Last week, I faced the unpleasant task of shopping for a new bathing suit. It’s been a couple years since I bought a new one and my body has changed quite a bit since then. I didn’t expect it to be a fun shopping trip, but I knew I wanted a simple tankini and thought it would be fairly easy to find. Boy, was I wrong. The first afternoon, I went to JC Penny’s, Macy’s and Kohls with no luck. The second day, I hit TJ Maxx, Target and Ross with no success and some serious frustration. Sure, I was finding suits and trying them on but everything was either too small or too big. It felt like a suit was created for either a skinny teenager or a woman trying to hide her body. A size 8 in one brand was definitely not a size 8 in a different brand. Like most women I know, I’m a different size on top than bottom, so all of the suits sold as a pair were a no go. By the third day, I had given up but figured I’d make one more stop on my way home from work. I hit the jackpot at REI and found what I was looking for. I even had multiple choices! Granted, I paid almost three times what I thought I would, but I didn’t even hesitate. I wore the suit a few days later on my anniversary trip to a hot spring and was very pleased with it.
After that second disappointing shopping trip, I voiced my frustration on FaceBook with a funny status update. My incredible women friends responded with gusto. Many of them related to my experience, and they made me laugh but also reminded me that I’m my harshest critic and that instead of being so hard on how my body looks, I should instead be reminding myself of how many amazing things it allows me to do.
Before observing it in terrible mirrors under harsh department store lighting, I had in fact been appreciating my body lately. Just a few years ago, I was dealing with symptoms and diagnoses that led me to believe my body was quitting on me. After years of bouncing from one specialist to another, and receiving a series of incorrect diagnoses, each of which came with ineffective medications and a bunch of unpleasant side effects, I had in fact given up on ever feeling “normal” again and had resigned myself to a life of chronic discomfort and physical limitations.
It was about a year ago that a wise woman who provides me with guidance suggested I start looking for ways to enrich my life, to focus on making myself happy. “What’s on your bucket list?” she asked. “Give some of those things a try”. And that’s how, a few months later, I found myself joining a roller derby team. I figured that if my body was going to be sore for no reason, I might as well give it a reason.
It’s been a long haul but joining derby is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. There are often times when I’m in the middle of a drill, skating as hard as I can and in my head I’m screaming “I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M DOING THIS!”. And oddly enough, the more active I am the less my body hurts from my health issues. I’m doing things in practice every week that I literally thought I would never be able to do physically. I constantly amaze myself. I wonder why it’s so easy to forget all that when I’m closed in a tiny fitting room struggling into a polka dot bikini in the middle of winter.