Sari, Not Sorry

sari-foot

A couple months ago our church had a women’s retreat. I’m a little funny about gender exclusive events and wasn’t sure I’d go until I opened my mouth to invite others to join me. And then the organizer asked if I would model a sari in the fashion show.

Why a fashion show? would be a great question. I can’t say exactly, but it was fun!

I considered declining her invitation. I’m not a center-of-attention kinda gal and 170 pairs of eyes on me isn’t comfortable. But that wasn’t my first thought. My first thought had to do with my body, with my discomfort in my own skin, and then with others looking at me.

Would the sari fit? Which bulges of flesh might protrude? Saris often bare the midriff and with increasing age I am decreasingly a fan of my midriff.

I wrestled with myself and ultimately said yes. My ‘word’ for 2015 is put yourself in the way of beauty. What is more beautiful than a sari, and when would I ever have another opportunity to wear one?

I’m so glad I consented! A variety of women, of different ages and appearance, gathered with several Indian women who dressed us and decorated us with stacks of bracelets and jewelry in our hair and on our foreheads. The saris had all been laid out on tables and women gravitated to colors and beading styles. The Indian women estimated which saris would look best on which women, and they expertly pinned and spun us and wrapped and draped us in the nine yards of fabric that are a sari, worn over a petticoat and blouse.

We enjoyed the best possible costume party. It was intimate, women dressing women, and special, women making women feel beautiful. We ooh-ed and aah-ed over the gorgeous colors and hand-beaded finery, and over one another wearing the most incredible dresses. 170 women got to see the spectacular saris, but only a few of us got to wear them. And we felt beautiful.

sari 2 sari grp

The next day I talked with another of the models as we bonded over our shared experience. I told her about my initial hesitancy and her response has been rattling around my head since. She asked, “When have you ever seen a woman wearing a sari past the age of 40-something, who didn’t have a little tummy? Our bodies change with age. But you know, it doesn’t matter. Her husband loves her.” Indian culture respects age and the marriage relationship. They are comfortable in their skin in a way I haven’t been since puberty.

I participate in an online forum run by a friend from a previous version of my life. The group’s theme is Body Love and encourages women to love every inch of their body, no matter their size. Yesterday she posted a picture of an average-sized woman with a larger-than-model-thin body, overwritten with positive life experiences: ran 12K, walked through India, etc. She asked for feedback for her coaching, and in a total fit of honesty, I responded:

I hate the feeling of squeezing into pants/skirts – even if I can hide the squeeze, say, under a loose blouse – that I love and that previously made me feel fantastic. No one feels fantastic when their waistline or bra feels pinched. Ugh! I hate having tried on this and that and *everything* appropriate for the event and just not finding the right thing, even though I have a closet filled with clothes. I hate having to spend money to maintain more than one size of clothes in my closet. I hate the change of seasons as the clothes that just fit are now too hot or cold for the current temperatures. I love that my body supports me in so many important ways, and I hate feeling like I haven’t supported my body in likewise important ways.

This morning I felt some amount of shame at having bared my soul about my body, and even more so when I realized how many women I know personally also participate in the group. While drying my hair, I remembered a wise friend encouraging a group of young moms to start each day by saying into the mirror, “Well, hello, Beautiful!” God creates us perfectly, and who are we to say God’s work isn’t beautifully done? So I tried it. It felt funny, and right, uncomfortable because I have an uncomfortable relationship with my body.

I eat healthier than most people I know. I try to get regular exercise and I feel great when I do. My doctor says I am healthy. But I’m not athletic or physically energetic and my favorite pass times involve sitting (writing, for example). I don’t look the way I’d like to and with age it becomes more difficult. I don’t want to make excuses, and I need to make peace. And so I continue to wrestle.

Guy and I watched a TV show last night that included an attractive woman with an unattractive personality. He commented, “You know, she could really be pretty if she could just act nicely.” Huh. He doesn’t think she’s pretty. We’ve all experienced that to be true – attitude affects your appearance.

This morning a friend shared a quote from a business seminar she attended last weekend:

Dear friend, you have nothing to be embarrassed about, and now nothing to hide or fear or regret; for today we saw your smile and it was wide and beautiful and true and awakened; it was a moment when your soul burst through your worry and it shined for us as an unapologetic glimmer of joy and humanity, a stunning instance of genuine expression… It was a simple thing, those gorgeous corners of your mouth turned up, and perhaps it felt like a daring expression in a world drowning in a pool of pessimism, an unplanned revolt in a time of chaos where all those frowns and furled brows are symbols of disconnection from gratitude and presence and life. But your smile, dear friend, it stirred hope in us. And then you laughed and it seemed a thousand joyous songs leapt into the air and brought the world to its feet. So we ask that you gift us with your smile more often…Brendon Burchard, Live.Love.Matter.

