that chapter.

Don't get me wrong: I know it's important to be physically fit. Believe me on this, it's been ingrained in me my whole life. It's also important to take care of yourself; take care of your body, and present it (appearance) in a positive way. My frustrations lie here: the assumption that just because someone is plus-sized, they're not healthy.

Health Nazi lives down the street. Once her testimony included something to the tune of, "I'm just so grateful that I have a good body, after having all my kids, I'm still in good shape...". She's said to my daughter, in front of me, as we were eating a dinner that I had prepared, "Take care of your body! You only have one!" While I can appreciate her message, because it's mostly true, I think the overkill is potentially hazardous. Being larger is equated, at times falsely, with unhealth, and if her children, who have listened to their mother chide 'being fat' their lifelong, happen to put on some weight FOR WHATEVER REASON . . . well, you can finish that thought.

One day, I asked Li'l ~j., "What do you think of your body?" She replied, "I think it's important to keep it healthy and strong. It's a gift from Heavenly Father." "Very good," I told her. Then, as an afterthought, "Sweetie, do you know that you're beautiful?" Let me say that we often tell our kids that they are beautiful, but not without adding more compliments regarding their other attributes: they're sweet, smart, special, All Things Good; we don't prioritize "beauty" over the others, but I was just curious, as the mother of a sooner-than-I-realize-teen, what she thought about her looks. [And, for the record, had anyone asked me at her age if I knew I was beautiful, the answer would have been a fierce, resounding, and sincere NO.] Her answer: "Yes, but I don't like to talk about it, like bragging, because I don't think that's a nice thing to do. But I like how I look."


Back to my class: it's not easy being the old one AND the fat one in the class. I'm even older than the instructor. But the second part, the part about my being the f-word . . . I only notice that when I'm feeling especially down about myself. I can barely look in a mirror. I loathe photos of myself. But when I close my eyes, and I'm exercising, I feel like I'm using my body in a way that's beneficial, not only to me, but to my family. At the beginning of the term, we had to write down our fitness goals. Surprisingly to myself, my ultimate goal wasn't to lose weight, but to improve my cardiovascular health; I wrote that down along with a disclaimer that, of course, I'd like to lose weight, but that is secondary.

Occassionally, I will vaguely mention trying to lose weight, in casual conversation. Here's the reply I don't want to hear: "Don't be so hard on yourself -- you've had five kids!" Okay, so has my neighbor, and she could easily be mistaken for a 16-year-old. I refuse to use my children as the excuse for the main source of any self-loathing I may possess. I don't blame genetics, either. Come to think of it, I don't blame anything, or any one. No blame. It is what it is. I'm working to change it, but if it doesn't come, I'm okay with that, too.

Today a woman at work said to me, "Are you having a baby?" [I wanted so badly to say, "Currently? No -- I'm entertaining a twit."] One girl in my class asked me what my major is, and when I told her that I'm not sure, that I'm a stay-at-home mom and that this is the only class I'm taking, she asked, "So that you can lose some weight?"

I share those anecdotes, not for pity, but because I can. I'm finally at a place where I accept what I am, and I move forward. It used to be that I'd feel relatively good about myself, then take a look in the mirror or step on the scale, and my self-worth/image would plummet. Now, though, I can answer the lady at work: "No. I'm not, " and let her deal with it. I can say to the girl in class, "Yes, to lose some weight," and then when we're in the middle of a step-aerobics routine, help this ridiculously uncoordinated girl, who I'm guessing literally weighs half of what I do, learn a sequence that comes to me very easily.

I'm grateful for that quote on the wall in my classroom. Rereading it has helped me progress, in thought, action, and otherwise, more than I could have imagined when I first read it. This trial of mine has given me growth and understanding; maybe I could work on the compassion part a bit (like calling that girl uncoordinated), but I've definitely been stretched -- physically, and then some.


Tori :) said...

My SIL was one of those women who is constantly obsessing over her body (which isn't all that hot anyway- but that's all she'd talk about). Anyway, she would say stuff like "I gained 10 ounces." Ok- who's scale measures in ounces? I would look at her and say "Go pee then." It was really bad. But then her 7 year old daughter started obsessing and saying she was fat. That shut my SIL up. Parents really need to be careful.
You are awesome J.

