I want to make peace with my body. I want to love it. I don't mean that I want to improve my body and then love it. I don't want to weight train it into submission or lotion away my cellulite or train for a triathlon. I know these efforts are healthy for some people, but to me, too much improvement just feels like more war.
I'm nearing 40 and that seems about time to get over believing that I'm not good enough yet. It's probably time to accept that the people telling me I'm not good enough are all trying to sell me something. A revolutionary workout! Miraculous cream! A new juicer! Improved cross-trainers! I have a friend who's always running. Running, running, running like she's trying to escape from something. Aging, maybe? Death? She runs for the same reasons I write, I guess. She tried to get me to jog with her recently by saying, "G, every mile you run adds five minutes to your life." No thank you, I said. I'm not a mathematician, but I'd rather have 12 more minutes now than five extra minutes when I'm 90.
By making it to 40, we've earned the right to laugh at that "improve yourself!" advice and tune into a message that actually interests us. Forty is when we start running out of folks we have to impress, thank God. It may also be the year that I finally give myself permission to start thinking more about what I'm looking at instead of what I'm looking like.
So when I say I want to love my body, what I mean is that I want to learn to appreciate and honor this part of me—my body—that helps me do what I do and know what I know. Without it, I wouldn't be able to lose myself in some of my life's most astonishing moments: the smell of my little one's neck after a bath, the reassuring touch of my eldest's tweeny arms wrapped around me, the velvety sensation of warm ocean water lapping my toes, and the weight of my puppies on my legs at night making me feel so safe and grounded. It's amazing how wisdom sometimes starts on the surface of our skin and then settles so deeply into our minds and hearts.
It's been good to me, this body. And so I want to take some time to make intentional peace with it, because I've not honored it in the past. As a matter of fact, I've abused, ridiculed and taken it for granted for decades. I need to make amends. My body is owed an apology.
When I was 8, my body started dragging me down like a piece of awkwardly shaped, oversize carry-on luggage. I felt oafish compared to all the wispy girls. I was never wispy. They flitted; I trudged. My spirit was light and ambitious but my body embarrassed me. So I dragged it into hiding. I became bulimic and stayed that way for decades. When I got my period at 12, I kept it a secret because I was ashamed. I felt messy and inappropriate.
Then, in my late teens, sex started happening to me and honestly, it still feels like something I let happen to my body while my mind thinks of other things and my soul feels confused—unconnected to my body or my spirit. And as a mom to three, I've been either pregnant or breastfeeding (or both) for 7 of the past 10 years. It seems like for as long as I can remember, my body has existed to make people and to serve people.
Now I'm 37. I'm not bulimic anymore. My kids are growing up and away a little. I figure I have 15 years until I head into menopause and my body reinvents itself yet again. And so it's time—now—to make friends with her. It's time to get to know her before it's too late. When you're trying to get acquainted with someone, it's best to spend some one-on-one time together. So, first, my body and I, we're heading to yoga. I don't know much about yoga yet, but it seems like a peaceful, loving way for my body and me to get to know each other.
I was also thinking that nothing hurts a new friendship like mistrust—I will do my best to avoid talking behind my body's back. No more put-downs about height, no more jokes about leftover baby belly. There will just be gentleness and appreciation for all we've been through together.
Here's hoping that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It's about time.
Glennon Doyle Melton is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir Carry On, Warrior, and founder of the online community Momastery.com.
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.