I’m writing this post from a plane, somewhere between my connecting flight in Atlanta and the anticipated touchdown in Chicago. Besides the fact that the temperature on this plane is a few degrees below uncomfortable, I am relatively content. I am full-bellied, slightly tanned and listening to the new Ke$ha song (which is fire, by the way). I’m sipping on and savoring my fizzy, in-flight drink of choice, ginger ale. I am at peace, rested and calm.
I’m telling you this not to brag about my post-vacation glow, but rather to set the scene and provide a stark contrast against this day, one week prior. Specifically, the scene when I was packing and panicking over the usual “I have nothing to wear” dilemma, magnified by my recent discovery of a 15-pound weight gain and newfound discontentment with my body. I was preparing to go on vacation with my boyfriend’s entire extended family, the forecast including six days straight of feeling raw and exposed in a bikini in front of thirty beautiful people blessed with great genes.
So, I did what any reasonable adult would do. I freaked out, spent way too much time overthinking it, and ultimately overpacked my entire closet. What do you mean that’s not what reasonable adults do? As Pitbull would say, I got (I got, I got) options, but I didn’t feel good about any of them.
I tend to work things up in my mind – it’s just a thing I do. You have your things, I have mine. I’m an anxious person and I fear judgment way more than I should; those are (just some of) my things. As you can imagine, living with my boyfriend’s extended family in one house for a week didn’t bring out the best in these things.
Upon our arrival late Saturday night, I was reminded of the wonderful reality that his family is, in fact, comprised of human beings – imperfect, accepting, kind human beings – the best ones. We were greeted with knowing smiles and hugs (so, so many hugs), and I started to let that “I’m not good enough” guard down just a little.
The next morning, I picked a bikini from the pile of “not good enough” bikinis I overpacked, and glanced in the mirror. I did a quarter-turn and looked at my stomach, the place where abs once were. I took another quarter-turn and looked to see if my bikini bottom was covering all the junk in my trunk. I sighed. I walked downstairs, feeling a little bit defeated and a little bit, “oh, the hell with it.”
And then something very awesome and unexpected happened.
“Cute suit!” someone said.
And then a little later, another little nugget. “Haha, Madde just mentioned how strong you and I look – nobody is going to be able to mess with Tyler. He’s got us to beat ‘em up,” said another.
And then, “I was just looking around and I realized how grateful I am to be surrounded by this strong, beautiful, big booty crew.”
My guard came down, little by little, with each casual comment, until the gates were open. And let me tell you, vacation (and life) is a LOT better with the guard down, gates open. I felt free to be myself. I felt free to be in the body I have, not the body I want to have. It felt OK to be a little squishy, but also to go for a run and feel incredibly exhausted and sweaty and strong. It felt good to be in a group that looked forward to yoga by the beach just as much as a fruity drink by the pool.
It should be noted that there’s some self-confidence and body image ish that I will undoubtedly have to work through on my own; I can’t rely on others for that kind of happiness. But it is also worth noting that working through these types of deeply personal thoughts and feelings is a whole lot better when you are in a supportive environment (read as: an environment that says it’s OK to eat a slice of that key lime pie and not feel ashamed about it). As a big believer in the shine theory, a little encouragement and positivity goes a long way.
I still have goals that I want to reach and I will continue to work hard for them when vacation is over (in T-45 minutes, or whenever this plane lands), but I’m thankful for this little break and little words of reassurance that pack some serious power. I’m rested and ready to come back stronger than ever.