I recently had the opportunity to experience that most rare and exotic of situations: solitude.
Not the kind of alone time you get when your toddler is napping and you finally collapse on the couch and look at your emails, and not the kind of alone time you get when you’re driving between errands or managed a solo trip to Target to pick up diapers. No, this was real solitude, or at least the winter 2014 version of it (It was more ‘fireplace suite for one’ than Thoreau’s ‘Into the Woods’).
I drove four hours one way to visit my mom last Sunday. My husband and I agreed I would go alone since I was going to do the return trip the same day, and our two-year old wouldn’t enjoy over eight hours in the car. I knew a snow storm was coming, but I still decided to give in to temptation and make an IKEA run…and late that night, while I was still 175 miles from home, I grew incredibly sleepy and started driving over ice patches. I decided to be sensible, and I checked into a roadside motel in a tiny town off the interstate.
I woke up the next morning to nearly a foot of snow. The entire hotel was abuzz at breakfast, talking about how no one was going anywhere that day. I dug my car out and took a test drive to the grocery store. I had to help a lady push her car out of a snow bank which had formed while she was shopping.
I quickly returned to the hotel after stocking up on food and checked in for another night while the storm raged outside. For the first time, it hit me. I was totally alone with nothing to do. No errands to run. No people to talk to. I sprawled out in the bed and ate Cheetos (bad, I know). I went down to the pool and sat in the hot tub in my pajama shorts and a tank top, hoping no one would tell me off. I went back up to my room and showered and as I hung my pajamas in front of the fire I realized I had nothing clean to wear. Oh well, I thought. I’ll just be naked for now.
This hotel room had a lot of mirrors all of a sudden. A LOT. There was even 7x magnifying mirror above the sink. I realized I was audibly going ‘Ahh!’ when I caught sight of myself.
I hadn’t looked at my body in a long, long time. I loved my body while pregnant, but as soon as I gave birth I felt uncomfortable with it. So much of my shape had changed. My stomach had a new, looser jiggle, and my midriff harbored stretch marks over what used to be smooth, youthful skin. I’d read all of the memes about being a tiger who earned my stripes- but I still didn’t want to look at them.
I breastfed for 11 months and my breasts became something else to me. Beautiful, but in a different way. They were functional. That was it. I only saw them in the context of feeding, or pumping, or trying to fit into new bras, unsuccessfully.
And maybe that’s how I came to see my post- baby body. Different, functional.
My husband says I wander around naked, but that’s just because I can never find clothes I’m happy with to cover this new body of mine. When I find them, I cover up and certainly don’t do what I used to do- preen, change outfits, compare how my butt looks in certain jeans.
All of a sudden, in this hotel room, I was faced with something I’d been avoiding: what I really looked like naked.
I didn’t stand around naked all day– that 7x magnifying facial mirror was my next project. Whoa! The pores. The unplucked eyebrows. The nose hair. I could see it all, so so clearly.
I took the above photos in the magnifying mirror as this blog post took shape in my mind. I was getting to know my body, my face. And why hadn’t I done it earlier?
I love my son. He is absolutely worth every mark, scar, tear, stretch, and hormonal shift. He is my world.
But my body is mine alone. My face is unique to me; it tells my story.
I feel we need to honor ourselves more, inside and out. My body deserves more than the shameful covering I’ve been quick to toss on while never acknowledging what’s under those clothes. My face deserves a closer look.
I need to learn to love my body again- to nourish it, to know it, to treat it how it deserves.