“I love this body of mine that has lived a life…
I love the lunar curve of my hips
shaped by various pregnancies,
the great curling wave of my buttocks,
my legs and feet, on which the temple stands.” ~ Daisy Zamora
I never saw myself as a 200-plus pound old woman, barely able to move, with huge pillows of fat bubbling out everywhere.
When I ran all those marathons and lifted all those weights and shunned all those French fries and ice cream, I too had a secret hope that doing all that would help me keep my figure as I grew older.
My hope didn’t come true though.
Other things happened.
And like getting sick and my body having to deal with a systemic poisoning that crushed every natural response to every natural thing I did to heal it. My nervous system became too jittery for me to sleep, my digestive system too weak to digest food, and my organs and muscles and even my brain going into a “Holy Crap This Thing Could Kill Us” coma just to stay alive.
My body became a stranger to me and I desperately wanted to know her again, to draw her near instead of continually rejecting her.
Then I saw that the well-known photographer Jade Beall was looking for models for her “Elder Bodies Project.”
I was intrigued. I had modeled 15 years before when I was in my 60s.
“Maybe modeling again would be a good thing,” I thought.
It turned out it was.
The day after the shoot, there were pictures of me with nary a thread of clothing covering that same 200-plus pound body on Beall’s Facebook page. Among the hundreds of positive responses, one of the commenters said she had hoped to do “better” when she was my age.
I wanted to tell her that I had wanted to do “better” when I was my age, too. But then I thought, better at what exactly? Better at how much I weighed? At how wrinkled I was? Or worse, better in comparison to someone else’s body?
The photoshoot answered my questions.
For almost an hour the camera would go “click,” “click” and the photographer would say, “Wonderful!” “More!” And I realized I didn’t have to do better. I was fine exactly as I was.
My body had been fighting for her life for four years and it had cost her. It had cost her gracefulness and comfort and mobility and balance. It also showed on her. It showed in even more sagging, even more wrinkles and dimpling, and in an even greater accumulation of fat—everywhere.
“Who are you?” I would ask when I saw her in the mirror all those mornings when I was getting dressed. Who was this dimpled, wrinkled body that used to run marathons and lift weights and walk five miles a day?
I no longer knew her and at the same time that she was fighting to stay alive, I was grieving for who she had been.
“Welcome back, you glorious body,” I whispered inside myself during the shoot. “You’ve been gone a long time.”
I was so glad to see her and to really look at her. She was the keeper of my secrets, the teller of my stories, and the witness to my struggles. She was my body, the friend of my life.
“Thank you for all you’ve given me,” I whispered intimately to my fat, stiff, kind-of-ugly, beautiful body. “Thank you for being exactly as you are.”
Goodbye forever to “doing better.” Hello, acceptance.