Angel Wings Tattoo

I once heard a woman call her tattoos – and she had many of them – a roadmap of her life. She admitted that the artwork she had done in her youth was not necessarily what she’d have done again. Some might call her earlier tattoos cliché; some might even be embarrassed by them. But she wasn’t.

She said they told her personal history. They acted as a roadmap reminding her of where she had been. She had no regrets. How could she? Each patch of ink represented a time and place in her past, just one of the many steps that brought her to the present. And the present was pretty good.

This got me thinking about our bodies in the same way – as roadmaps for where we have been. The piercings, the scars, the stretch marks, the curves, and the valleys tell our stories. And if we’ve lived a good life, we have many.

I’m proud to say, I’ve got a few myself.

I have the scars to show that the bout of chicken pox I endured in the fourth grade was the worst my doctor had ever seen. It left a nice bindi of a scar right on my forehead, slightly left of center.

My hips are lined with stretch marks that appeared after a growth spurt in the eighth grade. Such a bummer.

I have a pale pink scar on my right knee from scaling a boulder in Arches National Park. (As it turns out, I’m not Spiderwoman.)

In the heel of my right palm lives the evidence of a fall I took while jogging in Santiago, Chile. (I tried to leap over a strip of caution tape, which it seems was put up for a good reason.)

And my tummy is dotted with a trine of scars where I received endoscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder when I was 22 years old. (No one could figure out why a 22-year-old, healthy, vegetarian woman of normal weight ended up with gallstones. But I did.)

I try not to care about my scars but the truth is, when that part of my body is exposed, I care. Sometimes I care a lot, like when the time comes to sport a bathing suit.

Then I got pregnant. I adored my body as it grew and grew. I loved the fullness of my belly and marveled as it expanded, shiny and taught. I took belly pics every month and proudly posted them on Facebook. I even sported a bikini at eight months pregnant (round and proud!), which I wrote about here. I didn’t care about the stretch marks on my hips or the scars on my waist. My belly was fabulous.

But after Judah was born, my belly was just another squishy belly. There was nothing miraculous about it. I was very aware that nothing exciting was going on in there. And I did my best to hide it. When I got out of the shower, I’d cover up right away. While nursing, I’d lay a blanket over my belly to hide the space my son had vacated.

Then, Jeremy started grabbing my loose tummy while making silly sounds. He thought it was fun. Sometimes, he’d attack me on the bed and pretend to gnaw on it. Ugh. So, so horrible.

When I protested, he told me how great he thought my tummy was and that he was only grabbing it because he loved it. “Honey, your belly is beautiful! You carried our son in there! That’s amazing!”

Suddenly, I felt ashamed for feeling shame. I celebrate the flaws and history of other women’s bodies. Why couldn’t I embrace mine?

If I think of my body as a roadmap of my experiences, the scars and the squishy belly are just markers of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve done. And that’s really great because it means I’ve lived. The creases around my mouth mean I’ve smiled. The lines growing out of the corners of my eyes mean I’ve laughed. They are imprints left by the adventures I’ve had.

My son and my squishy belly are a year old now. We’ve all had time to become acquainted with each other. I’d be lying if I said I love my tummy now. Like, all you have to do is imagine your body as a testament to all the storms and adventures you’ve weathered and voila! Self-love!

No, it’s not like that. It’s more like having respect for the incredible things my body has done – even if sometimes begrudgingly. I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience in this body. I own this history, this roadmap. And I’m beyond grateful for where it has brought me. For now, I think that’s pretty good.

 

I would love to know, what imprints have the adventures of life left on your body?


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