If the title is throwing you for a loop, I’d like to mention that in a previous newsletter I wanted to talk about the writing life. During the pandemic, I’ve come to recognize my body's needs are crucial to my writing life and process. I just didn’t know how important they were until I started journalling messily.
I've been enjoying "messy journalling", a combination of scribbles, shapes, and words, to document/track my personal goals I outlined last December. These goals range from learning languages to personal fitness, but were shaped by the question: “Why the hell not?”
Of course, "saying" I want to be a bit less wobbly is different than actually, erm, randomly whacking my cellulite and encouraging muscle fibers to function properly. So, I did what a lot of people do and I searched online for inspiration. When I came across a bikini-clad selfie, I cheered that woman on. Good for her! Hey, if she can rock out who knows what I can do. And then I discovered that some people obsess about odd things like ‘thigh gaps’ and ‘butt wrinkles’ and all other forms of body-shaming nonsense.
I don't know why body-shaming became more acceptable than, say, asking a perfect stranger to name the three branches of the U.S. government, but it has. (In this case the whys and the hows don't matter to me one bit. Sometimes, moldy bread is actually moldy bread and not a 6th grade science experiment.) Often, these comments are directed at gorgeous, stunning women of all shapes and sizes and identities. Sometimes, it’s a heavier-set gal shamed because she lost weight. How dare she listen to her doctor’s advice? Other times, it’s a mom whose body didn’t “spring back” fast enough, as if pregnancies are merely surprises in a uterus-shaped box. Or, she’s old, too young, too much makeup, not enough makeup, wrong Insta filter, wrong color, etc. The list follows her from chubby cheeks to eye crinkles and everything in between.
I can appreciate that Photoshop and other such tools have lured us all into the museum-quality land of Perfectionism. I can also appreciate the beauty of reality, of aging as part of the human condition. As my Very Large-Brained Science Friend once said: “We are all chemical soup. And, those chemicals? Not the same for everyone.” Nor, should I’d ever want them to be.
Oh, before you think I’m innocent, I'd love to say I have never body-shamed or fallen into gendered beauty traps before, but that isn’t true. I’m a woman over 40 who’s been subjected to every marketing trick in the book. Even I think: “Yes, we can all look 20 forever!” by buying pretty packages of shimmery highlighter that, quite frankly, does not make me even closely resemble Charlize Theron. Who, let’s be honest, is spectacular.
Thing is: It took me a looooooooooong time to define what beauty meant to me; both, with respect to appearance and health. After a while (and one too many funerals), eventually I recognized a person's self-image and appearance is the cover of a book—and a person's desired self-image is nunnybish. (None-of-my-business.) How I view someone else and their beauty is part of my story—not theirs. If I say they're not perfect, what I'm really saying is that I'm not perfect or I’m just jealous. And, while it’s true that I am far, far from perfect, does the other person really need a heap of my insecurities piled on them? Or yours? Nope-on-a-rope, friend. Besides, capitalism can never truly dictate what beauty is, because it radiates from each, individual person. Despite what I might think: It’s not the dress that’s beautiful. It’s the person thrilled to wear a designer’s art, because that beauty is connected to their joy. Add a great photographer? Set design? Both can make all the difference in the world.
I don't know you, your struggles, or your personal joys, but if you're someone that's experiencing body-shaming I just want to say four words: "I'm sorry." And, "Thank you." I'm sorry you were attacked by moldy bread for posting a picture of yourself. And, I’m deeply, deeply sorry for those times my past self body-shamed you. Thank you. Thank you, for sharing your joy, for your efforts to show us your beauty, because you did and continue to inspire people like me.
The recent inspiration I got from your photos helped me re-prioritize “less wobbly bits” on my To Do list. Because why the hell not. But, I need to take my gratitude one step further. I’d also like to take a moment and say "Thank you, Body!" for carrying me this far. We've certainly been through a lot together. Sometimes, you were very stressed out. Sometimes, you just needed a damn nap. Sometimes, you were functioning at optimal levels. But then, one day, you weren’t. You told me I should take better care of you, like when you introduced me to this concept called "back pain." Or, "WTF?"
Still salty about that.
Hmmm… Let’s see…. Oh yes, remember the most miraculous thing you did recently? You are surviving the when-will-this-end-gahhhhhh pandemic. (For, as the Late, Great Carrie Fisher once quipped: "It's not over yet.") You even manage to creak a little less after we learned proper yoga poses which helped my posture. You respond well when I engage in self-care, which helps me confidently plan, write, and produce. You take me outside, even on days when it's super hot, and smiled—yes, even in mid-July—acknowledging the day star is not your sworn enemy after all. And, on top of that? You did something I never thought you'd do: You accepted a (mostly) pescatarian, dairy-free diet. I feed you tofu more often than bacon now (for nunya reasons) and that's not something I would ever have predicted. ('Mostly', because every once in a while I just need a damn cheeseburger.)
So thanks, my Body. Wobbly bits and all. We made it this far, and I'm curious to see what we can do together. Could you imagine us posting selfies? Better author photos? Strutting in a pair of thigh-high boots? Go sailing? Road tripping on the coast? Wearing a gown I designed? At, erm, the Met Gala? Hah hah!
A girl can dream, but reader? That's my point. My wish list goes on and on, because I have something beautiful now I didn't know I desperately needed: Hope. This hope came from paying attention to what my body needed, not just my writerly brain, during this pandemic. And, by taking action one day at a time, this simple inward-facing focus to strengthen my mind-body connection continues to refuel my creative well.
If I haven't bored you and you're still reading this quirky-ass update, I just want to say you are too kind for reading this particular writing life-adjacent newsletter about my desire to be healthier. Because it’s my story, I want to reiterate that what I’m doing is no judgment on you and how you’re managing your mental and physical health*. That’s nunnybish.
So, let me close by saying I hope you, too, find your own path to joy—whatever that is, wherever that might take you. Oh, I wish I could offer sanctimonious advice (my name means advisor in Greek, after all) but I really can't and I shouldn't. I trust you either know how to find what you need, or you'll figure it out.
Just like I continue to. Each and every day.
* Lest there be any confusion, I am not referring to masks or vaccines. And, I’m only lightly addressing the broader issue of body autonomy when I talk about body-shaming selfies from my extremely limited perspective. “We should all wear mask/social distance during a nationwide pandemic because we live in a society and diseases are honey badgers” is not the same as “You should address your body’s fitness the same way I do to look like I do.” I say, with love.