Saturday, July 2, 2011

Magic

I remember one of the first times I realized my parents were human beings was when I was 18 years-old. Before then they were super-human or non-human (depending on what they were or were not granting me). Before then they were bigger, stronger, and so far beyond my own understanding that I assumed there was some sort of special pill or book you came upon the moment you had kids. But when we were told I had an eating disorder, something changed.

My parents no longer had all the answers. They struggled to talk about “it.” They were worried. Sometimes we would communicate through my sister because they were afraid to ask me directly and I was afraid to tell them directly. They were concerned, yet distant. They read books about eating disorders and asked their friends for advice.

Through out the last five years, our family has learned (a.k.a. been forced) to communicate. I don’t know that any of us were intentionally avoiding anything and I never remember thinking, Gee, I wish my family could better communicate, but the eating disorder offered a platform for us to learn how to talk about hard things, even if we didn’t want to.

I just got off the phone with my mom. Where we stand today and where we stood five years ago are very different. She asked openly and honestly (which is the way I prefer it), “How’s the eating disorder?” I told her frankly, “Okay. Could be better, but it’s been far worse.” As I filled her in she told me that she’s been reading the copy I lent her of Women Food and God by Geneen Roth.

“Today I stood in front of the mirror as the book suggested,” she told me. “I realized how much of my critical voice comes from my mom and how much of it I’ve passed on to you.”

Mom never had to say out loud (though, she did that too) that she didn’t like her body. Kids are perceptive. I remember days when she’d walk into the kitchen from a long day at work. Dad and us kids would be stirring pots and setting the table for supper. Dad would look up and burst out in song, “There she is…Ms. America!” and Mom would hush him, “Daryl, stop it.”

When my Dad or anyone else would tell her how nice she looked she’d usually end up arguing with them. I always thought my mom was perfect and yet she disagreed when people tried to tell her so. As a kid I took note that when my parents (or anyone else) told me I was perfect, they didn’t mean it and they were missing something because not even the most beautiful woman in my life believed them. Why should I?

Mom told me, “I’m looking for a magic formula for self-acceptance in this book.”

I laughed at her and admitted, “I’ve wanted the exact same thing. Sorry, Mom. It’s not in there. It’s not that easy.”

I told her that I conducted my Beauty Survey with that purpose in mind: to find the “magic formula” for how to accept myself and feel worthy. I wanted to know what other women did in order to not hate themselves. What I found was at first disappointing: none of them had a formula and none of them could say that they really loved their bodies or felt confident and worthy. This was disappointing because I wanted a quick fix, but it was encouraging because I realized that I wasn’t alone. I told my mom what I found in that survey: “Mom, there is no quick fix. It’s just a lot of intentional hard work.” No magic solution or diet or pill or exercise routine or yoga pose. It comes down to a daily decision to accept ourselves. A decision. A choice. Setting aside time to say, “I am good enough right now.” Not ten pounds from now, a degree from now, or a person from now.

So without further ado, here are today’s daily affirmations:

I am a strong, confident, intelligent, beautiful woman.

I am a human being.

I am healing.

I am growing.

I am aware.

I am wise.

I can smile.

I can laugh.

I can cry.

I can sit and watch.

I can let things go.

I can take deep breaths.

I can fall short of other’s expectations.

I can give myself a break.

I can give grace.

I can be quiet.

I can sing.

I can resist popular opinion of who I “should” be and practice radical self-acceptance, even when it feels like the entire world is against me being whole, healthy, and authentic.

I can be.

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