I love watching spring’s first buds tentatively push their way through winter bracken. I love feeling the heat of summer sunshine beat down on baked earth. I love the lashing rains that sweep through during late summer thunderstorms. I love seeing the leaves change and the light become richer during autumn afternoons. And I love a clear, cold winter night where the sky is scattered with stars and my breath comes out in clouds. Each of these moments reminds me of nature’s seasonal beauty. Every moment is unique to it’s season, and you must wait until the seasons turn again to enjoy them.
What if we embraced the changes in our bodies in the same way we embrace changes in the seasons?
I was talking to a client recently about how our bodies change throughout the seasons of our lives, and when I was on my way home I started to think more deeply about how we embrace the beauty in changing seasons but we expect our bodies to stay the same, static, as if they weren’t nature’s greatest creation and therefore subject to change like the rest of our amazing planet.
When we are babies our parents watch our changing bodies with glee documenting every new achievement, new tooth, new chubby thigh fold and wondering at how they created a creature that is changing so rapidly. When we are children we watch ourselves grow marking new height achievements against our siblings in lines on the kitchen door frame. When we are adolescents body changes are documented more furtively. We start to become aware that our changing bodies are noticed by others and we pray that they don’t say anything. We learn that changes in our bodies can elicit comment and either praise or admonishment from others. Changes can be a source of shame.
When our bodies start aging out of teenage years and settle into adulthood that shame can lead us into diet culture’s waiting arms. Promises of retaining or returning to the shape of our teenage years can lure you in. We look at our adult bodies through a cultural lens that fears change and aging. But these are natural just as natural as a tree losing its leaves in winter growing a coat of new green come springtime. What if we looked at those changes with just as much wonder?
Women’s bodies are especially prone to changes. We change from week to week during our monthly cycles, our bodies adapt to grow children and provide nutrients for them, we age into our grandmotherly years and stop menstruating. Our bodies are constantly changing and adapting to new seasons of life. What if we learned to wonder at these seasons of the body? What if you wondered at your body’s monthly signals rather than admonishing yourself for causing your bloating (it’s totally natural and part of being human)? What if you wondered at the way your body changes its structure to accommodate the growing of a new life? What if you wondered at the way your body similarly changes afterwards so that you are stronger, sturdier, heartier to protect and provide for your young? What if you wondered at the way the same body stops menstruating and prepares to age and experience another phase of life?
The only constant in this life is change. Rather than trying to remain ageless why don’t we wear our scars, wrinkles, stretch marks, cellulite and lumpy bumpy bits with pride, as a badge of honour that we are still here and have the souvenirs to prove it. I experienced a huge change in my body after my cancer surgery. My stomach has a 12-inch red scar that starts in the middle of my chest and curves over to my waist. My belly button has another 4-inch scar running downwards. I have a scar on my neck from the central line they placed there while I was in surgery. Before the surgery I was so afraid that these scars would change the way I feel about my body. And they have. I have a new pride, a new appreciation for the way my body survived. The way it stood back up after being beaten down. Those scars remind me that I can survive anything. And with them I have entered a new season in my life. The season of the survivor.
Perhaps the key to accepting our bodies, perhaps even loving them, is seeing them as creations of nature with their own seasons. If we embrace the changes that come with each season of life with kindness and understanding we can find room to support our body rather than punish it. We can make room for being human. Make room for listening to what our bodies need in each season. A little more movement? A little more rest? A few more veggies? An ice cream cone? a plate of cheesy pasta? Time with friends? Time alone to reflect? Our bodies tell us what we need if only we stop to listen. Don’t expect your needs to stay the same as your body changes.
So what if we embraced the changes in our bodies in the same way we embrace changes in the seasons? I think we would find ourselves staring in wonder at nature’s greatest creation, and we would breathe a sigh of relief as our heart made room for little more love for ourselves.
What would it mean to you to embrace the changes in your body in the same way you embrace changes in the seasons?