The Grace of Yes Book Club, Chapter 6: The Grace of Vulnerability

IMG_0320Welcome back to our weekly look at The Grace of Yes, Lisa Hendey’s terrific book that guides us to a greater love for God and a deeper “yes!” to His plans for our lives. You can see past discussions from this blog by clicking this link, and I highly recommend all the posts at CatholicMom.com, as well.

 

Lisa talks a bit about getting older, which is something that is hitting me right between the eyes lately. It’s not just the gray hairs that are popping up all over my head (though I prefer to call them “natural platinum highlights”), it’s not the wrinkles around my eyes, or the fact that my skin is losing its collagen and seems thinner all the time. It tends to be in moments when I look at my daughters and realize that this isn’t them any more:

Our Family in 2003

At this point, I’d only lost a few pounds

And that they look like this instead:

IMG_3099.JPG

Just Us Girls (2014)

 

When did my two babies turn into young women? It’s like I blinked and they went from baby dolls and stuffed toys to iPods and studying for driver’s tests!

But Lisa mentions aging gracefully, and that’s something I can really get into. As I get older, I realize that I can’t pretend I’m still in my 20s or 30s. I can’t dress like a teenager any more — or at least I shouldn’t try to dress like a teenager any more! The phrase “act your age” pops into my head often, and I really do try to do that. I’m dressing differently now, putting aside the T-shirts for other options, wearing sneakers less often and opting for dress shoes, not buying all the Doctor Who and Firefly T-shirts for myself. (I can live vicariously through my girls on that one!)

And I try to act differently, too. I realize now that I’m a (eek!) role model for my daughters’ peers. And I’ve realized something new in the last few months: I’m even a bit of a role model for other mothers with younger children.

I went to our homeschool co-op and was looking around at the other moms there. There are several new mothers to the group, and many of them have elementary- and preschool-aged children. I realized that I was the mother of an 8th grader and an 11th grader, and these mothers were on the beginning of a journey that I’ve been on for 12 years now! I’m not just the mom who’s still learning from my friends who have graduated their older kids from their home schools, but I’m also the mom who has sound advice about what worked for me when my kids were little girls. I’m one of the experienced mothers! It was a bit of a shock for me to think of it that way, but I’m doing my best to live up to the role I’m in now.

Let’s have a look at one of the end-of-chapter questions:

° How do you feel about the prospect of aging?

It’s really interesting how the way I view myself has changed in the last year. In January, I was struggling to count points with Weight Watchers and lose some weight that I was unhappy about. It wasn’t working, and I was depressed about it. I switched to the Power Foods plan, which worked better for me, but I was still slow in losing the weight, which had come off so easily 11 years ago when I first lost my post-baby weight. By the end of May, I reluctantly decided to start Couch to 5K, and I wound up losing size, but not weight. (Two jeans sizes, people!)

But what really changed me was The Venus Project. I wrote in June about how my self-image was forever changed by this project:

What really makes the impact is that the art and the Photoshop are shown side-by-side.

If you only saw the image on the right, you might not think about how thin she is. After all, this is what we see all day, every day, in every magazine and catalog in America. My Old Navy emails are filled with stick-thin girls who look like they haven’t eaten in a week. Their website had this little piece of information in with the measurements for a dress I was buying:

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 8.19.47 AM

You see that? 5’9″, wears a size 4. My 15 year-old daughter, who is 5’2″, wears a size 4. And yet this has been the standard of beauty my entire life! It’s the kind of thing you don’t even realize that you’ve absorbed at all.

And yet, at the same time, I never would look at the woman on the left here…

…and think she was fat. I just wouldn’t.

But you know what? The women on the left – the original women in all of those beautiful Venus paintings – look like me.

That was a revelation to me. Something inside me shifted when I realized that. When I looked at these women who were held up as the pinnacle of loveliness, and then I look at myself, I suddenly understand that I am not fat. My husband is not saying I’m beautiful because he’s contractually obliged or because he has no choice.

Now, when I see my body and how it’s changed over the last 21 years, I don’t hate it. I see that I’m different, but not worse. I’m heavier, but since I’ve been running, I’m healthier at the same time. I don’t look like I did when I got married at 23, but I shouldn’t! I’m nearly 45 now, and I look like a healthy 45 year-old woman.

I’m starting to see me for who I really am, and that’s a real gift and a blessing.