Today, I head back into the Crossfit box for the first time in many, many years. I had a lovely conversation with Mitch at Cirque School last week while I was sick in bed recovering from a horrible cold. The foundation for fun, active lifestyle is falling to place. This feels so much like the beginnings of a transformation that I briefly considered the idea of tracking my progress with photos. In the end, having the dramatic before and after photos to post side by side. “Ooohing” and “aaahing” at the difference once I achieved my goal. I thought of it for a moment. A fleeting moment. The thought right after–no, the feeling right after one was of disappointment in myself. This celebration of the before and after felt like a disregard for and a devaluing of who I am and have been. And, in this case, I don’t know if there is a goal. It’s a lifestyle I’m creating. Does that have a final destination?
What I do know is, regardless of size, my body has been a source of comfort and play for my niece and nephews as they’ve grown from infants to teenagers. Over the years, they’ve fallen asleep cradled in my arms, been comforted when scared or hurt, and warmed themselves by snuggling against my body, and jumped on me like I’m a jungle gym in play or excitement to see me. One of my favorite cousins would burst out of the front door, race across the lawn or down the driveway, leap into my arms, and I’d spin around. We performed this ritual until she was 16 or 17. There’s value and joy in strength and softness.
Twice in my life, once in 2002 and again in 2007, I had the gift of being the primary caregiver for a parent when they were dying from cancer. The strength in body, being 5’9″ and a size 14 gave me leverage as I counterbalanced to help my 6’6″ father lift himself off the couch or out of the car, and then steady himself, or pulled my mother, gently, up the stairs in her wheelchair to our 2nd floor apartment (until we moved to a 1st floor one, for which, I was grateful) and gave her solid place she could trust as she stepped weakly out of the shower. I held their hands as they napped at home or in the hospital, and the softness of my skin gave them comfort. I know that because they said so. Never once did I hear “You know, Jamila, I’m glad you’re here with me while I’m facing my mortality, but I’d appreciate it more if you were a size 6.” In fact, if I were smaller, I may not have had enough strength or body weight to do some of the physical things I did while caring for them.
My body has given joy, pleasure, comfort and safety to family, friends, lovers and even strangers. Years ago, I lived in New York. On the way home from some event, I and a few friends encountered a drunk/high woman wandering alone in the Village. Through her ramblings, I deciphered where she lived, and held her up as she teetered down the street toward her apartment. I’m pretty sure the only thing that matters from that experience is a vulnerable woman got home safe and sound.
I am a survivor of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, and recovering from an eating disorder. I’m also a triathlete, marathon runner, and a cyclist. My body has, literally, taken a licking and kept on ticking. (Anyone remember the Timex commercials? Don’t why that popped into my head.)
For me, the idea of before and after photos are disrespectful to my body, and my experiences. I will track my transformation in the ways that matter to me: the increasing number of pull-ups or sit-ups, the faster completion times of workouts, and the stronger or more efficient I am at some acrobatic trick. I think I’ll post videos of my physical feats. Oooh, I like it. Physical feats as if I’m a superhero. Perhaps, I am my own superhero.
The number on the scale or the tag on my jeans is not indication of my value, or of the amount of love and care I am worth. The thought reminded me of 3 affirmations I had forgotten.
My body has its own strength and grace. My body is beautiful and I will love and nurture it. I accept and embrace myself.