Not if. Not when. Now.

live.

This past weekend a young friend of mine posted a photo on social media of herself and her four month old daughter on a train ride at the zoo. Her caption began, “I wasn’t going to post this because my first thought was “I am fat.” She then wrote she worked through her doubts because she’s acknowledging motherhood is hard, post baby weight loss is difficult, and postpartum depression is real, but these moments she has with her baby are precious and she wanted to capture it. I am glad she decided to own the photo because it is beautiful in its exquisite spontaneity. 

When our bodies make humans, they go through amazing transformations. We grow babies for nine months, and when these fully formed people arrive, we quickly learn our old selves no longer exist. Our new reality is motherhood: soft bellies, curdled milk, elastic waisted pants, and leaky boobs. The first few months are foggy. Our bodies rebel against us as we cling to these needy little beings who depend on us for their very existence. We try to lose the weight yet the comfort of the couch and a bag of Oreos sing their siren songs while we catch a few quiet moments between feedings. Photos of celebrity and royal mothers quickly bouncing back to pre-baby weight fill our feeds, making us feel unworthy, (even though we know they spend thousands on professional trainers and chefs, and are always on the trendiest diets.) So, we hate on ourselves, on our bodies, on what we think we see when we look in the mirror.

My babies are in their twenties. It has been years since I’ve sung them lullabies or pushed their strollers. I’m way past menopause, yet body image is still a struggle. I look down at my soft belly and sigh as I try to fit into a pair of jeans. I’ve deleted images of myself, thinking I looked fat and old. I’m currently on a weight loss program, but I’ve hit a plateau that is discouraging. Many of my friends are on the same journey. With our childbearing years behind us, we feel our bodies betray us each time we step on the scales. We pluck gray hairs, spend unspeakable amounts of money on “anti-aging” products, and learn how to do the “turtle” with our chins when our pictures are taken. Photos of fit celebrity women in their sixties and seventies fill our feeds, making us feel unworthy, (even though we know they spend thousands on professional trainers and chefs, and haven’t eaten a carb in years.) So, we hate on ourselves, on our bodies, and on what we think we see when we look in the mirror.

So, how do we love ourselves now? Not when we lose the weight or if we go to the gym five days a week. Now. What if we love our bodies for the astonishing things they have done over the years. Yea, those things. Remember? Our miraculous bodies have fought illnesses, birthed and fed babies, worked grueling hours, endured sleepless nights of worry, ran races (often after little ones taking off across playgrounds), built empires (even if they were assembled with Legos), and planned, cooked and cleaned up thousands of meals. How about we love on our alleged “flaws”? What if we see our curves and our wrinkles and our gray hairs as medals of honor? 

I will acknowledge this isn’t an easy task. In fact, it is gargantuan in its heft. We’ve been wired since before adolescence to see our size as our worth. I suggest we take our bodies back. Tell society, those damn Kardashians, every single asshole who has cat-called us, and our mirrors to fuck off. Yup. That’s right. I said it. Fuck off. Let’s own those jeans, our boobs, and the right to see our power. Let’s eat healthy, walk those miles, but enjoy a piece of the damn pie. When we look at a photo of ourselves, let’s not judge. Instead, see the beauty and the strength presenting itself to the world.

Are you with me? Let’s own this shit.

“Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” – Brene Brown

Years ago when I first viewed these photos, I saw only the double-chins, big thighs, and bellies. Now I see the beauty, the strength, the fierceness. Hallelujah.

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“We Are How We Treat Each Other and Nothing More”

To be humble, to be kind.
It is the giving of the peace in your mind.
To a stranger, To a friend
To give in such a way that has no end.
We are Love
We are One
We are how we treat each other when the day is done.
We are peace
We are War
We are how we treat each other and Nothing More.

— “Nothing More” ~ The Alternate Routes

What has happened to civility? To kindness? To respect? If you read and watch the news, you would think we have lost our collective minds. We are bombarded daily with hate speech and deplorable behavior. Where is the kindness? Where is the love? Where is the sanity?

How do we combat all of this? How do we get through the day? Do we scream back or remain complacently silent? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m exhausted. My heart is tired, but not yet broken. You see, I still have hope. In this turbulent world we each possess the ability to spread kindness, even in the midst of chaos. How do we hold onto this desire for a more benevolent existence in the face of such bitterness and horror?

I believe it is still possible to spread simple kindness every day. Smile at a stranger. Send a love letter to a friend. Bake something sweet for someone struggling. Hate cannot spread where love is present. Fight for justice. Speak your mind with logic, facts, and decorum. Believe in peace. Be a fierce warrior fighting the honorable fight because goodness is always on the right side of history.

I challenge you to spread light today, because as the song says, “To be bold, to be brave. It is the thinking that the heart can still be saved.” Author Elizabeth Berg wrote on her Facebook page about what makes a coward and what makes a person with courage. She wrote, “Probably people with courage don’t bow out of life or hide from it. Probably they find some resolve within and live in the best way they know how wherever they are, and find like-minded individuals with whom they can ride out the storms. Probably they endeavor to pay attention to their highest and best selves and minimize the coyote in them that suggests darker ways.” Don’t feed the evil coyote that lives within. Nurture the one that wants to live in love and light.

“We are how we treat each other and nothing more.”

If you need inspiration, check out the following:

“100 Ways to Be Kinder” at http://www.virtuesforlife.com/100-ways-to-be-kinder/ 

“5 Incredibly Easy Ways to Spread Kindness, Every Day” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/14/random-acts-of-kindness-give-back_n_6101940.html

http://www.newtownkindness.org

SpreadKindness.org

or just Google “Spreading Kindness.”