We live in a culture that is obsessed with physical appearance. At the gym, individuals spend hours cultivating the most appealing physique based on how flat their stomach is or how sculpted their arms may be. Others spend time fretting over the number on the scale or the size of their jeans, using that to determine the beauty of their own body. But it is not in these appeasing physical attributes that the true beauty of our physical being lies. It is in the story that our bodies tell through our imperfections or what we see as flaws. Each of us has a unique story, moments and experiences that are ours and ours alone, and it is in our scars, our stretch marks, and our wrinkles that our story is told. Every moment and every experience we have ever had in this lifetime is held within our body, whether we cognitively remember them or not. Each imperfection is a pinpoint or star along our roadmap, telling the journey of our past until the last breath we take on this earth.
I have recently shared that due to a leg length discrepancy, likely a physical characteristic I was born with, I have developed a slight curve that dances it’s way like a serpent up my spine. This nonstructural, sometimes referred to as functional, scoliosis tells the story of 3 years filled with tears and frustration, while I worked with provider after provider to figure out what was wrong with me. But outside of the pain experienced during that period of time, that part of my journey taught me how to be my own advocate, to be strong when providers, who obviously had much more education than I have ever obtained, were telling me what I should do when intuitively I knew it wasn’t the best choice for myself. Those 3 years enhanced my own education of the human body, increased my self-awareness, and taught me to trust myself. Whenever I get a glimpse of that serpent winding it’s way up my spine, I am reminded of these lessons from my own personal story.
My partner, T has multiple scars that tell the story of a boy who grew up in a household with 3 rough and tumble brothers. These scars that look as though a spider danced along his skin with its silky web, enclosing the gash that once was there, tell the story of the time in which T took a bat to the face playing baseball, or the time in which he was running away from his older brother only to fall and hit his head on raised cement. Although I often question how these 4 boys survived what sounds like battles to the death, T’s scars tell a story of a sometimes chaotic, and often crazy household filled with a family that fiercely loved one another. That household made T the man that he is today, the man that I love so dearly. Every time I run my fingers over each one of those scars, I am so thankful they are part of his story.
In the last few years my grandmother has grown frail, as the human body tends to do as it ages. Each time I see her, her hair appears a bit whiter, her skin seems to have a few more wrinkles, and she shuffles a bit more slowly to get from one spot to the next as though her body is weary and tired. But despite these changes that come along with age, in looking at my grandmother I can see the beautiful, sometimes challenging, life she has lived. Even today, her body displays a sense of authority that tells the story of a woman that dedicated her life to teaching, and in the process became one of the first female principals in the state of Maine. As she flies through her Sudoku books, you can see the strength and elegance in her weathered hands that once carried pails of cow’s milk across the farm, and wrote handwritten notes every year to each one of her grandchildren. The wrinkles that have formed around her eyes tell a story of a woman that has laughed with each of her children, that has excitedly described her extensive travels to her friends, and that had the ability to give the meanest stink eye to even the worst of her students. Although dementia has cruelly robbed my grandmother of many of her memories, her story still lies within these parts of her body, these imperfections.
Each one of your experiences is like a tattoo, permanently etched into the fibers of your physical being, and it is in those experiences that you have grown to be the person you are. These imperfections are actually the most interesting pieces of yourself- whether they are in the form of a scar from falling off your bike when your dad was teaching you to ride, or stretch marks from carrying your beautiful child around for 36-40 weeks as they grew and developed within you, or the wrinkles developed from a life filled with happiness and love. These are the things that tell your story, your journey, and that is truly the most beautiful part of you.