If I’m being really honest, I did not expect things to look this way.
I’ve always had trouble with setting my expectations to reality. When I got married, I expected that I would always cook, clean, do the laundry. I would work, but then we’d have kids by 25 and I’d probably stay home. It was his job to drive the car, take out the trash, have the ‘big’ money-making job, and make career decisions. For the most part, this is what the culture I grew up around modeled for me, so it was what made sense when we got married at 22.
While cooking has (mostly) stayed in my wheelhouse, I’m really not great at cleaning or laundry. I prefer to drive, and I take out the trash the most. We’ve traded places a couple of times on who has the bigger paycheck. And 25 came and went, and we still didn’t want kids yet, so I thought 30 would be the year. And then 30 came a lot faster than I thought it would.
I thought that after college, after nursing school, jobs would be easy and money would be… there? Always plentiful? I thought I would stay in my lane and my chosen career. Then there was a health scare coupled with some unfulfilling jobs which sent me to counseling, finally giving me language to articulate the anxiety I had felt since elementary school, but was never able to pinpoint.
I never expected that it would be my job, my decision to go to graduate school, my choice to put career first, that would cause us to sell our house, pack up our lives and cats and move 7 hours to the east. I never thought I would leave my home state, start a business, or love a big city so much. I expected to stay the same, and that staying the same would make me happy.
I expected jobs to be waiting for me with open arms after graduate school (they weren’t, but time probably went by faster than it felt). I expected after the shock of graduate school wearing off, I would be eager to read novels and be creative in ways I had been putting off for 3 years, when in reality I just wanted to sleep and watch television.
One of the bigger departures from reality vs. expectations was the way my body changed. I expected my body to stay the same. The same as...before? The same, in a smaller body? The same as when I was 16, in high school, playing 3 varsity sports and getting all my meals cooked for me? Or the same as when I was 19, starving myself and over exercising, trying to numb the pain of a hurtful relationship? Or the same as when I was 23, getting married after months of dieting to fit into my wedding dress? The same, even though my life, values, schedule and stress levels were all different?
I expected my body would stay the same: Not gain weight. Not develop curves. Or cellulite. Or stretch marks. Or weird colors, pains, or aches. I didn’t realize that a certain size expectation, I would have to let go. And that I needed to understand the normal body changes that happen to all women (pre-puberty, puberty, pregnancy, post-pregnancy, menopause, maybe more? Or heck, just turning late 20s-into-30s) and I’ve only experienced a few of them.
It’s hard to let go of a body size that doesn’t serve you anymore. It can feel like you’re “letting yourself go”, when in reality, maybe you’re just letting go of the unrealistic body standards that our thin-obsessed society puts on humans, especially on females. Maybe instead of letting yourself go, you’re letting yourself live. You’re accepting yourself. It takes courage and is countercultural to accept your body as good and worthy without putting it through restriction or deprivation. To acknowledge that your body can be healthy and is worthy of respect, regardless of size.
It can be difficult to accept your body. In this space, I try promote health through kindness, and kindness usually doesn’t look like restriction, or dieting, or over exercising, or not sleeping enough. But acceptance is hard. Because after time, when we start to develop a healthy relationship with food, practice good self-care, get plenty of sleep, have basic health practices in place, and you don’t get achieve weight or the body size you wished for, then some acceptance has to happen. It doesn’t have to be love. You don’t even have to like it. But accepting your body is a good first step.
(for some art related to this topic, see this brilliant post, by Immaeatthat)