Spent the Day in Bed: A Reflection of my Body Image

Every time I wake up

From a nap that’s too long

Or too short

From an entire night’s sleep

Or a split schedule rest

Before I dress myself

I stare at my abdomen

In the mirror atop my dresser

Trying to validate the extra pounds

That sit just above my underwear line

I hold my shirt up

Lift my arms

Turn sideways

From various angles

Assessing the lines my body makes

From the splash in at my waistline

Back out again before my hips

I tug and squeeze at the soft spots

Imagining them taut, flat

Telling myself that I’m attractive

Regardless of my flaws

While still wishing my body

Looked different, was smaller

Sometimes, I go through this ritual before bed too

 

I have spent years of my life telling myself that one day I will be thin.  By middle school, going shopping with my mother became a conflicted task.  I loved new clothes whether or not I really needed them.  Mostly, they gave me satisfaction in my body, in my physical image, but the reminder that I was always a size bigger than her scarred my image.  I felt like a pretty girl whose head was just a little too small for her body.  

Even then, I pulled at my upper arms in the mirror, often after a trip when I wanted a particular shirt or dress that wouldn’t fit comfortably around my biceps.  I would get home and shut myself in my room and imagine how great I would look if I was as small around as I was without my arms down.

Just a few years ago, near the climax of my father’s illness, I expressed to him and a couple of his aunts my desire to get back in shape, how I’d like to lose twenty pounds.  I’d gotten lost on a run in their neighborhood earlier in the day, which turned two miles into four and I was proud of my ability to still run so long.  Somehow I turned the story into an expression of my lack of comfort with my body, I don’t understand how.  My aunt, generally supporting my idea, replied, “That’s great, honey.  Just remember that you’re never going to be a small person.”  I knew my size came from his side, from her side, those genes in the family, that my stature or bone structure, my muscle mass and general build, would never change.  Why, then, at age 26 was I still imagining a day that I would be compact, small, and fit?  Why is it still a nagging problem that I am a big girl even though I’ve squashed the problem numerous times?

 

Rugby has taught me so much about my body.  I am strong.  Strong enough to tackle a girl that is nearly twice my size.  Strong enough to run through someone the same size as me who is literally trying to pull me to the ground.  Strong enough to drive multiple opponents off of the ball in a ruck, all in one movement.  Even when I fail, my body and my teammates never give up on me.

My professional life has taught me so much about my body.  I am capable of doing what is stereotyped to be a man’s job.  I can change a hundred pound air conditioning compressor on a class B tanker truck in the snow on the side of the road.  My shoulder muscles may hurt halfway through doing it, but they will not give up on me.  I am strong enough to deliver eight thousand pounds of groceries, on a wheeler and down a ramp, out the back of a semi-trailer, faster and more efficient than most of my male colleagues.

I’ve been hard headed enough, even recently, to move nearly all of my belongings solo.  I do it because I know I’m capable, and also because I am insecure.  I don’t want to ask anyone for help out of the inconvenience it may cause them.

I’ve spent most of my twenties proving to myself that I’m capable of doing nearly anything a man can physically do, not just because I am strong but because I am insecure.

I am looking to validate my big, strong body, but why am I looking to validate something that I know is capable? When will I stop trying to prove to the rest of the world that my size is valid?

About a month ago, one of my best friends said, “I’m done with trying to have a hot body.  I just want it to be strong and fit and healthy.”  I’m taking that advice to heart.

I will stop assessing the fat on my stomach in the mirror every day.  I am more fit than I have been in years and I will continue to get more fit, but not for the objective of losing weight or losing my belly.  Two hundred pounds look good on me.  It feels good on me too.

I am strong.  I am capable.  I am myself and I love myself.  I will stop hating my body because it is part of me and I love it too.

Just as this struggle with image has always been part of my life, I know it will continue.  This is a reminder that I can be better, and by being better to myself, I will be better to my community.

