I sure hope this post isn’t depressing. I don’t mean for it to be.
Maybe it’s because my daughter and I just celebrated our birthdays and both of us are noticing changes in our physical selves. Maybe it’s because I always miss my mother during birthday celebrations. Or maybe it’s because I have a couple of dear friends who are both dealing with life-threatening illnesses right now. Whatever it is, I was inspired today by this column from The Bahamas Weekly.
In it, the author asks the question: “Would you feel differently about your body if you knew its shelf life?”
It’s a scary thought, and one that I don’t often dwell on. But I also know it’s true: A healthy tomorrow isn’t a sure thing for any of us.
We can do our best to make good choices about what we eat and how we move. We can try to avoid things that science has proven are bad for us. We can plan and dream and wish and check things off our endless to-do lists, but in the end?
There are simply no guarantees.
Many women have had the experience of seeing an old photograph taken at a time when we were full of insecurity, self-doubt and maybe even self-loathing. I know I have. I remember the feelings vividly, but when I look at the photograph today, those old feelings don’t match what I now see in the picture.
I wasn’t half-bad. Heck, I dare say I was kind of cute. So what was my problem?
My problem, I think, is that I just didn’t stop to look at myself — really look at myself — and be mindful of what I saw. Instead of seeing the positive, I only saw what I thought needed improvement. My body was a project with no completion date — something I worked constantly to improve.
I was never finished.
But someday my life will be finished. And I don’t want to regret the time I spent obsessing over what wasn’t right.
Think about it: What if you knew the day your body would exist no more? Would you spend the remaining time you had inside a gym, trying to shave an inch or two off your thighs so that you could be happier? Or would you take a walk in the sunshine simply because it felt good? Would you stare into the mirror at the beginning of fine lines around your eyes? Or would you be grateful for another healthy day?
As a person who thrives on setting goals and meeting deadlines, I struggle most with being in the moment. Enjoying what’s happening and who I’m with right now, instead of thinking “what do I have to do next?” That drive helps me get a lot done. But there’s a lot that I miss, too.
Right now, sunshine is streaming in my office window and my golden retriever is laying on the floor. The sun is illuminating every bit of dog hair on the floor — trust me, there’s a lot — and I had the fleeting thought that I should get up and get the broom.
But he’s on his back and he’s snoring really loudly, which has me laughing. And if I make a move for the broom, I know he’ll wake up and I’ll lose this moment. So I’m going to stay here, in this imperfect dog hair-covered place, and just enjoy.
Dara Chadwick is the author of “You’d Be So Pretty If…: Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies – Even When We Don’t Love Our Own. She has been interviewed on NBC’s TODAY Show , as well as on a variety of radio and television programs. A former Weight-Loss Diary columnist for Shape magazine, Dara has written about health, wellness and parenting for magazines such as Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Better Homes & Gardens, VIV, For Me, Shape, Parenting and Working Mother. Her work has also appeared online at sites such as The Daily Beast and Psychology Today You can learn more about her at DaraChadwick.com.