The Wellness Project
(alternately titled, learning to wash mah hair.)
I’m not overly familiar with the style of writing by which you win friends and influence people with your gentle voice, sweet spirit, and earnest vision for a brighter future, so bear with me if this comes off as…odd. But I shall press on because I think this is something important and worthy of putting pen to (virtual) paper over. And I think I can channel Kelle Hampton for a hot second while I try to cast some vision up in here. Here goes nothing.
This morning, as with so many other mornings, found me pawing through my paltry, spandex-y wardrobe searching vainly for something ‘fresh’ or ‘exciting’ or even ‘properly fitted to my actual body on this date on the calendar,’ but to no avail. My husband caught me on my second sartorial effort of the morning and smiled a little smile as I ripped yet another ill-fitted maternity/nursing/stretched out bag lady top over my head and flung it down in frustration.
“My body is a disaster.”
His head snapped up.
“No! Honey, don’t say that…your body is a work of love.”
(Can you believe this guy is real? Me neither. Lucky, lucky me.)
He says stuff like this not infrequently, but for some reason it hit me hard and fresh today, straight between the eyes.
My body is a work of love.
I know he was primarily referring to the beating I’ve taken via baby making, and reassuring me that to give life is to become increasingly more beautiful. But it also occurred to me that as much as my body, in its current form, is a work of my having loved and loved greatly…I am also created in capital-L Love, by God.
I don’t know how many of you mamas can relate to this, but I don’t actually live in this truth. I tell it to my children, and I desperately hope they internalize it and believe it, but I’ve come to realize that I don’t act as if I believe it about myself: I am a work of His love.
I constantly evaluate my physical appearance, critically assessing and sizing up and ultimately disapproving of every flaw, every shortcoming, every imperfection. Meanwhile, I speak words of affirmation and encouragement to my girlfriends:
“Don’t even think about losing the weight right not, just focus on healing and growing that baby.”
“You are so beautiful.”
“You look amazing.”
“You’re such a strong mother.”
All things I routinely (and honestly) say to my friends. But never to myself. Not only because I’d feel weird doing it, but because I don’t believe any of it, not about me, not right now. And maybe not ever.
The truth is, motherhood has made me more comfortable with my body than I’d previously thought possible, after a childhood of chubbiness and an adolescence and young adulthood marked by disordered eating. But I’ve still got some work to do.
That’s where this idea of the Wellness Project comes in. You see, I do pretty well at self care in the emotional realm. When I need a hot bath, an episode of House Hunters over a margarita, or a couple hours out of the house with one of my sisters, I go for it. I’m doing passably well spiritually speaking, too. A rosary here and a few minutes of Scripture reading there, most days. But I seem to have really fallen down in the arena of physically caring for myself. Not just working out (though as the 5th week of Evie’s exterior life comes upon us, I can jump back on that train aaaaany day now), but putting myself together in the morning. Putting on mascara. Pouring a huge glass of water and going out to the front porch to quietly sip in peace for 5 minutes before the boys get up from their naps in the afternoon.
Little things. Small steps. Bit by bit, I’m going to do better. Starting today, and for the next 30 days (how edgy to start a self-help project in mid-January, amiright?) I’m going to do something good for myself on a physical level. Some days it might be exercise related, other days it might be beauty-based. And don’t worry, I’ll probably post a weekly re-cap, I won’t subject you to daily updates on whether I got my left handed nails all painted or not. Baited breath, I’m sure.
Do you want to come with me?
Today was day one. And I bought myself new jeans. In the size I am right now. Not the size I hope to be a month from now, but the size I can actually fit into today. Because wearing maternity jeans when you’re not pregnant sucks. And because … Walmart. I’m not proud, but at least there’s no elastic around my waist. Plus, did you know Jordache was still a thing?
We’ll see what tomorrow holds. In the meantime, here are some posts from around the web that got this pot of coffee percolating before this morning’s ‘aha’ moment. Maybe they’ll get you thinking about ways you can take better care of you, too.
Mary’s tips for feeling instantly better. Love her, and love her cute new baby boy.
Modern Mrs. Darcy’s insights on process-oriented goals.
Ashley’s commitment to be brave this year.
Jessi’s observations on why moms don’t take care of themselves.
And basically Jen’s, Hallie’s and Grace’s entire blogs. For obvious reasons.
“Your body is a work of love.”
I like that.
Beth (A Mom's Life)
Your husband sounds like a wise and wonderful man!
Thanks for the shout out, Jenny! I’m with you! My husband casually mentioned that some family might be stopping by today, so I went into a panic trying to find a shirt that wouldn’t cradle my belly like a newborn… After some failed attempt, and husbandly encouragement I realized that I needed to call the h down. I just gave birth, and my uterus is just, nostalgic. And that’s ok.
Calm, not call. 🙂
Jenny I’m with you all the way on this! I started a similar jouney of my own about three weeks ago and it’s made a huge difference in every aspect of my life (really helped with PPD too). Love you girl!!!
I’m with you, lady. On everything. I’m tired of not fitting into clothes, of not liking how I look, and wondering when my girls will pick up on the fact that Mommy’s not as pretty as they think she is. You know? So today, I’m drinking more water, squeezing in a few minutes of exercise, and taking a shower.
I think you SHOULD post every day – even if it’s just one or two sentence about what you did. I’d love to be on the 30 day train with you, and it would help me know what you’re doing. My frenemy, the scale, was very unkind to me this morning, so I totally needed to read this. And I love your husband – what an awesome guy!
“Your body is a work of love.” My new favorite saying–I am going to remember that one. (I swear, I am. The next time discarded outfits are piling up at my feet, I’m going to say it to myself like a mantra.)
Why are we so hard on ourselves? I’ve birthed five boys (now 21 to 30), I’m 55, and I’m a grandmother to three. And still, I can’t help but get discouraged with what I perceive as a too-lumpy, too-soft, ugly old body. No matter how many times my husband tells me he thinks I look great, the “naked truth” is tough for me.
This was such a wonderful post for me to read today. I’ve got the wedding of a son coming up in a month, and I’ve been feeling bummed out that I let myself put on some weight over the holidays, weight that will probably not come off in time to look good in my mother of the groom dress. But what does that really matter, anyway? Because my body is a work of love. It is! I’m going to believe it!
I didn’t mean that to be a “reply” to Kris’s comment (Hi, Kris!)–just a general comment for you, Jenny.
And the Broncos are going to the Superbowl too!
You go, girl. I think I have at least 5 sizes of jeans in my possession for all the times I’ve had to buy a pair that just fits right now, dammit. I’m drinking those bucketfuls of water with you.
Thank you for this. Today I need these words!!
A work of love is my new mantra.
So glad you are doing this…avidly reading along and gleaning bits of inspiration!
My perpetually slim husband says, when I bemoan my middle-aged child bearing body, either, ‘ well, what about ME? Don’t you think I look fat too?’, or ‘why don’t you just eat less?’. I wish he’d call me a work of love……
I relate to this all the way. You’re awesome! And ps. I love your blog.
I *completely* relate to your comment about pregnancy helping you become more okay with your body! I too struggled with some chubbiness in childhood and disordered eating. My husband is super encouraging in every way and so affirming but there are still moments when I feel like I’m going to lose it. But this project is AWESOME!
This is great. I’ve been on a similar journey over the last few years…it’s hard! But way to go buy new pants 🙂
I *still* pull pre-maternity clothes out of the closet and sigh when they don’t fit, and I’m 4 months post-partum. Thanks for this great reminder that I need to tell myself all the things I kindly tell my friends. Looking forward to seeing how you take care of yourself!