Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Being kind to ourselves

I've been thinking about this post for a long time, ever since Dianne Sylvan wrote about 10 things she loves about her body, and the interesting comments that followed.

Most of us can find a gazillion things we don't like -- every morning when we look in the mirror at our faces, or check the rear view in the mirror, or look at our hands. There are gray hairs (a big distress for some folks), turkey necks, fine lines around lips or eyes, cellulite on the legs or hips, sagging breasts, rounded tummies....well, you get the point.

But we don't talk about the things we DO like, the features that please us, this machine that allows us to function in today's world. So think about what you appreciate, what you like about your body, your miraculous, amazing framework of bones and muscles and tissue and skin, and give thanks for them.

Here's my list:
1. I love my eyes. They're big, expressive, reflective. The color is green-turning-hazel-turning green, and the green intensifies when I wear certain colors like bright blue or purple or turquoise. I'm grateful that through them I see this beautiful earth, the color of the bluebirds that populate our land at this time of year, the limey green of the new spring leaves and the dark blue-green when they're in the last gasp of fall. I see the faces of those I love, I get to read words in books and magazines and newspapers. They are my windows, my mirrors.

2. I love my legs. My mother had shapely legs all her life too. They're long, curvy, with well-defined calves and ankles. I've flaunted them in fishnets and short skirts, and they look good in slacks or jeans too. I'm grateful for the many places they've carried me.

3. I love my feet. They're long and well-proportioned, with long toes and nails that look good when I've polished and buffed them, which I do (mostly) regularly. I love how they look with a french manicure and my toe rings!They've had a few problems this last year, but I'm taking care of them with good shoes (always did) and professional care. They've given me a solid foundation over the years, and I want to make sure that continues.

4. I love my hair. Specifically, I love the color it is -- Mother Nature is highlighting it with gray and white and silver. I have a haircut now that suits its fine texture and stick-straightness, and emphasizes the color. I didn't always love it -- I've longed for curls and long hair so much of my life, and had perm after perm (that always damaged it, no matter how careful the stylists were), and enjoyed playing with highlights and lowlights to make it redder or blonder. I'm loving what it is like now and watching nature paint the highlights and lowlights.

5. I love my hands. Even though arthritis has done a number on my thumbs (started when I was barely 35), I still have good mobility and grip, and I like how my rings look on them: I wear my wedding ring on the left ring finger, and a Princess Di sapphire-diamond ring on the right ring finger, and my mother's engagement ring and my grandmother's wedding band on the right middle finger. They aren't big hands -- fairly narrow, with a long palm, and my middle finger is about as long as the palm. As a former nail-biter, I love how nice my nails look now when they're polished and filed. I treated myself to a professional manicure last week and really loved feeling so pampered. Ought to do that more often. I work with my hands -- I write -- and I've touched lovers and soothed babies and petted kitties with them. I dig in the dirt each spring when I plant my garden, and get dirt under the nails and lining the cuticles. I knead bread or shape pie crusts or cut out cookies with them; turn pages of books and newspapers, sew buttons or mend seams. They are working hands, not all soft and smooth, but they are gentle and loving hands. It's been a long time since they were raised in anger.

6. I love my height. Oh, I didn't when I was in junior high and high school and all the boys came up to my elbow. I felt too tall and gawky and uneasy in my long body. But my mother kept pushing me to stand up straight, to think queenly thoughts when I came into a room, to keep my head high, and eventually I enjoyed being tall. I can see things that short people can't. I can wear things that short people can't, and look dramatic doing it -- like capes and big hats. I can see over people's heads -- which helps in movies or plays, or when you're watching parades.

7. I like my figure, its proportion. I used to have a well-defined waist, but that's mostly straightened out. Nonetheless, I have broad shoulders, bust and hips are proportionate, and my waist is long. Yeah, things could be tighter, could be leaner, but overall I'm okay with it.

8. I love my ears. They're smallish, set close to my head, with nice, thin-but-rounded lobes. I got my ears pierced one weekend long ago when my college roommate and I decided to do drastic things to our appearances. She pierced my ears with a sterilized needle and ice to numb it (yeah, right), and I cut her hair into a pixie and frosted it with a do-it-yourself kit. We were both well pleased with our changes. I've always loved earrings and have big ones, dramatic ones, dainty pearls, small-but-sparkly diamonds, and the ubiquitous (and most often worn) plain gold hoops about the size of a quarter. I like howearrings look in my ears, and have thought about getting a second hole in each ear -- but haven't, and probably won't.

9. I love my curious mind. In less polite terms, I'm nosy. I like to know the details -- all of them, not just the facts, ma'm. It used to -- actually, it still does -- drive my daughter crazy because I'd keep asking questions and more questions about whatever she planned to do or is doing. I didn't mean it to irritate her; I just wanted to know the whos, whats, wheres, whys, and hows, and the names of everyone else involved. I'm a good Internet researcher and can tell you where a long-ago friend with whom I haven't been in touch for some 26 years is living and where she's employed, and even who she's living with. (Yes, you can run, but if you're on the Internet at all, you cannot hide!) As a writer, that curiosity serves me well and helps me tell a good story. It's not that I'm going to DO anything bad with all that information, understand, it's just that I like to know the whole story, and how it ends -- or at least where it is now.

10. I love my voice. I like that my speech is pitched a little lower than many women's voices, and I love the range of emotion and expression that it is capable of conveying. I like the precision -- the enunciation -- with which I mostly speak -- the result of many years of choral singing and college speech classes, where you learn to speak the 't's and the 'd's, the 'p's and the 'b's, but de-emphasize the 's's and 'r's, yet still pronouncing them clearly. I have a good vocal range -- or used to -- and can sing second alto or tenor in my chest voice but gust up to second soprano with my head voice. I like that I can speak to a full room and be heard without a microphone, but that's something I had to learn to control, since when I was young, I often spoke too loudly, and sometimes still do when I'm especially excited about something.

So there you have it. My choices surprised me a little. We need to be kinder to ourselves, to our appearance, and celebrate what we are rather than wishing we were something else. I'm glad I'm alive -- I'm grateful stuff still works! How about you?

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