{natalie} said...

j....what i love about you most (so far into our friendship) is how honest you are. you are just so you. and you are the same in real life and in the blog world. which i think is gggrrrreeaat

i i eee said...

My evil twin would have my daughter say back to her friend, "Did you know that your mom is a skinny hag?"

Good thing I don't have an evil twin.

I know I've said mean, horrible, and offensive things to people before -both intentionally and unintentionally -and I hope I can always have enough hindsight to feel bad about it later, and try to prevent myself from doing it again. So I'm trying hard not to hate people who say stupid things anymore. Whether or not they realize it's hurtful or just plain rude, my own words haven't always been perfect either.

I bet you rock the step-bench in aerobics class.

i i eee said...

Dang it! The dangling modifier strikes again in my comment! How embarrassing!

QueenScarlett said...

Thanks for posting that quote. I often forget that trials are meant to polish us up. I have a crappy memory. I know what you mean... growing up - never really ok with my size - boobs too small, face too asian... and I always thought I was fat - weird cuz when I look back...I wasn't. Now... well working on getting back into shape...but I'm not bothered by the body issues as much now. Maybe it is having kids. I remember balking at getting in a bathing suit when I was in high school on a trip to Maui... and I was tiny. Now... I jump into the water as much as I want and screw what everyone else thinks.

I'm with you on promoting a healthy body image for my girls. They face too many pressures as it is. BRAVO for Lil ~J and YOU. You are a FANTASTIC example.

C. Jane Kendrick said...

Loved this post.


sue-donym said...

I was just thinking yesterday how fabulous you looked in your red top. I should have said something then.

Cari said...

My sons were watching an old episode of "The Biggest Loser" (why? That's a good question!) and my youngest son told me that I should go on that show. Thanks Max. I just said, "Oh no you didn't just say that!" *sigh*

Cheers to you for doing something that makes you feel good.

P.S. Tell your hubby that we really enjoyed his talk yesterday. It was excellent!

~j. said...

tori - thanks for sharing that. A prime example of the damage that can be done by drawing attention to your flaws. YOU are awesome.

~j. said...

*n*-dogg - thanks, girlfriend. You know what they say: "Well, East Coast girls are hip." That says it all.

~j. said...

rc - tee hee! We ALL have said things we regret. We'd just think/hope that those who have had life experiences learn from their experiences, and only pass along the good. Or pass the good along. Either of those work, here in my comments-section.

~j. said...

queen - thanks. I know, it seems to me kind of an over-used (trendy?) phrase to say, "Well, we never get more than we can handle!" in regards to trials. But I really like how that quote is phrased, "experiences that stimulate growth...", and, "polish you for your everlasting benefit." Hooray for mommies helping their girls -- hopefully they won't buy into what we did when we were younger: that we were heavy, unacceptable, whatever, when we really WEREN'T!

~j. said...

cj - thanks so much. I always love when you stop by and comment.

~j. said...

sue - thank you, I go back and forth with that red shirt. But in the end, I do like it. Thanks for the compliment. You ALWAYS look fabulous. Always.

~j. said...

cari - And my kids tell me I should be on American Idol. Shows how much kids know! (*smiley emoticon*)

I will tell him that you said so. He had so many meetings yesterday...I'm glad you liked his talk.

b. said...

I love that quote. If I have heard it before, I've forgotten it.
Thanks for the reminder.
I always thought I was fat growing up too. I wasn't. All that negative self-talk didn't get me very far. I love how you furthered the discussion with your's a great example.

Sister Pottymouth said...

So, ~j, do you know that you are beautiful?

Well, you are.

Thanks for the awesome post.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this post.

Do you remember some post ages ago when I commented by saying "You're beautiful" in my best James Blunt voice?

Singing it again.

And thinking how blessed your kids are to have you as their mother.

David said...

My wifes family, for the most part, is very obsessed with physical appearance. There are a lot of eating disorders among them and obsessive exercise is the norm.

At the last Christmas party I was proud to be one of the only fat ones with real boobs.

~j. said...

julie - awww, shucks. Thank you.

~j. said...

cw - thank you. You are a great example to me of a mother, and that example becomes stronger each time I see you with your own children.

~j. said...

scooter - it's a festivus miracle!

Geo said...

You are incredible and so is this post. You have a beautiful, healthy, real woman's voice—and it perfectly matches the rest of you.

~j. said...

Thanks, geo.