Body Language – My Messy Beautiful

My body fought a war against me for the first 6 weeks after we arrived in Australia. First jetlag then hay fever; knocked down by flu only to recover to incessant sneezing & leaky washers on my eyes. A rash all over my face made the constant meeting of new people arduous, even for an optimistic extrovert. They joke that I’m allergic to Australia or my in-laws, I chuckle a little. Really I think there’s something in the air – it’s just the season.Spring Summer Autumn Winter; the season.

The season of my weary heart, podgy body & hard knock life. I am uncomfortable in my own skin, quite literally. Uncomfortable & a little bit sorry for myself. After slowly ballooning over the last 2 years I have settled at particular roundness, & gratefully bought some new clothes that don’t require strategic wearing to hide the stretching & squeezing, bulging & wearing thin. Perhaps my body is revolting, against what I have let it become.

I am fat. It is nothing & nobody’s fault but my own.

Misery loves company – and carbs in my case. Masks & subterfuge around feelings I play expertly well, except my body will no longer keep my secrets. Youth has perhaps exempted me before, but the ‘get out of discipline free’ card that is your 20’s is no longer in play. Subtlety is no longer the name of its game.

My waistline betrays me for my own good. My body has lead the way that I needed to walk.  Demanding radical encouraging edifying constructive change; no longer letting myself off the hook when I am lazy give in to fear.

In truth, a lot of my procrastination & lethargy is a result of a giant knock to my confidence & self-worth. Something that crept up on me sometime after my premature quarter life crisis, so sneakily that only hindsight has brought it out of the shadows. I have turned a blind eye to the emotional consequences – but my waistline has not been so forgiving.

It may seem like I’m reading too much into this – but trust me on this one. Frankly I don’t know how it’s taken me so long to acknowledge that my muffin tops & back fat are really just my dreams & emotions trying to spew out any way they can. The bloated thighs & is-she-expecting belly are just my swollen heart longing to show itself again, after being stuffed down & dressed up for too long.

Never one to easily engage with my own emotions, trusting my body to show me my heart isn’t actually a new tool – just one I seldom sharpen…

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When I am unsure of what people think of me I fiddle with my finger nails. When I’m anxious my stomach growls & gurgles and tells everyone else about it. When I’m stressed my neck seizes up so tight I can’t glance my shoulder let alone check my blind spot. It all seems a bit simplistic – but until I started to learn how to befriend my emotions, this was all I had. It was my way of decoding the minefield that is a woman’s emotions.

So I’m starting to wade through the current symptoms, find clarity in my own mind & define what a way forward could look like – what I want it to look like. Praying & pinning, lunging & list-making are all on the agenda. Having taken a few steps, I am most aware of the million miles more I must go, I don’t think this is one of those mountains that comes to you.

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There are a lot of physical things that I could & maybe should DO – I know what they are. And yet as I push out into the deep waters of 2014 I realise that all of my doing is part of the problem. I excel at doing – not so much at being. My body is not trying to tell me that there is something wrong with my body. My body is helping me remember to look at my heart.

As my heart changes, my body changes – I’ve seen it happen before; for better & for worse. As I pry my stiff fingers off of empty things my hope is misplaced in, I’m no longer too exhausted to get off the couch. As I celebrate change & new opportunities, I have instead of lamenting for what once was, I don’t want to stuff quite so much pasta in my face. I remember that GOD is God, & relax into belonging to Him. I stop panicking about what I can do for Him, how I can achieve & succeed & make Him proud… because He already is. All over the house I put up reminders of the hardest day that Jesus had – and how He won me over. Not for work, but for love.

You see I started to ‘fix’ myself again. Make myself LOOK better, without being better. I made a schedule, downloaded training apps & menu planners and tried to make this into something I could do. I have failed at all that more times than the kilograms on my scale. I know that those are all good things, great things that will help me. Before I can do what needs to be done, I need to work out who I will be. I need to know for real that a dodgy bathroom scale & the number in the back of my jeans are not what matters about me.

