Earlier in the year I wrote about my goals for the year ahead. I told you about my moves away from consumerism (that’s going well, BTW), my need to work in a more focused way (a work in progress, which is code for I’m still a bit hopeless) and that I want to take more time to relax and recharge (also going well, happy days!).
Looking back, I missed a pretty important goal. One that really should have been top of the list. Being kind to myself.
It sounds very new age cliche, and can feel at odds with my goal based approach to life. How can I achieve any goals without beating myself up occasionally? Because that’s what I do. I use myself as an emotional punching bag. I am my own worst critic. I am unfailingly harsh on myself, holding myself responsible for anything and everything that takes my fancy.
Kids crying? My fault: I spent too much time at the office when they were young and scarred them for life.
Husband grumpy? My fault: not enough sex.
Cake didn’t rise? My fault: I didn’t pray hard enough to the baking gods.
I know I’m not alone in this. It goes hand in hand with mother’s guilt and 3am self-flagellation sessions. Rationally, I know I can’t own everything that life throws at me. But I can give it a damn good try!
The worst is being less than kind to my body. My body who has seen me through 48 years with barely a blip of ill health. My body who has given me two great kids, which we hardly had to try for. My body who has powered me through some pretty tough days but seems to be getting stronger as I get older, rather than the other way around.
And yet I’m SO MEAN to her. I dislike her wobbly thighs and too big bottom. I hate that her stomach is soft and squishy (a result of the two great kids). I quite like her small breasts, that have stayed where they were pre-children. I don’t like that she’s heavier than she used to be, and she can’t seem to shift that few extra kilos no matter how hard we try.
Basically, I resent that she’s not about 20cm taller, 10kg lighter, and possibly 15 years younger. Aside from the life lived and experiences had, I wouldn’t want to give those up.
Somehow I’ve made it to middle age without being able to accept that this is the body I have. I still hold onto this belief that if I work out enough I might grow thinner, taller and younger. Although last time I looked, there was no body-stretching time machine at the gym.
My epiphany came when I was sitting on a plane, running out of movies to watch, when I stumbled across a documentary called Embrace. Presented and produced by Taryn Brumfitt, she gained worldwide fame by posting reverse before and after photo, showing her naked body in all it’s soft, feminine, natural glory.
Her movie focuses on the pressure we and society put on ourselves to fit a specific, size 10, mold. And it resonated with me (the Embrace trailer is at the bottom of the page).
So yesterday, I quit my gym membership. I’ve taken up yoga, which I’m doing 2 days a week. I’m making time to walk with friends at least twice a week. I’m meditating every day, and on a really good day, I’m meditating while walking (without friends this time, I’m not Superwoman).
I’m trying to relax about the food that I eat, focusing on eating food that is healthy and balanced without being obsessively so. Treating myself to occasional meals out, chocolate and red wine without beating myself up about the potential impact on the mass of my thighs.
I’ve stopped trying to change my body. Which doesn’t mean I’ve given up, just that I’m being active in a way that will keep me strong in mind and body. Active in a way that is more gentle, more kind and more accepting of the body I have.
She’s a good body. It’s time to be more kind to her and me.
VIETNAMESE PRAWN AND GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
This is a delicious, light salad, full of flavour from the herbs, and a bit of heat from the chilli. Be careful of the kind of chillies you use – I chose some very hot ones recently, which made the salad almost inedible! Not my finest hour…
1 green papaya
250g cooked prawns, peeled, centre vein removed
1/2 telegraph cucumber
3 spring onions
Large bunch coriander, thai basil and vietnamese mint
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
1 long red chilli
Nuoc Mam Cham (dipping sauce/dressing)
(with thanks to Luke Nguyen)
3 Tbsp fish sauce
3 Tbsp white vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic
1 long red chilli
2 Tbsp lime juice
- For the Nuoc Mam Cham, combine fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and water in a small saucepan, stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to just below boiling. Remove from heat.
- Finely chop the garlic, and finely slice the chilli. Stir into the sauce along with the lime juice, and refrigerate until required (will keep refrigerated for a month)
- To make the salad, peel and deseed the papaya. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, cut the papaya flesh into julienne strips.
- In a large bowl, toss the papaya and prawns with some of the dressing.
- Arrange on a platter and top with fresh herbs, and finely sliced chilli and spring onions. Sprinkle over chopped peanuts and serve.