Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Imagine the power

Imagine the power for good that could be released into this bruised and broken world

if women

stopped

obsessing about our bodies,

and focused all that energy, instead,

on

living big, wild, free, courageous lives.

Imagine the energy that could be harnessed for world-changing.

Imagine a world full of women unleashed, unhooked from body shame.

Imagine what we could do about hungry children.

About wars.

About oppression.

About inequity and racism.

About power imbalances.

About dirty politics.

About addiction and depression.

About rape and sexual assault.

About homelessness and heartache.

Imagine the power for good that we are wasting by

hating our bodies.

And trying to fix them, starve them, tone them, lift them, tighten them, lessen them.

What if we stopped?

Imagine the power ...

My body is my own

I first realized my body was not my own when I was about 15.

My swim coach started to weigh me alongside my teammates. 

Publicly.

Each of us had to stand on the scale in front of each other.

Our coach recorded our weights in a little black notebook. We got on the scale prior to performing a rigorous set of calisthenics and then diving into the pool for our second grueling swim practice of the day.

I was traumatized.

It was the beginning of my sense of shame for being female. For being a developing adolescent. For being hungry; for wanting to eat a lot after swimming four hours a day.

The message was never spoken outright. And perhaps it wasn't the message I was supposed to receive. But the message my young mind heard was:

"You are faster when you are thinner.

You are admired and celebrated when you are faster.

Therefore, if you can remain thinner - even pre-pubescent - you will be more valuable."

I started to keep track of calories in my journal, recording even apples and carrots to the calorie.

I wrote full-page notes to myself that simply said: "Do not eat." And then I drew little hearts around that toxic message.

Instead of celebrating all the changes of puberty, I dreaded them.

I never developed a full-fledged eating disorder but I certainly developed disordered eating.

I developed a quiet, ever-present sense of dread about the normal growth of my human body and it has never left. 

The weighing thing only lasted a summer. But the scars remain.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I am 100% confident I am not the only woman with a story like this.

And, because I am finally - in my mid-50's - using the full-force of my mind and heart to push back against the toxic message I was given as a vulnerable adolescent young woman, eager to please her swim coach.

My body is no one's but mine.

My body - no one's body - should ever be a source of shame.

I should not feel the need to starve it or assess it or harm it to try to fit into someone else's idea about how it should look or move or be.

My body is my own.

And today I am honoring it for all the things it has allowed me to do in life.

Run two (really slow) marathons!

Complete multiple triathlons.

Survive a ruptured appendix, faulty sinus surgery, a shredded ACL in my knee.

Give birth to three of the most exquisite human beings I know.

Live a happy, healthy, hearty life.

I still struggle. Those old wounds fester.

But in the spirit of self-compassion and less self-aggression, I am making friends with this ol' body of mine. 

Because she is mine. 

And she is good.

 

 

Accept whatever comes next

I do not think I am overstating it when I say these last months, weeks, days have been hard.

Emotions have run so high.

Anxiety feels ever-present.

Political discussions are super-charged and feel more volatile than they should.

The transition of power at the highest level of our government felt fraught with danger and uncertainty.

So, I wonder how you are feeling. I really do. I wish I could sit down with each one of you and listen to you tell me how you are doing.

How you are REALLY doing.

I wonder if we are feeling some of the same things.

I am struggling to focus on even the smallest of tasks.

Things that would ordinarily take minimal effort often feel monumental and demand all the positive self-talk I can muster.

I dread checking the news for fear of some jarring headline that makes the world feel less solid.

And then I judge myself for feeling this way. I self-critique. I try to take myself by my own collar and shake myself into being more strong, more secure, more grounded. More something.

But I have been working on self-acceptance; on being less aggressive with myself.

And it has been helping.

I am learning to accept that every day I will experience a range of very normal emotions.

I am learning to accept that sometimes my body will simply "suggest" it is time to shut down. 

I am learning to accept my need for rest.

I am learning to accept that I am human; both frail and powerful.

I am learning to accept whatever comes next - whatever thought, whatever feeling, whatever bit of jarring news - without critique or judgement or effort.  I am trying not to label things as good or bad.

This is not fatalism ...

It is not an "it is what it is" form of shrugging off reality.

It is a gentle way of being faithful and trusting God.

It is a powerful method of facing life head-on.

It is a new way of being open and curious about what might come next.

It is a helpful way of welcoming life as it comes, rather than demanding life be as I want it to be.

It is a subversive way to show perfectionism the door.

Accept whatever comes today.

Trust God in this way.

See if that helps just a bit.

 

 

Love one enemy

So much hatred fills our world today.

It overwhelms me and leaves me feeling hopeless. 

It makes me ask myself:

What can I do in a world that feels so big, so out of control, so full of chaos and concerns?

Here is how I am trying to answer my own question.

The great writer and activist James Baldwin said:

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense,

once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

Once our hate is gone ...

we will be forced

to deal with our pain.

Truth.

Today, when I see hate or feel hate, I ask God to give me eyes to see the pain underneath that hate.

The rioters at our nation's capitol were filled with hate.

Rather than hate back - which I am deeply tempted to do - what if I asked myself:

What is the pain hiding underneath their hate?

And what if I also asked myself:

What is the pain hiding underneath my hate?

I have not known how to pray during the tumultuous days of this last week.

Words have failed me.

My thoughts are scattered, often ugly.

Fear rises; the unknown looms. I am tempted to label and to judge and to condemn, and yes, even to hate.

And so I have practiced simply sitting still,

asking God to give me eyes to see not only my own unattended pain, but the unattended pain of those who feel like enemies right now.

And I have asked for the grace - not to skim over wrongs or criminal acts - but to try to find a way to pick just one face out of the angry mob,

and to love them in the best way that I can.

Even from a distance. Even though I don't know their name. Even though we will never speak.

Because I believe that love is power.

And that using the power of love to intend good for our enemies, rather than evil, is the very pinnacle of love.

Jesus demonstrated this.

Jesus calls me to this.

So, this is where I will start.

I will love one enemy. I will try to look beneath the hate to find the pain.

Will you join me?