the PRODIGAL SISTER

Celebrate returning to faith, hope, culture and life with community.

Friday, March 30, 2018

I'm Not That Kind of Girl (And Other Lies We All Believe)


I was never an athletic kid.

I took on the identity of clumsy and uncoordinated early on. Accident-prone, certainly. I thought athletes were naturally gifted at running. You were either fast or slow. If you were tall, you were good at basketball. If you were fast, you were a naturally good swimmer.

I was neither tall. Nor fast. Swimming scared me in a lot of different ways. So, I stuck with the stuff that I was naturally inclined to. Music, being on stage, dance. Fluid movements for fluid gifts.
There are some people who are just naturally good at all the things. But for the rest of us, for me, I stuck with what was safe. With what I knew was in my wheelhouse.

It wasn't until I graduated college that I began running. There, my competitive drive and inclination for distance grew. I ran my first 5K. A few 10Ks here and there. At 26 I ran my first half-marathon.

Twenty-six.


I love running. I love my breath feeling sharp in my chest. I love my feet hitting the pavement, listening to a podcast, and the feel of the heat of the sun touching my shoulders. It's a different world. It's a world where I get out of my head and only concentrate in the here and now.
I'm not the best at it. Not by a long stretch. But for so long I told myself I'm not the kind of girl who runs.

So I didn't.

Lately, I've come to realize that I wasn't an athlete because I wasn't athletic. I wasn't an athlete because I never tried. I never trained. Not because I'm afraid of hard work, but because I was afraid of trying something and not being good at it right away.
When I laced up my running shoes a few nights ago - the first good run of the season - I found myself wondering what my life would be like if I hadn't pushed through the fear of not being good at something right away.

What if I never became a runner?

And, in that same light, what other bits of my life have I shied away from for fear of failure - for fear of not doing it perfectly right away?

What if everyone thought that way? 

What if no one ever went on dates because they were afraid of break ups?

What if no one ever became parents because they were afraid of raising jerk-kids?

What if no one ever went back to school because they were afraid that even after a master's-level course they still wouldn't be employable?

What if no one ever blogged or wrote stories because they were afraid they'd never get published?

What if everyone spent their whole lives saying: I could never do that. I'm not that kind of girl.

I've spent my whole life thinking I wasn't the type of person who was fashionable, healthy, a leader, successful.

So, I have spent almost thirty years living as though I was not those things. And could never be. I'd tell myself over and over again:

I could never video blog.

I could never lead a team.

I could never breastfeed in public.

I could never move past hurt or failure.

I could never build a platform to get a book deal.

I could never be friends with people like them.

I could never have that type of haircut.

I could never rock that kind of job. 

I could never. I could never. I could never.

I'm not that kind of girl.


But, when I lace up my pink running shoes, and run laps around the sidewalks – still with red lipstick on, mind you – I realize I and everyone else can be whatever type of girl we want to be.
We just have to work for it.
There's nothing magical about the people who do the things you want to do. There's nothing sensational. There's no X-factor, there's no level of IQ (unless you want to be an astrophysicist...maybe?). 

The people we admire likely have off-days, too. They probably feel just as skittish in front of a crowd or sitting in a salon chair.

But they work. They're doing it. They're risking failure. They're risking looking dumb or not put together.

They're working toward being the type of person they want to become.

Be a runner. Be a photographer. Be a business owner. Be whatever. Be that kind of person.

Because the truth is, you'll never be that kind of girl. Not unless you make yourself one.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

When Your Pants Still Don't Fit

We had a coffee date scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

One of my best gal pals and I decided to walk to our favorite local coffee shop.  Baby and stroller in tow.

"It's one of those days," I said to her when she got to my house. I was clad in stretch active wear that, if I'm being completely honest, has spent more time on the couch than the track. "I'm going to put on a hat, a dab of mascara and pray we don't run into anyone we know."

Precisely 10 seconds later, we ran into someone we both knew. She was a high school student from our church out on a run. Her blonde hair and her beautiful, sunny face was impossible to miss. We stopped mid-stride to greet her. She pulled the ear buds out of her ears.

"Are you training for a race?" I asked. "Or just outside enjoying the beautiful day?"

She grabbed her thighs, pinched the excess skin and replied, "I'm running to get rid of this."

Bless her soul, her thigh were about as meaty as a PVC pipe. That is to say, there was hardly anything there. I stammered something about needing to get rid of mine, too. How I was almost 10 months postpartum, but still ate like a pregnant woman.

We exchanged words with her along the lines of, "it's as good as it's gonna get," and "I look at pictures of myself from high school and wish for the days that I thought I was so completely overweight."

I was a size six. Completely healthy, but completely self-conscious.

I won't get into the nitty gritty of those days. Not here, not now. But long story short, I thought I was a fat girl. In fact, I have a vivid memory of  a guy who I had known calling me "bloated" in front of our entire AP Physics class.

This was over a decade ago. But I remember where I was sitting. I remember where he was sitting. One-third of my life later.

Since then, I don't ever recall feeling comfortable in my own skin. I don't recall trusting people not to slam me behind my back, or not to think that I shouldn't wear clothes that weren't classically flattering, didn't cover up my arms, or exposed too much of my back, even if I really liked them.

That began in high school. I was the same age as that stunningly perfect, beautiful high school student who stood in front of me. Who I exchanged slapstick self-deprecation with (because it has no age gap) and strolled away from.

Failing to convey that she's beautiful. Strong. Smart. Capable.

Failing to convey that one day she might not fit into a pair of pants that she loves and that doesn't make her any less worthy. It doesn't make her any less likely to achieve any of her goals, or be who she wants to truly be.

Looking back, I should've stamped my foot. I should've taken her by the shoulders and shaken her. Told her that she should only run if she truly enjoys the journey, not if the destination is some impossible standard of thinness.

I had a similar failed interaction with a friend who exclaimed to our friend group that she fit back into her pre-pregnancy pants.

I cheered. The whole room erupted into happy claps and congratulations. 

But...why? Why did we feel compelled to celebrate this? Why was my first reaction elation on her behalf? Why is squeezing your body into anything other than those awful mesh undies and yoga pants after having a baby considered an accomplishment?

Why were we even having this discussion? Why was this even important?

Having an unhealthy or overindulgent lifestyle that puts your heart and health at risk is one thing - but why, in an era of tolerance and love conquering hate have we still not conquered this?

Why are we pressuring our high school girls and postpartum women, both in tender emotional states, to be anything less than their whole selves?

Whether they fit into their pants or not.

I would live those moments over again if I could.

I'd hug them, I'd bring them close and pray that they could remember a moment of acceptance and peace, as vivid as my bad memory from high school.

I'd say to them over and over:

It's okay to wear yoga pants. It's okay to have a doughnut. And it's okay to let go of your vision of perfection to seek after health.

It's okay not to fit into your pants for a spell.
 
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