Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 60: Squishy in the Middle

There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when my abs were tight, you could bounce a quarter off my butt, and nothing jiggled when I walked. There was a time...

But two kids (and no time for the work outs I love) later, things are a little, uh, squishier than they used to be. Now my abs, if I still get to call them that, are soft, my butt a little curvier, and let's just say I'm no stranger to jiggling parts.

My formerly hard exterior used to be matched by an equally hard interior. A list of words never used to describe me: approachable, soft, sensitive, humble, gentle, open, tolerant... Not that I didn't have any of these qualities within me, they just never got out to see the light of day.

I was more invested in protecting myself and keeping a safe distance from any sign of weakness or vulnerability than I was in cultivating relationships or nurturing the people around me. I mistakenly built this wall of protection with no doors or windows, which left me safe from intruders, but unable to enjoy the company of invited guests and unable to let even a glimpse of certain parts of me out.

The moment Jackson's wet, wriggly body landed on my chest for the first time, all that changed.

Suddenly there was someone who needed me to be all those things I had locked away, and that trumped my need for self-protection. I found out that hard interior was incompatible with mothering. Little did I know, it had been incompatible with marriage all along, but my baby was a little less patient than my husband!

All the things I wanted to give Jackson required me to dismantle that wall. And fortunately for me, falling in love with him made the process much easier as he painlessly melted much of it away.

And today, as I was approached by someone in the mall for the umpteenth time with questions about my children, my baby carrier, and any number of other things, I stopped to reflect on how nice it feels to have a squishy middle - one that's obvious enough for a stranger to see.

The list of words never used to describe me would now be the ones to pop into some minds. And if they're not the first to come up, at least they make the cut for most people. No longer is that a list of things I fear or conceal. In fact, that same list can now be renamed qualities I'm proud to reveal and develop.

I'll always be intense; I'll always be strong and passionate. But as my children are teaching me to balance those qualities with soft, open and gentle, I and the people I love, even those I barely know, can experience them in a much more positive way.

I'm still learning to accept and love my new, softer body for what it has created; how it has grown, birthed and fed two children for two years and counting. But I don't have to work hard to appreciate the other squishy middle my children are giving me.

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