On Bodies and Wildflowers

5.15.2018



"Mom, who's prettier, me or isabelle*?"

The question came innocently enough.

Perhaps it was because it came during a day when my own perception of beauty felt vulnerable, but this question made my eyes close on command. As if the darkness of my eyelids held the words- scribbled on them like chalkboards holding the answers.

I took a deep breath, trying to figure out the way to navigate this all too familiar road.

Would I walk her down the path I had grown on? It was at this very age that I  became first aware of a measure of beauty I failed to meet.

Would I go for the defeatist route? What was once said to me by well meaning church-members echoing in my head,
 "Hunny, there's always be people prettier than you and smarter than you. You might as well not compete." 

Perhaps I'd swing far to the other end, make sure she knows that SHE wins.  Shower her from head to toe on all the reasons she is and will forever be exceptional. Not answering plainly, but hinting that YES, YES, YES she's prettier (because isn't that what moms are for? To always see you as the best?)

None sat well in my mouth.

These quick fixes never vanquish the ache, do they? Once we begin the race, we crave its finish. Thinking it's a minor competition, only to find that these micro-comparisons accumulate into a weight that sinks into our souls. Did you know I can list off at least 10 people I perceive better (in varying capacities) than I? At the slightest of effort.

If each provide a path (that I am all too familiar),  and none lead anywhere good. Perhaps no path should be chosen.

The free-bird in me led. We head to the wildflowers. I pulled out a quote from pinterest (Perhaps the only time it's proved immediately useful!) jumbled as my memory had stored it.

"Do you think when a flower blooms it tries to decide who's prettier? Certainly not." All the wildflowers are beautiful. Aren't they? All created by a good God who loves beauty!"

I waited.

Was it too metaphorical for her five year old mind to grasp? Was it too....well...pinteresty?

In the silence I felt it.

Her calculating, searching in between the subtext.

It wasn't enough. I knew what she was searching for.

"One things for sure. Your blooming beautifully. You're radiant, baby girl. We don't compare beauty, though. You both are absolutely beautiful." 

Relief swept her face.  I see the smile curve upward as she rests.  She looks out the window-perhaps at wildflowers in that moment?  We begin to share her favorite differences about her dear friend. How she has lighter hair, blue eyes. Contrasting without ache. Celebratory at last.

 ____

I find myself in a target dressing room with three kids and four shirts that are certain to look awesome on me.

It turns out exactly how four shirts and three children in a target dressing room always turnout.

As I hastily put on number four- a last stand for dignity- my daughter, facing the mirror looked up and locked onto me. She grimaced and said "eh."

Was I being sensitive? Did she just say EW?

Feeling my own grimace in my soul- was I transferring my own emotions on my child?

I paused, her face reflecting my heart. Or did it? I couldn't be sure. Was she sighing at yet another piece of clothing? probably. But what if it as about me? I must address it. I must. As the lies seeped in "Wow, britt even your own daughter is ashamed of your body."

I looked at her and mustered up everything in me to challenge her.

" Hey now, whats that about?" The conversation ensued. I defended my body in gentleness. I showed her scars and strong thighs and breasts that nourish. I didn't back down on this. Gently pushing back the darkness in my own narrative. By the end she sat with a silly grin (as she saw my body wiggle in front of her.) Silly grins I'm okay with.

The way our bodies slowly wear away is a bit silly. isn't it? Silly it may be, but it will be treated tenderly.

________


She may not know it now, but this body of mine might someday be similar to hers. The freckles are already forming. And as I look back into my own memories, I see the way my body has shaped similar to my own mother.

My mother jokingly apologizes when I mention this-a product of the same culture we all are- She must know I mean it as a compliment. She must know.

Boy, did she fight to teach us what our bodies could do.  Boy, did she fight for truth for her daughters. Perhaps it is because of her relentless fight for truth, I am emboldened in mine. And so, I'll keep reminding her how wonderful she is. We need each other.

My mothers body represents womanhood to me. I remember even young, my fathers doting glances. Yes, that body-with its scars and great legs. With its 'pretty eyes' (my dad always says) and wild curly hair.  With its great skin and laugh lines. That's a body I celebrate. Because it's hers. And now it's becoming mine.