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Sometimes you have to tip the whole thing upside down, let everything unravel, before you can be put back together again. That kind of mess is hard for me. So hard, but so necessary. So, surrounded by other brutiful people & secure with my big God being God, that is what this season looks like. Terrifying & exhilarating and worth every drop of Blood, Sweat, Tears.

 

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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I came here to write: Culcairn Bakery

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I came here to write.

Not because it’s the only place I could come, although in this small town it kinda is. Today it’s a happy mix of foreign & familiar. The buzz of the espresso machine & warmth from the flow of people helps me push aside my to do list & find mental notes of remarkable moments from previous weeks. Noteworthy not for their peculiarity, but more likely for their humanity. Their everyday-ness.

Sylvia my trusty lilac steed is chained up outside. She’d probably still be there at the end of the day had I casually propped her up against the glass walls. I chain the wheels & the frame & the helmet around a pole anyway. It took me less than 3 minutes to push her away from the patio, down familiar streets, around slow corners & up to the bakery door. Waving at big families choosing a morning walk to the store over their Volvo busses, & greeting local shop owners setting out trinkets on the pavement. The unbearable heavy heat I’ve known on these streets has given way to grey skies & crisp air. I remember why autumn is my favourite.

Usually when I’m at the bakery, I’m the one standing behind the counter armed with an apron & attentiveness. Listening for the tinkle of the bell as someone else leaves or arrives. Smiling at new families & familiar faces as they are waiting for coffee & choosing pies, ordering sandies & sangers. I’m watching for tables empty of people but full of plates & keeping an eye on fridges of donuts & slice.

In the busy morning shifts I rattle off questions by wrote – Any sugars? Any sauce? Anything else? Patient with out-of-towners admiring country decor while they find something familiar on the menu. Grateful for familiar faces who won’t mind waiting.

 

Quiet afternoon hours I watch members of the bakery family curled up in corner couches; thinking, connecting, laughing, resting, working. I marvel at the alcove in my heart that this family has taken residence in so quickly. Grateful for the wide armed acceptance, affection & honour that a few brave people can offer. Amazed at how a heart can change, & at the beauty in the unexpected.

I came here to write; now I close my laptop & scrape back my hair. Tie on an apron & stack some dishes – it’s time to work.

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Indulgent Bibliophile

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I learned to read over my big brothers shoulder when I was really quite little. At three I sounded out cos-mo-po-li-tan unprompted while waiting for mom to unpack the groceries at the till, and I have barely stopped reading since.

There was the year after I graduated from UCT, where I just spaced out a bit after reading so much. A double major in Arts & Social Sciences will feed you so many ‘readings’, books & recommended articles to absorb & analyse that speed reading is your main hobby & reading simply for enjoyment is the guiltiest of all pleasures, but you likely can’t remember the last book you read ‘just because’ anyway.

Now I must confess at the outset that the idea of kindles & reading apps & getting lost in a book mostly via a screen was rather repulsive to me. Truth be told I can be something of a purist about these things & nothing beats the smell & feel of a new book, or an old book. (Even borrowed books which are both new and old smell delicious, & sometimes like the perfume of the person who lent it to you.) And then I won a kindle… and I mean, what are you going to do, give it back? Well, I am so grateful for that little device I cannot even tell you. The ‘one-click buy’ button, which I’ve had to tighten the reigns on. The ability to move between books without having to carry them all in your bag. Not having to wait months after a book is released hoping that a shop nearby stocks it at a reasonable price. It will never replace the joy of a bookshelf, but is it not just the most practical wonderful spoil of technology I have ever been gifted? Yes it is.

 

So in my endeavour to read (even) more this year and also to write / blog more this year – I present to you an efficient collaboration of the two: book reviews! Genius isn’t it. I really have been reading an extraordinary amount lately; by and large the content has been fantastic. And so instead of just posting extended eff bee statuses up & tagging everyone I can think of who may love the book I currently cannot put down, I’m going to start doing some reviews (though I can’t promise to stop with the statuses).

