I don't know when I stopped looking in the mirror. It wasn't a conscious decision. It just happened. My mirror avoidance developed as quickly and quietly as the pounds packed on.
Of course I glance at my face as I wash or apply lotion. I sometimes check my outfit to make sure there aren't any hand prints or stains on my clothes. But I won't linger. I won't really LOOK at my reflection.
Why? What am I afraid of?
I'm afraid of the thoughts that might arise as I scan my body, recognizing curves that have become rounder and fuller than they were a few years ago. I'm ashamed and embarrassed by what my body has become.
I know that's not what I'm supposed to think. I know it's not how I'm supposed to feel about this body that has created life, that has carried me through challenges and adventures and tragedies alike. I know I'm supposed to love my body just as it is. But right now, I just can't. Or at least until now, I haven't been able to.
Today, I stood in front of the mirror before I got into the shower. I looked--really looked--at my body. This is what I saw: a round face that looks tired but happy; shoulders that keep creeping up toward my ears instead of relaxing down my back; a chest that is rounder and hangs lower than ever before; a belly that droops over a long scar, hiding the evidence that babies formed and grew inside me; thighs that overlap and rub against one another; ankles that are like tree trunks and feet that are wide and flat from years of bearing the weight above them.
This is all what IS. I'm doing my best not to judge it. It is my body after growing two healthy boys. It is my body after several years of stress, overwhelm, poor eating, lack of exercise and minimal self-care. This is where I am now. It does not have to be where I end up.
I worry, though, that I've let things go too far. I fear I've forgotten how to be healthy. I wonder if there's really time and energy to take care of myself, to plan healthy meals (and cook them), to exercise and practice yoga on more than an occasional basis.
I still have to try. My body is begging me. I feel so heavy and uncomfortable. I lack energy and I'm irritable. I realize I can't change what has already happened. I can only change what I do and feel from here forward.
And so today I choose to go to the gym. Today I choose to eat healthier than yesterday. Today I choose to stand in front of the mirror and look at my body without judgement.
With each day, hopefully, I can rebuild those healthier habits. I can do one thing to take care of myself. I can learn to look in the mirror and see my body through a lens of appreciation again, no matter what the scale says and no matter what size my pants are.
I will do my best today. That's all I can do.