 For the longest time, I perceived that the insecurities of this culture were just mine to bear. "there's always someone prettier, eh?" Perhaps it was due to the goodness of my husband, choosing me in a million ways over a decade,  or perhaps it was because the burden just grew too heavy, but I decided along the way (and with much reminding) that this body is good. When I say "you might grow to look like me." I'll choose to use it as a compliment. I'll build her up with it. It is not a curse.

This body has brought such joy. How could it be anything but a blessing?

---

She's sitting flipping through a magazine. Five and three quarters. I glimpse her future self. She's always calculating, analyzing, trying to figure out who she'll be.

 She gazes, mesmerized at the cover. Four young women sprawled lazily in a convertible. Free. Beautiful. She points to one and says "SHE'S my favorite!" and turns to me and starts "Who do YOU think is the pretti....oh, never mind. They're all different pretty."

I agree. And then point to the gal with the wild hair and say she's my favorite-because after all, us Sprague girls have some wild hair and I like it. She grins. She decides she likes her too.

I feel a sense of accomplishment rise up. Could it be? A girl knowing her beauty, running free?

"They're all different pretty."

Could my daughter rise up and see her body as a creation of the almighty? And her friends too? Could she see herself and her fellow women strong, and good, and absolutely beautiful?

---

My body has been breaking on me as of late. a list of issues reoccurring. Texts to my mom, confirmation of doctor visits. Being faced with the human condition in more than just its fleshy surface; I'm becoming familiar with its inner workings and misalignment.

This dialogue, the one of sickness and malady, is now on the table as well.

This is new territory for me. One that I'm wading through. But the path we're choosing is this:

Even this is beautiful. It serves a purpose.  It reminds of us what is coming.

When I ache in my fleshy canvas and she sees it, she asks me tough questions. When I grieve at miscarriages and intolerance, and chronic pain, and torn ligaments, she asks me harder questions.

Right now shes quite fatalistic.  Everything a death sentence.

"Don't drop that bowl please,"
"Yeah! or it'll break and you'll DIE!"

This means mortality, too, is on the table.

These hundred conversations are weaving. Short and long dialogues about body and function. About beauty and heavenward glances. Death and glory and purpose. Joy and Sorrow. Bodies as gifts. Bodies as responsibilities. Bodies as GOOD, yet fallen.

As we talk about beauty and death and bodies and abilities over and over and over again, a tenderness is growing in me.

I know she will have to navigate the first time someone tells her that she's not enough. Then she will navigate it a second time. She will have to navigate the day she meets her limits and will have to decide if she wants to find a way around them or accept them for what they are. She will meet the day when her own body, fallen, reveals itself as not all that is good and perfect as it was designed to be. And she will wrestle with brokenness and lies and ache in due time.

My hope is that I will show her the moves. That I will teach her how to know when to pin an idea to the ground and beat it down, and when to raise it up. When to push through and when to rest. Compassion and Confidence and Boldness, not to parade her own beauty (because goodness me, she is beautiful.) but to glorify His design. To be tender with it, but smart. To care for it, but not to worship it.

The only way I can fathom that my daughter will look into a target mirror after three kids and a rough bout of situations and smile with tenderness and confidence is by showing her how.

The only way I can fathom my daughter moving towards another woman whom she feels threatened by in some capacity, is by loving and moving towards my own women who are placed in my life.

The only way I can fathom my daughter being confident when she falls outside of the moving target of commercial beauty is by rooting her in solid explanations of who she is and what her body is for.

If we're to return to the wildflower analogy,  I resonate with the peony. Wouldn't I make a good peony? I know it might not be 'wild' but it is full and lush. Lots to it.  I joke with her dad "don't hate the shake" and praise the Lord, he doesn't. She sees this before her. This tender back and forth of treasuring. Marriage has been a soft place to land with my collections of rejections.

He reminds me our weary bodies not made to be kept in perfect condition. He is a lighthouse to me, reminding me of the way back to shore, reminding me that bodies were given so that we may live. glory given so Glory we might give.

Whether she grows as a dainty as Queen Anne's lace or as fierce as a Snapdragon, or if she finds herself looking at similar peony lushness.  May my girl smile with tenderness and confidence and tell her own people,

"Look at all the beauty that has come from this."

May she not fear the decay of her fleshly body, and may she recognize who made her. May she marvel. May she gather all her understanding of her worth by looking at the ability and genius of her creator. May she know he dances over what he's made.

May she bloom.

No comments:

Post a Comment