I’m excited to share my current favourite authors with you, regale some stories, rant about nonsense & just generally enjoy reliving books that I love! I hope you’ll discover some new ones that you love too – & share your treasures in return. Have a look at my GoodReads Profile & be my friend if you’re on there too. I’m quite new to it, but enjoying populating my virtual library in the absence of a stash of dog eared, underlined magical smelling real books of my own.

*I’m trying to find the proper pic credits for these but I just find more boards they are pinned to! Will update asap.

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525, 600 Moments So Dear

Wow, so February hey. 2014. How did we get here.

A lot has happened in the 128 days since I last posted. I have packed up my home, put a few things in the car & left my home of 10 years; Cape Town is not an easy place to drive away from. Mr T. & I have driven a long way, & then half way back again. Then got a plane & steered our adventure together to another continent for a while. That is a lot in 3 sentences.

Whenever I begin to reflect on a year my mental ipod auto plays ‘Seasons of Love’ from the show RENT. What? You don’t have the lyrics memorized? Never heard of it, let alone heard it? Allow me to introduce you…

(*The rest of the post makes a bit more sense if you read the lyrics.)

I love the idea of every month, every year, every phase of life we walk through as a Season of Love, and this has been no different. 2013 was overflowing with love. Though not the fluffy marshmallow & butterflies, skipping through the fields kind of love. The courageous, character hewing, learn to lay down your life kind of Love. The type of love that does not come easily, the one that you have to choose. And keep on choosing.

Here are some thoughts about 2013, & my gratitude for it in light of this season, & this song.

How Do You Measure, Measure A Year?

In Daylight Ah sunshine, I have no shortage of you, bless you Southern Hemisphere.

In Sunsets I haven’t watched enough of these (literally), but the sun has set on a time in my life that has been so rich & sweet. I am learning to let good things come to an end & find joy, in closure. Accepting things, places & people for the blessing they have been – being so grateful for each of them. And then embracing change with regret or bitterness.

In Midnights Many up working or packing or wondering what the next stage of life will look like. A few out having sushi & champagne, watching movies & shows with my girls. Several with my nose stuck in a book I just can.not.put.down. The bookworm in me has resurfaced & I revel in that! I will be doing some regular book reviews on here soon.

In Cups Of Coffee Approximately 548 in the last year. Or thereabouts, probably a bit more; my mathematical methods are crude.

In Inches Too many of these, but we’re working on it. I am a classic comfort eater. Those, ‘oh no thanks, I can’t eat when I’m anxious’ girls? No idea what they are talking about. I balloon when life is tough, & when my heart is in full bloom, my body tones & blossoms accordingly. Psychosomatic could be my middle name (but then I’d have to remember how to spell it). In a year that has been emotionally overwhelming & confusing as well as stretching & revealing (in a good way) my body has borne the brunt of it all. It’s healing already; marvellous miraculous creation.

In Miles Between August & December Mr T. & I drove 5, 432 kilometres around S.A., Zim & Zambia – and that’s just the travelling distance between towns, not general running around town. Then we flew over 11, 000 kilometres from Joburg to Sydney. That’s 10, 224 miles altogether, in just 4 months. It feels as far as it sounds.

In Laughter Please, Sir, can I have some more. There was some, actually lots. More please, always more.

In Strife This is a good word to summarise 2013 for us, & the most real to end on. There was a lot to celebrate, but more that was just messy & confusing. Honestly, I don’t have quite the distance I need from it to be genuinely grateful for every ounce. Haven’t yet untangled enough to see why the road winds like it does.

I do know that with God, things are not always what they seem. Our pain is not wasted & through some divine phenomenon all of these things can be used by Him & for Him, if I let Him. I’m getting there.

How do you measure a year?

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