Can’t life be like this always?

Charley just looked down at me from the top bunk and said,

“Nap or read? I’m just so busy right now,” while rolling her eyes for emphasis.  We both giggled.

“I’m writing a blog post about that right now,” I told her, as I stood up and crossed the room, headed for the open locker where my most valuable items are locked away while we’re gone.  “You inspired me.  That doesn’t happen so often.”  I smiled back over my shoulder at her, resolving to put on a sweatshirt cause it’s cool in our room despite the intense heat outside.  I laid my laptop down on the brown covered couch in our room of six bunkbeds and one queen size that Fati and I are sharing.

“Can it be the title?” she asked me.

“Maybe,” I answered her, pulling the Redskins hoodie I stole from my mom over my ponytail which hangs loosely to the right side of my head, “but it’s definitely the opening line.”

It’s three in the afternoon in Budapest, our first morning in another new city.  We’ve been gone for three and a half weeks, but we only just made a shared album on Facebook so we can share photos (I’ll post the link at the bottom).  It’s been awhile since we fucked anything major up, like getting caught hopping trains without tickets or missing a connection all together and being stranded at a nowhere train station for the whole night.  I dare say we’ve got a good routine figured out.

This morning we all woke up around 9:30, stirring quietly amongst our three suite mates who came in well into the morning, now snoozing, the backs of their heads and various limbs hanging out from underneath each one’s single flat sheet.

We were out of the house a little after ten and headed to a park on the corner of our block, that we’d noticed on the walk from the train station last night.  It proved unsuitable for exercise.  The only open patches of grass were being watered by a gardener and adorned with signs that I could only assume said “Keep Off Lawn” in Hungarian.  The rest of the small park was just a very well designed playground teeming with kids and parents.

So we headed for the National Museum, which appeared to have a lawn on the map our receptionist gave us last night, across one of the major streets in Budapest’s city center.  The high metal gate around the building, our rumbling stomachs, and the heat of summer sun cooking the sidewalks below us nearly nixed our workout plans, but we’d finally gotten in a groove and I wasn’t willing to let it go.  The girls bucked up and we found a patch of grass and the coolness of shade under a cluster of trees, next to a statue of someone important to Hungarian history.

Doing ankle PT, I wasn’t sure if I’d offend anyone by using his base for calf raises, but I peaked around the ground and decided it was worth the risk.  There didn’t seem to be anyone around to offend.  An hour later, we’d sweated enough, and went on the hunt for food.

Following the receptionist’s advice, with our map, we headed back towards the hostel and towards the river, passing numerous restaurants with mostly outdoor seating.  On the way back, I noticed kebap for 450HUF (about $1.75) and promised to have some later. [Mom, you need to come out here if for nothing less than authentic tsasiki] But now, our hearts were set on breakfast

Approaching the river, our stomachs grumbled the last of our patience out, and Charley resolved to check Google for a market.  I stood next to her, pointing out to Fati the shiny ceramic tiles on the massive building across the street from us that were similar to those on the Viennese cathedral.  Charley’s map loaded.

The building was market! With various meat and produce and textile vendors through three rows, a loft upstairs, and an Aldi downstairs, we spent the equivalent of 10 bucks on fresh food for breakfast and dinner, and headed back to the hostel to cook.  After a plate full of potatoes, peppers, cheese, over easy eggs, and couple pieces of toast, some yogurt and a banana, we were back to ourselves, feeling full and fine.

“This is the life, man,” I said to Charley, as Fati cleaned up our plates.  She nodded in agreement.  “Why can’t I live my life like this always?”

The three of us brainstormed for a little while before retiring to our room for showers and afternoon naps, not coming to any complete answers.

There’s one thing I do know, though.

I won’t stop until I figure it out.

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam ~ Berlin ~ Prague ~ Cesky Krumlov ~ Vienna ~ Budapest

Posted by Sus Kitchen on Tuesday, July 18, 2017