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Whoever said, "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff," never got a good look at my thighs.
I did the other day. It was not a pretty sight. I was in the sporting goods store at the mall. I didn't intend to go in there, but I forgot where I parked my car. (I hate when that happens. It happens a lot. Especially lately.)
There I was, wandering through the sporting goods store, trying to get to an exit. That's not easy. Have you noticed how stores are laid out these days? I've been shopping long enough to remember when you could make a beeline from the front door to the department you wanted and back out again. Now walking through a store is like navigating an obstacle course and requires a degree of agility I don't possess.
Straight aisles are a thing of the past. The art of merchandising is a diabolical plot to trap consumers in the store, expose them to as many displays of goods as possible, and get them so confused and frustrated that they will hand over their wallets gladly, just to be able to escape.
So, trapped as I was, I had little choice but to wander through the displays of camping, skiing, boating, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, treading, kayaking,swimming, lifting, running, scuba diving, fishing, tennis, baseball, racquetball, basketball, football, soccer, lumberjacking, and whaling equipment. Somewhere between the fishing tackle section and the football tackle department, I found myself trapped behind a rack of tiny-tiny-swimsuits. There wasn't enough fabric there to cover my left elbow, much less the dimpled tundra of my backside.
Even worse, I was sandwiched between the rack of tiny suits and a huge mirror. These stores have mirrors everywhere. I guess the jock-types who hang out at sporting goods stores don't mind looking at themselves. I try to avoid my reflection, but like those people who slow way down to gawk at a freeway accident, I can't resist sneaking a peek anytime I pass a shiny surface. (Oh admit it! You do it too.)
This wasn't just one full-length mirror but a three-sider. I gaped. I stared. I gawked. The shorts I'd tossed on for this "quick" run to the mall were rumpled and riding up embarrassingly. And there, hanging out like two giant stuffed sausages, were my thighs, glowing under the fluorescents like two gargantuan, pasty-white slugs under a black light. It was obvious why I no longer buy corduroy pants (Aye, there's the rub!) or anything made of spandex.
The tiny swimsuits mocked me from behind while the triple mirror tripled my lumps. Tripled my lard. Tripled my dimples. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
Triple mirrors do nothing for a sister's self-esteem.
"Who are you?" I whined at the three women in the mirrors. "How did this happen? You used to be in great shape. You were fit and flexible, tight and toned in high school!"
We used to dance in high school, they reminded me. Standing there before the jiggling blobs of my current reality, I drifted back to those glory days of youth, when the lower half of my body actually had muscle.
It's true. I used to dance. Modern dance was one of the physical education electives in our high school. I elected it. We modern dancers worshiped at the bare feet of our teacher, Miss Jeanne, who had worshiped and studied at the bare feet of modern-dance-maven Miss Martha Graham, herself! Under Miss Jeanne's skilled tutelage we learned how to dance like the wind, soar like the eagle, wave like a field of wheat, and rise like the sun. All within the confines of the gym at North High.
Modern dancers, Miss Jeanne showed us, could isolate their rib cages from the rest of their torsos, elevate any given body part, and stretch in ways that seemed humanly impossible (to say nothing of painful). Modern dancers had steely thighs and elastic hamstrings that allowed them to float across the floor with power and grace.
And six of the modern dancers in our class were chosen to be the horses in the merry-go-round when the senior class put on a production of the musical Carousel. Each of us was assigned a position and a color. I was the pink pony.
Upright in pastel leotards and matching tights, we six pranced proudly, each holding in her pony forefeet a length of wide pastel ribbon. The opposite ends of the ribbons were attached to a tall center pole.
The tall pole was a girl named Jane. The least graceful horse in the class, Jane held the ends of the ribbons high as we swifter ponies trotted around her. She raised and lowered the ribbons as we raised and lowered our steely thighs in a graceful canter, moving around and around with us, faster and slower, higher and lower. At times we even reversed direction in a dazzling feat of merry-go-round marvel.
Opening night came. Around and around we pranced. No one noticed that Jane, who'd performed her part flawlessly during rehearsals, had decided not to wear her glasses in front of an audience. (Vanity of vanities!)
