I’m sitting on the beach with my husband and my little guy. We’re enjoying a long weekend away, our first since September. It’s been far too long.
It’s Memorial Day weekend and the beach is crowded with families and couples…and the occasional solo sunbather. The vibe is relaxed and refreshing.
There’s a little girl, maybe seven years old, sitting nearby. She’s wearing a lavender polka dot bikini and she’s having a blast playing in the sand and jumping in the (freezing cold!) waves. She’s an absolute delight to watch.
In contrast, I’m sitting here wearing capri leggings and an aptly named, “tent dress, ” trying not to draw any attention to myself. I’ve gained weight over the last – I don’t even know how many – months and I’m feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin. If I could get my hands on an invisibility cloak, I’d wear it everywhere. But, alas, they seem to be in short supply so my tent dress, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hat will have to do.
My little friend is running back and forth between her family’s encampment and the Atlantic. She has a water bottle that she keeps filling up; she must be constructing a sand masterpiece behind me, but I don’t want to turn around and look. Her hair is french braided, no doubt in a loving mother’s attempt to keep it out of her face, but most of it’s fallen out and it’s bouncing and flopping around her little face in the breeze. She is SO stinkin’ cute!
The other thing about my friend: she’s pleasantly plump, sporting a few rolls on her back, a round tummy, and a sweet chubby face. She’s beautiful. She’s adorable. She is such a blessing.
I’ve been frustrated with my body for some time now and being at the beach – one of my absolute favorite places – has brought the depth of my discomfort into sharp focus. I feel this whole spectrum of…just…ugh! Shame. Guilt. Embarrassment. Humiliation. Frustration. Inadequacy. Yuck!
I look in the mirror and I truly don’t recognize the woman looking back at me. I want to shed my own skin because it doesn’t feel like ”home.” I feel ”less than” in every conceivable way (except pounds). But why?
I look at other women who are toting around ”extra” pounds and see their beauty. They are attractive, stylish…glowing, stunning. They aren’t defined by their weight. It’s simply one of the many things that makes them who they are.
So why the harsh self-criticism?
I continue to watch my sweet, bubbly, bikini-clad friend running back and forth, joyfully bouncing through the surf, and I want to be like her. I’m grateful for the profound blessing of her presence and the gift of time…to watch, to reflect, to open my heart to her beautiful message.
She’s told me that I’m worthy of love and affection no matter my body type. She has shown me how stunningly beautiful it is to let yourself be truly seen where you are and JUST AS YOU ARE. She’s reminded me to live in the moment and to be truly connected to my life as it unfolds. She’s clearly demonstrated that our bodies are vessels that enable us to experience life in all of its miraculous fullness.
There’s nothing wrong with being an observer sometimes, but we mustn’t live our whole life in the audience. We have to have the courage to climb up on stage and be seen. For who we are, as we are, and right where we are. And if we feel so uncomfortable, for whatever reason, that we just can’t find the courage to get on stage, then we have to do something about it.
On stage – out in the open for everyone to see – is where all the good stuff happens. And we’re all meant to be up there, regardless of any perceived flaws or shortcomings.
Thank you for showing up and reminding me who and how I want to be, my precious, joyful little friend. I’ll take it from here. You keep playing and shining your amazing light. I love you.
And to Robert, the guy who suggested I might ”mention (him) in (my) book” as he was leaving the beach, it’s a blog that, perhaps, might someday become a book. Thanks reminding me that any and all attempts at being invisible are futile and misguided. Thanks for seeing me.
Now…I think I’ll go for a walk.