Dear Mountain Mama,
Longer days and warmer temperatures mean that summer is just around the corner. Summer is absolutely my favorite time of year except for one small thing – bathing suits. While I love the feeling of paddling bare-armed or soaking up sun along the river’s edge, just the thought of putting on a bikini fills me with dread. So much so that it’s tempting to stay covered up all summer long.
Dear Bikini Fearing,
When we expose ourselves after a winter of jeans and sweaters, it can be scary. Our eyes seem to almost search for every dimple, lump, wrinkle, and sag. And what we look for, of course we find.
If the body image ideal we hold most sacred is that of a taunt teenager, we will inevitably be left disappointed. We do not have the ability to turn back the years before gravity, babies, and long stints in the office took their toll.
The choice we do have is how we define the ideal body. We can look in the mirror and be disgusted by the cellulite that’s taken permanent residence on our upper thighs. Or, if we squint, perhaps we can see those same dimples as the mirror reflection of the gentle slopes of a mountain ridge we hold dear. I’ve started telling myself that I have my very view of the Blue Ridge etched onto my body, as if a tattoo artist had inked it there.
And when I look at my rounded, soft stomach, I think of the gentle start it provided to my son’s life. I see gratitude in the curves, for nurturing and housing my little boy when he was becoming ready for this wonderful world.
Every time I catch myself lamenting my “thick” or “big” legs, I remind myself how many hundreds of miles those legs have carried me. I think of how capable they’ve been in carrying me and a pack on some of the Great Walks in New Zealand. Or I think of how they pedaled my bike across the state of Wisconsin one summer.
Even my stretch marks look beautiful these days. They remind me of the waves of the Atlantic that I so long to see every year around this time. My stretch marks are exactly the same shape as the ripples that fade into the horizon as I sit on the beach watching the last of the pastel-streaked sky on the long, lazy evenings of cherished family vacation.
Bikini Fearing, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to see cellulite or mountain ridges, whether you want to see stretch marks or ocean waves. Look for the gratitude, and you’re sure to find it.
Here’s to lathering up and soaking up the rays!