Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Facing the Body

So months ago I decided to try keeping track of the outfits I wore everyday. I was in a phase of following a few style blogs and thinking through what direction, if any, I wanted to head with my clothes/appearance. There are so many thoughts (simmering on back burners) assessing who and where I am as a person as I approach 40. I said awhile back that I'd try to explain a little about what I learned from that month of clothing photos and accompanying "thinkings". 

I realize now that I do in fact have a "style". But it is a style that is unavoidably shaped by my financial resources, my body shape, what is available in stores (or by what I have time and ability to make), the climate I live in and my profession as a mama and homemaker. Oh and one more important factor is my value system. No matter what your fixed financial and time resources are you still have to decided how much of it to spend on finding clothes, working on your hair and makeup and whatnot. And then add desires to give time and money to other people in your family, church, and out from there; And not just giving it to people but there's your house, yard, crafts, music, books, all manner of things for your kids and so on. I find it to be crazily complex. 

So the short of it is that now that I am done nursing and far enough away from pregnancy and childbirth to see what kind of body I am working with, I am easing into acceptance of this body I have. It did an awesome job of carrying and birthing and feeding four healthy children. It is strong and agile enough to do this work at hand. It sounds too earth-mama to say something like, "I need to honor and respect this body I have been given." And it seems too Christian cliche to say, "I need to be thankful for the body God blessed me with." But, in truth, I do have greater respect for this body that God has so mercifully given me. It is amazing and has a kind of beauty in its irregularities and oddness that I am just beginning to allow myself to see. I spent a couple decades despising my body so vehemently that I still hear shuddering echoes of that wasteful, sinful, solipistic heap of lies. God has been so kind and gentle with me these last few years to forgive my consuming hatred and to destroy so much of that darkness. Using Brad's love. Using pregnancy and childbirth and nursing. Giving me a life that is so much more full and dimensional and heavy with satisfaction that there is scarcely room for all that garbage. I know what I am doing with my clothes? Not particularly. I know I want to find a way to wear dresses and skirts all the time -- because they are so much more comfortable than jeans and I like the way they swish and swing and make me feel happy. But I live in a place that is dang cold half the year. So I need to get better tights or break out into some sort of leggings or skinny jeans under dresses which requires time to find and money to acquire. Until then I'll keep looking for the perfect-for-me knee-high boots and persevere in my sewing experiments whenever I am able to. I feel at peace about working toward something better but not panicked about not being "there" yet -- in fact, I am realizing that like everything else (house, yard, sanctification, relationships, education, skill-acquiring...) it's all "process", all "story-line" -- no "function boxes" that you put in the numbers and come out with a nice clean finished "answer". And then your done. Nope. Not how God designed it. Okay. Easing into the acceptance of it.

In related news: I had a bangs mishap recently. It's been a lifelong siren call for me -- I think I need bangs to "soften" my face, then immediately regret them because of my multiple cowlicks and unique hair texture requiring way too much "fussing" to get them to lay right. And they irritate my face and look way too matronly/dowdy as they grow out. Patooie! (as James Marshall so aptly expresses it). I think this time I had a break through: I finally realized it truly is no big deal. I cut them. Okay. They grow. Next time I hope I remember that I like having no bangs better -- I feel more like myself, they fit better with how much time I like spending fussing with my hair; Furthermore I declare to myself that "not cutting bangs" isn't because of laziness (to keep up with styles or do grooming) or ignorance (of what is "happening" with hair or how my hair "works"), it is simply, the way I like to wear my hair. For me simple (with clean lines) is almost always better when it comes to hair and clothes.  (p.s. this above photo is my attempt at the juvenile facebook pose -- the one every women uses to look thinner, younger, shinier...and maybe river-otter playful?)

Because you can really only take so many pictures of yourself trying to get a good photo before you give up and recognize the silliness of trying that hard to catch something that elusive and so low on the importance totem pole.

Plus it was Halloween week...and I was depicting Munch's "The Scream"...

Oh, forgot to mention, I experimented with some make-up this night...hmmm...lipstick, eye liner, and mascara -- not for me. But it was worth finally finding that out, deciding it was okay to not like it. At least now, if Thea Belle is interested in such things later on, I have done enough reading and research and experimenting to give her some starting points and let her see if it works for her, if she likes it for herself. I feel much better about being able to do that for her and more okay about not being a make-up kind of mother for her. I am still a woman who loves being a woman. And she will know that even if I don't wear mascara and dislike hairspray and curling irons. Amen.

I kind of hate this picture but I think it looks the most like me except I never sit that still for that long unless I'm working on something, reading something or asleep. I wish I had a delicate, sweet, graceful face but I do not. I think I look strong. I think I look determined and hard working and straightforward. These are good things and shouldn't be maligned by fierce wishing for something else. Perhaps what nags at me more is that I don't have a spirit that is quiet and gentle -- but one that is easily riled into fear or frustration or confusion or restlessness. And everything in me shows on my face. You can ask my husband who daily watches storms brew and circle across my face, and then comes (sometimes gently, sometimes a little roughly) to help sort through the tangles and labyrinths of thoughts. But I do like how much faces tell and am disturbed by people who I can't "read" -- can't see what's happening in there. Faces are my favorite thing to watch, to draw, to see in photos...followed closely by the wondrous body. Faces and bodies. We are each given one. To take care of, to use. I love that. And for good or bad, it's a huge part of why I majored in Biology in college. So there you go -- some thoughts on clothes and style and coming to a peace about it's place in the big jigsaw puzzle of my particular life. I love pretty clothes, I love color and texture and shape and line. I love fabric. I love being a woman. I love making something useful. But I love so many other things and people and pursuits too. So it's just part of a life lived in a body in a physical world. Amen.


Leah Miller said...

You are so pretty, Sarah! And this post made me smile, think thoughtfully (ha), laugh and grimace. I love you!
And I like your fb picture. :)
And I really want to wear skirts and dresses everyday, too! Maybe we should save some money together, get a babysitter one day and go shopping!

erizabat said...

River-otter playful. That's what I see when I see you chasing your boys around the front yard and "body-slamming" them as they attempt to tackle you.
You are gorgeous. I love your bangs, even though you don't.

Miss S said...

Hey rockstar; I think it's impossible for YOU to take the true Sarah J. photo. Because you're always grinning and laughing, and those expressions aren't in these photos. Btw, I agree with your makeup assessment--the make-up made you look so much older and so much less like free-spirit and creative Sarah. And in case you forgot, I like you a lot!


rachel said...

I just read your post! It was so great! You have a beautiful mind, body and spirit, Sarah!