My feelings about my body continue to evolve as I get older. For most of my life, I saw my body as functional and healthy, but never beautiful. I was average on some days, kind of cute other days, and those were the good days.
Then, I became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy boy, and I finally saw my body as the miracle it is. With the birth of my beautiful son, I finally saw myself as beautiful.
A few years ago, my body became mysteriously ill, until I was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. And it is this last event, that is making me look at my body, in an entirely new way. It isn't easy to look at myself in the mirror, acknowledge all the things I cannot do any more (or can't do as well), and still think I'm beautiful. My tendency is to put myself down. Yet, I wouldn't do that to a friend. And, I cannot do that to myself. For far too long, I took my body for granted. It's time to start celebrating my body, treating it well, and giving it the respect it deserves.
My practical nature inspires me to write lists: daily to-do-lists, grocery lists, errand lists, and “A to Z” lists. I think my years working in a public library and my years teaching kindergarten have somehow altered the way I look at the world. I tend to want to organize things alphabetically. My body is no exception. Here then is the A to Z List of My Beautiful Body.
A Abdomen. My stomach has never been model-flat, and five years after the birth of my son, it still retains a rounder, softer, looser look to it. It is beautiful because of what it did - grow and provide a safe first home for my son.
B Back. Smooth skin that was never affected by the teenage acne that plagued my face. My back is strong enough to carry around a backpack on a family excursion to the Natural History Museum and strong enough for my son to climb up and give me “backwards hugs.”
C Cells. I can’t see them, but they’re there, inside my body, busy doing their jobs. They are not stricken by cancer, and for that, I am eternally grateful.
D Digits. Rings grace eight of my fingers. These are the fingers that lightly stroke my son’s hair back from his face, the fingers that arranged all the flowers at my wedding, the fingers that hold a pen carefully and produce neat writing that others have admired.
E Ears. I never regarded my ears as too large, or too small, for my face. I never felt they protruded unattractively from the side of my head. I have always felt my ears were a fine showcase for the different earrings I wear each day to accessorize my outfits.
F Feet. Capable of walking to the top of the Arc de Triomphe on our first trip to Paris. Capable of navigating a stick-shift transmission. Capable of safely driving a rental car on the twists and turns that comprise the Road to Hana in Maui.
G Gray hair. For now, it’s just a few errant strands of my other-wise brown hair that have turned a different hue. I don’t mind them. They add light, and an element of surprise, into my otherwise dark head of hair.
H Hair. Brown and never anything else. No dye jobs, just me and my brown hair. Soft and natural. Some days waking up with a slight flip at the ends, some days more wavy, other days quite straight, all days my hair.
I Individuality. Look at me and you can see I’m not trying to be like everyone else. Most women aren’t wearing as many rings on their fingers. Most women wear high heels on a regular basis; I don’t own any. I run errands and take my son to school while wearing clogs. My hair is not dyed, my eyes are not altered by contact lenses, and my complexion isn’t hidden behind make-up. I am who I am.
J Jugular. My neck is adorned with large moles. They are distinguishing features. Early on in my teaching career, two became increasingly sensitive and were removed. A few still remain, though. Chocolate chips that have been melted into my skin.
K Kisses and hugs. My son and my students know that I would never say “no” to a hug and kiss. Even in today’s school environments, where teachers are supposed to be “hands-off,” I can’t deny a child a hug. For my elementary school students, there are air kisses across a crowded hallway and kisses on the tops of their heads. For my son, there are kisses on the bottoms of his feet, the tip of his nose, the middle of his tummy.
L Lips. With or without my lip gloss, my lips are ready for kissing. Hello and good-bye kisses when I see my parents. Passionate kisses for my husband, gentle kisses for my son, kisses on the tops of my students’ heads. Kisses that let the receivers know I love them.
M Moles. My body is decorated with moles. They are on my right forearm, near my collarbone, on my back and stomach, my neck, and on the left side of my mouth. While my moles may not make me as recognizable as Marilyn Monroe or Cindy Crawford, they are still mine. And growing up, my mom always referred to them as “beauty marks.”
N Nose. My nose has always been compared to my dad’s. I inherited my mom’s brown hair and eyes, but my dad’s nose. And now, that nose is perfect for my nightly “nosey-nosey” with my son (also known as “Eskimo kisses.”)
O Ocular organs. I have always liked my brown eyes. The color of a melting Hershey’s Kiss, my eyes never let me hide anything. My mouth may be quiet, but my eyes show when I am angry or scared, jubilant or in pain.
P Persona. Who I am to strangers, isn‘t much different than who I am at home. I am always the person who signals as I park adjacent to the curb, I am the person who always holds the door open for the person behind me, I am always the person who will pick up an errant newspaper in the park.
Q Quadriceps. Not completely firm, not completely without pain, but my quadriceps are functioning. I’m walking and squatting - sometimes with difficulty, but doing it never the less. And because I have spent time when those actions weren’t possible, I am grateful my body is well enough now.
R Rear-end. One of the more difficult parts of my body to love. Unlike everyone else in my immediate family, my rear-end is not flat. It is round and fills out a pair of jeans. Now I regard it as a built in pillow, allowing my son and I to comfortably settle in, sit down, and read book after book.
S Smile. When I’m smiling from pleasure, and not worried about a camera capturing my expression, I see beauty. I see a woman who is content and grateful, a woman who is trying to do the best she can to always be the best version of herself.
T Teeth. With the exception of my wisdom teeth, I am fortunate to be in possession of all my teeth. I can chew a taco, bite into an apple, chomp on a carrot. My teeth look real - not as white as my computer paper, not as straight as a knife, but they contribute to a nice smile.
U Underarm right beauty mark. It’s slightly raised, quite ticklish, and a little hidden secret in the crook of my right underarm.
V Veins. Ultrasounds revealed that my veins and arteries are functioning as they should be and not blocked in any way. Quietly, beautifully, doing their jobs.
W Wrinkles. My wrinkles, few though they may be for now, are an outward sign, that I’m here. I’m having experiences. I’m living.
X Extra-sensitive feet. My feet are extremely ticklish, information my five-year-old son uses to his advantage. He loves to sneak up to my unprotected feet and give them a hearty tickle. Likewise, my feet are usually cold, even when the weather outside dictates air conditioning and the rest of my body is warm, I can count on my feet to be cold to the touch.
Y Youthful tendencies. I may be thirty-seven years old, but I still marvel at a hummingbird or butterfly sighting on my back patio, still look up in awe at the moon, and still try to see what pictures the clouds are making in the sky.
Z Zigzag lines. The palm of my hand is embellished with a zigzag of lines; my lifelines. They’re a part of me, like my wrinkles, a testament that I’m still here, and still doing my best.