A few years after I graduated college is when my mom died. It felt like my body had run out of electricity. The entire world didn’t have color anymore. I quit dancing. My boyfriend of three years broke up with me. My grieving made me unlovable. I developed OCD and had panic attacks where my brain was convinced I was dying. I couldn’t fall asleep. My psychiatrist slut shamed me for not being able to remember the names of the many guys I dated. I restricted more calories than ever before. I isolated myself from my friends and family so I didn’t have to burden them with the byproducts of my grief. I became better at lying each time they’d ask me the hardest question of all, “How are you doing?”
The twisted thing about grief is that she never quite leaves you. She breaks you like a glass vase thrown against a wall. She lights the broken pieces of you on fire and pounds your unrecognizable bits into the ground. But she stays there on the ground with you when she’s done. She waits and waits for you to put your pieces back into a shape only barely passing for your old self and then, miraculously, acts as a kind of glue to keep you all together.
My grief changed me forever. She simultaneously is the heaviest and lightest thing I have ever carried. Today, I cannot imagine myself without her. Although I wish, desperately, that nobody on earth would ever have to feel the pain of losing their mother ever again for the rest of human history, the loss shifted my perspective about not only myself and my body, but everyone’s bodies in a big way. It took years after we lost mom, but, get this, I love myself now. If mom were here today, I’d tell her she walked so I could run. My body is worthy because her body was worthy, as is every single person’s body that ever was. Every single day I live in this body and thrive is for her. I'm a big girl, I always was, and I always will be. I'm so proud of this big fat body. I will shout about my love for this vessel no matter how it changes (and it will), because every corner of it is dazzling no matter what the fuck it looks like. Why? Because I am alive.
I’ve never been happier than I am now that I can look in the mirror and love what I see. I am so beautiful. It’s sometimes overwhelming how powerful and gorgeous I feel. It hasn’t been easy to get here, and fighting diet culture is a job I’ll dutifully have to perform, on purpose, aggressively, for the rest of my life. But I am glad to no longer question that the rest of my life should be a pretty long time. There are days, of course, when my guards are down and an Instagram ad for appetite suppressing lollipops breaks me for a second. Or days like today, as I sit here and write this on Mother’s Day and I’m feeling low, so it crosses my mind to restrict calories to make myself feel better, more in control of an outcome. But luckily, these days those fleeting thoughts are just that - fleeting. Shooting stars in a vast sky full of significantly more incredible, stable burning balls of light. And me? I’m the sun.
And dance? It’s actually my weapon against body hatred. Not just for myself, either. I teach dance now! I know, I can’t believe it either. My dancers won’t hear me tell them to lose weight. Not even to fit into a costume. Not implicitly, not explicitly, not ever. I try to create a room where we can move and celebrate our bodies, and where there isn’t a hierarchy based on who has had the most ballet training. Whether the kids in my class continue on to become professional dancers or not, if they leave my class feeling better and not worse about themselves, I have done my job. I don’t care if they can do a quadruple pirouette. I want them to do a quadruple-take at themselves when they see how stunning they are inside and out. Therein lies the change I want to see in the world. The revolution against diet culture is achieved through just a few tiny paradigm shifts in the minds of teenagers each day.
There's tons of women, tons of people, who at this moment are sitting in their corner of the world and not doing the things they love because they think they're too this, too that, too big, too short, whatever. Life is literally, and not figuratively, too short to not do what you want, and to not believe that you’re fabulous. If there's anything I know for sure it's that the good times don't last forever, but the bad times don’t last forever either. You’ll lose and gain people and weight in your life. If there’s anything that I know for sure remains constant, it’s the fact that you’re beautiful no matter what happens. You. I mean you. This is the objective truth. Every single body is a good body, but especially yours.
We are all works of art. What they told us before, about needing to look a certain way to be beautiful? Respected? Employed? Honored? Loved? About what carbs to cut to turn our trash bodies into a pile of jewels? It was all make-believe. We’ve always been the pile of jewels in the first place.