Jane, blinded and dizzier by the minute, evidently lost track of whether the pastel blur surrounding her was moving clockwise or counterclockwise. Unable to judge the speed or direction of the herd, Jane did the only thing a pole could do. She stood still.
We ponies cantered on, not noticing until it was too late that the pole was frozen. Soon poor Jane was mummified in pastel ribbons and we horses were falling over each other as we wound ourselves closer and closer to the center. The carousel ground to a halt. So did the play. So did my dancing career.
Snapping back to the reality of the sports store's three-way mirror, I shuddered to realize how far my body had deteriorated-from the glorious days of fresh lean youthfulness to the flabby nag, sagging like a feed sack of cellulite, staring back at me. The old gray mare just wasn't what she used to be; she looked ready to be put out to pasture. Neigh.
I slunk away from the mirror, hoping no other shoppers had seen me there, in triplicate. One of me was bad enough.
Depressed, I wove my way through the rest of the store, avoiding the mirrors and focusing on the merchandise instead. I wondered why they call the stuff "sporting goods." Most of it seemed neither sporting nor good.
Think about it. Who in her right mind binds her stiff-booted feet onto flat fiberglass slats and hurls herself down a frozen mountain, protected only by her fluffy pink jacket and matching fluffy pink headband? Wouldn't a fluffy pink crash helmet be a good idea?
Who in her right mind wedges her oversized bottom into an undersized kayak and paddles alone out into the middle of a lake? Doesn't she know that when the thing capsizes-and it will; it will!-her smaller top half will never be able to counterbalance the centrifugal force created by the larger ballast of her bottom in motion? She'll be trapped there under the water, waiting to drown. Upside down!
Sporting? Good? I think not.
"What's a girl to do?" I asked the handsome mannequin modeling the latest in spandex exercise wear. He had no answer. He may have been a dummy, but he looked good. Everyone, it seemed, was in better shape, thinner, fitter, doing more, going faster, and running farther than I was. I wanted to scream, "Where is the stuff for girls like me?" Girls who are a little long in the tooth. A little short of breath. A little wide in the angle. A little narrow in motivation.
Just then, as if to answer my question, a peppy girl in a store uniform bounced up to me. She was young enough to make me wonder if the child-labor laws were still in effect.
"Can I, like, help you?" I could tell from her tone she thought I was beyond help. I wanted to ask her to escort me to the nearest exit and maybe help me find my car, but I suddenly felt the need to make her think I had something on the ball.
"I need to start working out. What do you suggest?" She gave me an appraising once-over and led me down a nearby aisle. She plucked a book called Walk Yourself Fit from a rack and handed it to me.
How had she guessed walking was my sport? I had decades-over twenty thousand days so far-of walking practice. I was good at walking. A quick glance at the book's back cover assured me that I could quite literally walk my way to fitness and good health. I didn't need to do anything but walk. No need to change my diet. Walking would automatically, over the course of time, cause my thighs, indeed all of me, to shrink miraculously and painlessly.
Walking I could handle. The price of the book-$9.95-I could also handle. I was ready to head to the huge sign that said CASHIER-they make sure you can find those-when the nice young lady said, "You'll need some walking shoes. They're right over here ..."
A hundred-and-eighty-seven dollars later, I left the store with the book and its accompanying CD of walking music. I had new shoes-a dynamically engineered, air-cushioned, shock-absorbing pair that specialized in walking. (Did they even need me?) I had air-cushioned socks that were guaranteed to absorb the shocks the shoes missed, even if I had trouble absorbing the shock of forking over twelve bucks for a pair of socks. (Socks!)
I had new shorts and a matching shirt that were guaranteed never to shrink, fade, or wrinkle, no matter how much abuse I subjected them to. (Oh, for a body with that kind of guarantee!) And the shorts were friendly; they promised not to pinch me, squish me, or ride up and wedge themselves into uncomfortable places. My new sports bra was positively aerodynamic and designed to hold me firmly with no sagging for five years or fifty thousand miles of bounce, whichever came first.
