This morning, walking my dog down Sydenstriker, I watched a little girl learn to use a white-tipped cane. Nine-thirty in the morning, most of her friends were in the school building she practiced in front of. An older lady stood protectively between her and the street, holding her own white-tipped cane.
Like metronomes in perfect sync, their canes scanned the sidewalk 10 inches before them. The little girl had wild brown hair. Her profile was slight, a little beanpole dressed in a hot pink t-shirt and blue jeans. With her left hand she clung to the older woman’s shirt sleeve.
I passed them in seconds and just as quickly they passed through my thoughts and into catalogued, insignificant memory. Until this afternoon.
My husband and I sped along Braddock Road, grumbling as the golden, spring sun gave way to April showers. I was thinking about my yoga practice this morning, how I feel different, more whole after yoga than after other workouts. I like that feeling of knowing I’m alive, feeling graceful, collected and yet free at the same time. But I wondered, did I work out hard enough? I don’t feel especially fatigued or sore like I do after other workouts. Did I do enough?
These fears harken back to 15 years of pushing all my physical limits: Too little food, too much exercise. I did it all in pursuit of a goal – to look beautiful, to look competent, to look powerful, to look in control.
Recently, I read an article by one of my favorite people, Amy Dardis, referencing another of my favorite people, Esse Johnson. She spoke of knowing her body. My thoughts skipped. How do I know my body? I do know that it can hear and feel and taste and see and touch and smell and walk and sleep and love and care and hurt and bleed and write and cook and listen and…
So why am I so much more worried about what I see than all the other things that my body is and does? Would I dare tell that little girl that she is missing the essential gift of life because she cannot see whether she is thin or beautiful or young or old?
What would happen if I didn’t worry so much about what I look like and instead, learned to focus on what I sound like, feel like, smell like? Beauty can be expressed those ways too.
Do I speak gently and joyfully, encouraging others and laughing at the lighter things and praying for the harder things?
Do I smell fresh and delicious to my husband?
Do I feel strong and capable?
Do my hands feel comforting to mourners?
Does my voice sound like praise?
I never smell Amber Romance, or Santa Fe perfume without melting into sweet thoughts of my mother.
I can’t contain the joy in my heart when I hear my niece tell me that a duck says, “Kack, kack”.
So why is what I look like so much more significant to me that all the other aspect of who I am? I wonder.