Friday, April 22, 2016

the space between

It's December. John and I take the kids to see the new Star Wars movie, and it's the first time I've been to the theater in quite awhile. Movies in the theater are a luxury on many levels.

The theater has been updated since the last time I set foot in it, so I am surprised by the wide lounge chairs. Individual recliners for each person: the extravagance!

Rose, our youngest at age 4, wants to sit next to me. Her three sisters file in ahead of us, and John sits on the far end. Before the lights go down, everyone gets a lap full of popcorn. As we pass the bucket down the row, I catch John's eye and we both smile. I know he's seeing the three full body lengths between us, what with the new, wide luxury seats and all four kids. Even if we both stretched toward one another, we wouldn't be able to touch.

I think about one of our first dates, how he picked me up in his mom's Crown Vic and wore that blue sweater with the stripe across the chest and gripped the steering wheel with both hands. I liked the thickness of his wrists. The front seat felt wide and there was a lot of space between us. I was nervous. Movies are easy, though; you don't have to think of anything to say, and you can creep closer together in an accidental way. You can find each other's hands in the dark without really meaning to, without having to acknowledge anything except the feel of skin on skin, a slow thumb circling my palm.

Now, though, there's a football field between us, and his grin tells me he sees the absurdity here, and the awesomeness, too.

The lights go down and Rose is very quickly in my lap, the big girl seat suddenly too big for her in the dark. The scene is instant action -- and loud. Storm Troopers are on the ground; there's a fire blazing and Kylo Ren shows up, and I see his mask and hear his amplified voice through the filter of Rose's tense body. She's squirming and asking to leave.

We talked about John taking the older girls and me staying home with Rose, but Rose loves Star Wars: she thinks Darth Vader is great. We decided she wouldn't tolerate being left behind.

"This part will be over soon," I whisper into her ear. Her eyes are closed and I'm sure I'll have to walk out of the theater before the story even really begins. But the next scene is lighter; it's daytime and we meet Rey. Rose relaxes into my lap.

The popcorn bucket comes our way again, but it's empty except for a layer of crumbs. Rose eats every schnibble and wipes her hands on my jeans. She drinks a lot of water.

We are in the climax of the movie when she has to go to the bathroom. I take her, and she talks loudly in the bathroom stall about BB8 and -- that girl. "Rey?" I offer. Our voices echo in the empty bathroom.

During the drive home, John fills me in on the part I missed -- it was a key scene, of course, which would have been nice to see -- and the girls make sure to add their reactions and experiences, too.

"Well, we'll have to buy the movie when it comes out so I can see it," I say, and a cheer erupts throughout the car. It sounds like we have more than four kids.

No one is hungry for dinner when we get home. Popcorn at 5pm will do that.

But I am full and happy with good stories. The made up ones, of course, because they can carry us away and bring us together.

But mostly I'm grateful for the tale that fills the space between then and now. 

It keeps unfolding ahead of us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

In defense of the sweaty selfie

When I first joined my online fitness accountability group, I posted an after-workout picture (aka sweaty selfie!) a few times, but it made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

Listen, I don't really like pictures of myself even when I'm careful about the way I stand, the grade of my smile, or the color of my shirt. After I work out, my hair is a mess. It's usually 5 a.m., so my eyes are still hung with sleep. And yah, there's sweat. Why would I want to share my image in such an unguarded, undone moment? What could possibly be the point? I decided early on this part was not really for me.

Yet I appreciated seeing the steady stream of sweaty selfies from the group in my Facebook feed. Knowing that others were getting their workouts done encouraged me keep up with my goals, and seeing their smiling, glowing faces connected me to the group in a way that words on their own wouldn't have done. I started to feel like I knew these ladies who were sharing their struggles and goals, being brave in their skin and strong in their resolutions.

But still, I couldn't participate fully. If I took my own picture, I'd see one eye bigger than the other. Hair that's always awful. Look at those dark circles! And, sure, my biceps are bigger, but aren't they kind of freakish? Veins and elbow bones and ugh. Delete.

This boils down to fear. Old fear. That admittedly teenage fear of being judged, of not being accepted.

But as I continued to follow along with the group and post my text-only check ins, I started to wonder who I was really helping by holding myself back. Was I really sparing anyone something awful by not posting my picture? This couldn't possibly a big deal. Why did the idea of sharing myself with a safe, supportive group of women make me feel so uncomfortable? What would happen if I tried? Not just once or twice, but every day?


This was my guiding word for 2016. A resolution of sorts. It means:

--try new things
--try again
--try harder
--try, instead of thinking so hard
--try, even when you'd rather not

I decided to give it a go.

It's a simple practice, one that might seem silly to some, but it is a practice.

It's like this:

When you are training for something -- a race, maybe, or a performance of some kind -- you repeat the same action over and over to keep improving, to take yourself to the next level. One set of push ups isn't going to be the thing that breaks the 4-hour marathon for you, but it's a step toward a stronger body.

This picture, right here, cannot erase my self doubt, but sharing it today is a step toward putting myself out there. Letting go of my own insecurities. Being brave enough to claim every inch of myself, inside and out.

This is me. This is how I look today. Right now. I woke up at 4:30 and pushed myself hard in my workout and snapped this picture. I'm raw and real. And in sharing myself with you, I'm taking a step toward total self acceptance. I'll practice this over and over until I really, truly feel it.