And with it all, le pièce de résistance: new undies that breathed. How could I resist? They breathed, for goodness sake! (How had I made it all these years wearing suffocating undies?)
I was set. The cashier pointed me to the exit; I eventually found my car and drove home with the sort of radiance that only a good day's shopping can bring. I glowed all night. I was still glowing the next morning, when, headphones pumping CD motivation into my brain and clad in my new shorts, shirt, bra, shoes, and socks, and with my undies breathing the fresh morning air, I set out to walk myself fit.
Five minutes out, halfway up the first hill, my formerly elastic hamstring twisted itself into a knot the size of my fist. I hobbled back down the hill before the first song ended on the CD, limped into the kitchen, where I sat and sipped a double cafe mocha with extra whipped cream for consolation.
Life is full of twists, isn't it? It's hard sometimes to navigate from one spot to another without getting trapped or hurt or lost. Life doesn't seem to have clear wide aisles that allow us to flow easily from one place to the next. Lots of the things that happen to us are not what we'd call good or sporting.
And sometimes we just plain forget where we left the car, or our minds, or our hearts.
We can get ourselves all twisted up trying to keep it all together physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes we're like the merry-go-round horses; around and around we go, faster and faster, high-stepping and showing off for all we're worth. Sometimes we don't notice what's happening until we're all twisted up in the ribbons of living and come to a crashing halt. Sometimes we don't notice the pole standing there nearby, paralyzed and blinded by the chaos we've created with all our whirling around.
When we compare our lives and ourselves to what we see around us-and we so often do that-we end up feeling we're not good enough, fit enough, young enough, smart enough, old enough, thin enough, pretty enough, spiritual enough - whatever enough - to be worth loving. Worth anything.
I've struggled with my physical image much of my life. I've often felt awkward, clumsy, or just plain ugly. Sitting there in my kitchen I could hear, in my mind, all the names I'd called myself, and all the names I'd imagined or heard others calling me, over the years.
Thunder Thighs. Whale Woman. Blubber Butt. Flat Chested. Slope Shouldered. Squinty Eyed. Flat Nosed.
What have you heard? How have you felt?
God has another perspective.
As I sat there, with my leg propped on the chair next to me to stretch my twisted muscle, I remembered something from the Bible about my being "fearfully and wonderfully made."
Are you serious, Lord? I asked, gazing down at my cheesy thighs. This is fearfully and wonderfully made? This body?
"Yes," I heard him whisper to my heart. "This."
Is it possible? Can it be? "I created your inmost being; I knit you together in your mother's womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made," he says. Can it be true?
Can God really mean that about me? About you?
Yes. This timeless truth is the beginning of our healing, our deliverance from the worry and doubt that plague us. This is the beginning of new life, of a powerful sense of self, realizing that it is God-Almighty Creator of the Universe God-who created us-you and me-and God who loves us. That this physical body, whatever its size or shape, whatever flaws we think we have, is a work of genius.
If God thinks you're a work of art, who are you to argue?
Fearfully and wonderfully made, dimply thighs and all, I am a masterpiece of his design, beautiful in the eyes of my creator. He's called me by new names. To him, I am Beloved. To him, I am Delightful. To him, I am Wonderful.
And so, dear reader, are you.
For everything God created is good. -1 Timothy 4:4
Points to Ponder
1. Powerhouse or Powder Puff? Describe your experience as a "student athlete." What do you remember about gym or physical education classes?
2. Have you ever been called a name? What did the experience teach you? Have you forgiven the name-caller? If not, when will you let it go?
3. God loves you and he delights in you, according to Zephaniah 3:17: "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." Which truth from this verse is most meaningful to you today?
Excerpted from When Did My Life Become a Game of Twister? by Mary Pierce Copyright © 2007 by Mary Pierce. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted November 18, 2007
Mary Pierce's ability to simultaneously set the spirit laughing and the soul digging deep makes this book both fun and important. Who can't identify with feeling twisted in knots by life's concerns--if not every day, then certainly for phases or seasons? Mary's hard-won insights offer a helping hand for detangling, destressing, and delighting.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2011
No text was provided for this review.