She said she felt compelled to share it with us because of all she’s gleaned from participating in our church and in particular because of one Bible passage she heard recently:

Be joyful always. Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God gave me this particular body along with my particular set of gifts and talents and preferences. I can complain and grumble about the qualities I might wish different. Or I can make a decision to say “Thank you” to my Creator. I can wear a smile, laugh, focus outward, delight in the company of my family and friends, savor good food and wine, and be joyful in my life. Yes!

 

Project Week

It’s been a week of projects around our house. Tween has been working on a science project. Teen completed a career project. Tween had a music lesson in preparation for his first big concert. Teen and I both finished reading books; Tween has almost finished the book he’s reading. And of course Guy and I both have had work projects.

I’ve also been loosely participating in a month-long online life coaching project. The focus is spring cleaning, not so much the house as our lives. This week’s work centers on relationships, and I realized I’ve needed some work on my relationship with myself.

I want to live intentionally, but too often I make lazy decisions. So this week I have worked on making good choices and thinking well about myself in order to break bad patterns in thought and action.

*I have made healthy choices in food and drink, including starting each day with half a lemon squeezed into hot water. I drink less coffee and still feel energized.

*I have gone to bed with a cup of tea and a book. And sometimes Tween piles in bed with a book we’re reading together, so we enjoy some bonus snuggle time.

*I have used the good skin care because, really, what’s the point of having it if it’s too precious to use, if I preserve it for special occasions? Today is a special occasion!

*I have exercised more days than not – a brisk walk does wonders for body and soul. I have caught myself thinking negatively, “I’m lazy. I’ll never be fit because I always give up.” Blah, blah, blah! I can be healthy, even if I’ll always be curvy. Hooray for curves!

*I have asked better questions: not “Does this make me look fat?” but “How do I feel?” Not “What’s wrong with me?” but “What am I good at?”

*I have smiled more. Have you noticed how contagious smiles can be?

*I have said “YES!” to life-giving situations, and I have said “No” when necessary. Here’s a biggie (for me): I went to bed before Teen was done with his career project. He put it off till last minute, and I allowed that to fully rest on his shoulders and not mine. I did get up early (not much, though) to proof-read it and offer a few suggestions, but I did not allow his procrastination to jeopardize my rest. And hallelujah, it all worked out just fine.

*I have told people precious to me how much I appreciate them. I told Teen I am proud of him and added specific reasons I like him. One of the life coaching prompts was to choose your own personal board of directors. When a friend popped into town and we were able to grab a spontaneous lunch, I told her that she was the first person who came to mind. And how glad am I that she responded with a thrilled hug?

*I stopped for a car backing out of a driveway onto a busy road. The sweet old man who walked to the edge of his driveway, helping the car out at a trafficky time of day, gave me the brightest, kindest smile in response for my simple act: I only just stopped. That’s it. But he gave me a gift of his smile.

*This one scares the life out of me but I’m putting it in print anyway: This week I have begun writing the book that has been on my mind for years. I haven’t done much, but I’ve started. It’s something. I’m ready to stop talking about being a writer and actually become a writer.

*Today was not my best day, bumps and annoyances beginning to end (maybe because I simply couldn’t get to the gym first thing? Something to consider…). Still, hard as it sometimes can be, I am choosing to forgive. I am choosing to set good boundaries. I am choosing to focus on the things I can do and let go of the rest. I am choosing to be grateful, to say “Thank you!” to God for the beautiful things.

As I began to write this blog post, I thought the words had run away with the gunk in this day. I felt sad. And then I read this – oh, how I long to leave beauty marks on the world! And just as I finished, tears brimming my eyes, Tween came in needing extra mommy snuggles just because that’s the lovebug that is our Tween. Sitting in my favorite chair, I hadn’t bothered to turn on the overhead light. He said, “Why is my mom sitting alone in the dark?”, the dark being something completely foreign to this Child of Light who must have on all the lights in all the rooms at all times. He sat on my lap. He snuggled in close. He whispered, “I love this mom.” He kissed my lips.

I accepted it all as a gift: from my child and from my God. It might not be too long before Tween decides he’s too old for mommy snuggles so I will soak in them now to remember later. And I recognize the timing as all God, since Tween couldn’t know just how much I needed those snuggles just then.

So, thinking well about myself: even when I care for myself first in order to care for my loves and responsibilities with my best self, things will not always go the way I plan, the way I hope, the way I want. I can react, lash out or walk away, hide; or I can respond, pray, do the right thing, keep moving forward. I can look for the gifts when they aren’t obvious, and then accept the gifts and say “Thank you!”

The newest rose bushes about  to burst, white roses that erupt from pink buds

The newest rose bushes set to burst, white roses that erupt from pink buds

Easter rains yield new beauty

Easter rains yield new beauty