A Body Valentine

Love Yourself Every Day of the Year

"Young. Old. Just Words." ~George Burns

Most of the time, my birthday pretty much just comes and goes without fanfare. As my 50th rolled around, I noticed for the first time small lines on my face, and skin that wasn't as supple as before. All my life, I have been an attractive, young woman in a culture that prizes beauty and youth. Now, as I poked and pulled my skin to gauge how long it took to resume its shape, I remembered my mother's lament to me and my sister: "I can't compete with you pretty young girls!" I realized that a part of my life is ending: "I will never be the girl I was. There is no turning back." Fear assaulted me.

I can't tell you how much this fact began to bother me, especially having been in the past with men who were aware of feminine beauty, some of whom saw me as an icon. It's hard being an icon on a good day. Try being a former icon. Ouch!

It's common to take advantage of the many temporary solutions that are available today; makeovers, restilene, even cosmetic surgery. I found some solace in that. Botox works great... for a while, but it doesn't change the numbers on the calendar, or stop the ticking of the clock. Again, I was faced with the same grim fact that this beautiful gift that is life is short, and getting shorter all the time. There is nothing wrong with a person making use of whatever options are available to better herself, but a surgeon can't solve the real problem, which is how we see ourselves.

This is no way to live; certainly not for anyone who makes any claim to enlightenment. I had to stop; but I did not know how to turn off the thoughts in my mind. After all, it was true. So I did what I often do when faced with a problem. I went to the lower level of my house and worked out.

As I went within myself, my mind drifted back to the mid 1970s; to my early 20's, and my college days. Plan A was nursing school, the Peace Corps, and then, off to "save the world". Well, I didn't fit in at nursing school, and my weight dropped from 135 to 85 lbs. from the stress of not fitting in.

My plans took a different course. I looked around, 20 years old, and realized that I had to create my own income to pay for college. What did I have in my hands? I had no career and no specialized training, but wealthy men had been courting me since high school; so I decided to become a dancer. I started eating again so that I could get a job; then again, I felt fat: I would eat a pizza, then take a laxative to allay the sense of panic I would feel as the cheese hit my belly. When I first auditioned, I was turned away again and again because of my franciscan frame. Looking back, I realize I must have looked ghastly.

Finally, I determined that I would not be turned away again. As I looked into the mirror backstage, I decided to have a talk with myself. I told myself that I was the most beautiful, desirable woman in the place. By the time I took stage, I believed it, and it showed. The power talk worked, and I was hired. That is how I managed to put myself through college as a dancer. In high school, I held a "C" average against all comers. In 1982, I graduated from Wayne State University summa cum laude. I am a member of Phi Betta Kappa to this day.

As I reflected on this accomplishment, working out to Billy Blanks' Advanced Tae Bo, I remembered those days and smiled. Again, I began to encourage myself. I started telling myself, "You are the greatest martial artist on earth!" I stood up straighter, reached higher, and began doing Tae Bo as if I were in the Olympics. It felt great! And I realized that, no matter what age you are, you feel as good as you decide to feel.

The truth is that when I was in my twenties, I appreciated my beauty no more than I do now. I didn't even see it; I only saw my flaws! Now, I am happier because I can see a truth that was always right there in front of me. I can realize that I am always at the perfect age. It's true: I can't "compete" with a 20-something at being a 20-something. Most 20-somethings can't compare with someone my age. If she makes herself a priority, a woman in her fifties exudes a self respect which can be very "hot". On top of that, you live awhile, and you learn that "hot" is not all there is after all. In fact, the pursuit of being "hot" can get downright boring. It's certainly no ticket to wisdom, happiness, or success at anything important. Wisdom would have taught me to thank God for a body that was serving me so well these last fifty years.

After my workout, I began thanking my body for how well it has taken care of me in this journey so far. I have lived a life physically pain free most of the time. My hands have created beauty and joy for others, and given pleasure by their touch. My feet have carried me all over the world, and my long legs took me there with ease. My abdominals are strong and hard, and my stomach digests my food with ease, providing me with the nourishment I need. I have carried children and nursed them, and watched them grow to be almost twice my size. I look at them in awe. Did they really come from me?

Recently I went to dinner with my tall, handsome son. While he stepped out for a moment, I turned to look at my fellow diners. At one table was a young couple, the girl sitting there, unconsciously beautiful and flush with the gift of youth. It reminded me of my own youthful unawareness. At the next table, there was a couple in their 80's. The woman's face was wrinkled and I realized, "Someday that will be me...if I am lucky."

It is time for all of us to appreciate the marvelous gift we received when we were born into these wonderful tents of clay. They have been our loving home for many years. They equip us to think, to dream, to act, to love, and to experience this beautiful world. Most of the time, they flawlessly perform the necessary functions of life.

If we look in the mirror and actually see what we have been given, our bodies will respond with blessing in return. This year, give your body a Valentine. Treat yourself to a massage, or a visit the spa. Thank your body, every single part by name that you can think of, for being there for you. Do this everyday, not just on Valentine's Day, and watch your body respond in ways that astound you. You are going to be friends for a long, long time.

George Santayana said "To be interested in the changing seasons is a better state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring." It's a lesson we in Michigan know well. To this day, I am still a dancer and so are you. You are part of the wonderful, progressive dance that is Life, and each step is precious. So look in the mirror and say to yourself whatever you want to be true. Say it: "You have something to contribute to the world today. Therefore you are beautiful." Now go out and knock 'em dead!

Affirmation: I am always at the perfect age for me. This is my place in time. I claim it with thanks and joy. I am beautiful and everyone loves me.

Mindy L. Hitchcock