From very early on we learn that life is about being at odds with things. From about ten years old, girls start to wish they looked differently than they do. It’s at that age that many girls try dieting for the first time. Then, as one moves into adulthood, not only are we fighting our bodies, but we’re fighting our finances, our news stories, our politicians. Before too long, the fight seems to become against Time herself. So we buy spanx to prevent sagging and anti-aging creams to prevent wrinkles. Why is it we believe ourselves to be wrong for so much of our lives? Not in need of support but in need of changing, in need of becoming other? Many of us noticed the redundancy of all that we have been fighting when the rules of being a functioning member of society changed this year–you mean body hair removal is optional? Shopping every weekend is unnecessary? Having somewhere to be every night of the week isn’t compulsory? We’ve been so oblivious to the fact that our values have been fed to us by a machine whose sole purpose is to keep us believing we are wrong as we are. It turned out, the most important people these last few months weren’t the celebrities and movie stars we idolize, but the grocery store clerks, the bus drivers, and the health care workers. And it turns out that the economy wasn’t more important than bodies.
An opportunity to simplify was given to us in 2020, a reason to check out our surroundings and determine if we like where we’re standing and where we’re going. What I have realized is that I don’t want to be at odds with myself anymore. I don’t want to be distracted by what I’m told I should care about any longer. Many years ago I realized that when it came to God, if I could only learn it from another person’s mouth instead of through getting really still and really quiet, then I had no business knowing it. That knowledge wasn’t the Truth I was seeking — that God was the God of my parents and not the whisper of Truth I felt certain existed elsewhere than the church pews.
That’s what pandemic season has reminded me to look for again: what are my values through all of the noise. What are the truths and facts that are discoverable to me whether or not I’m reading them in the news. Some I’ve come up with are: love feels better and braver than indifference, cynicism, and judgement. It feels good to move my body every day. I sleep better the less sugar I’ve consumed. Shopping is often a balm against feeling my feelings.
It’s so hard to let go of what everyone else around you deems important. It’s so hard not to second guess yourself, doubt your instincts, follow the loudest voice. But you will never be certain if you can’t know it for yourself. You will never be impossible to knock over if your only source of knowledge is having read it on the Internet. If you couldn’t have known it without someone else telling you, does it still serve you?
My face is changing. My skin looks different than it did ten years ago. I see so many aging faces on my TV that don’t look young but are shiny and smooth. I’ve decided to turn my TV off these days not because the faces I’m seeing are wrong, but because I don’t want to get confused about what an aging face should look like. When I see my arms with less definition than they had a year ago, I remind myself of the mental struggle I was going through to keep them looking that way, not that they looked that way because I valued and appreciated and moved my body. I never want “working out” to be one of the hobbies I list on my Tinder profile. I want to be ok with aging because it’s a privilege not everyone gets. I want loving myself to be my act of resistance to 30 years worth of information telling me to do otherwise. I want to ask all those around me, how would you feel about yourself and how would you spend your time if all you’d ever been offered was love and encouragement?
Would you still think shopping for things you didn’t need was a legitimate hobby? Would you still only eat chocolate when your heart was broken or would your palate know chocolate all year long and thus all that would be left to do in the moment of heartbreak was experience heartbreak? What kind of jokes would you make? How would you feel about sarcasm, pessimism, criticism? Would you feel the need to judge others? Would you feel in awe of getting another day each morning?
How would you live your life if no one had ever told you how you should live it?