A letter from my mother

Dearest Kristen,

It is such a challenge to be a woman in this society– the messages of what it means to be beautiful are really opposite to what our bodies are truly like.  We are meant to be round. We are meant to have breasts that feed babies.  We are meant to have beautiful full wide hips and thighs that support them -- to work hard, to give birth.  We are strong. We are womanly and feminine --deeply, deeply feminine.  So feminine, sensuous and womanly you can feel the earth surging through your blood. Deep and rich red.

Yet -- the images we see all around us discount that. Androgyny is celebrated.  Thin, boy-like, small hipped, tiny-breasted girl-women are the models we’re supposed to copy.  That’s not us.

Shame. We are shamed for having bodies that are voluptuous or strong.

Perhaps it’s generational -- my dear Kristen. I would like to stop the shame right here.

When I was young, a child, I was always strong and rounder.  My favorite memory is running free outside in the summer Virginia heat, barefoot on the grass…But when I was nine or 10, prepubescent, I really felt it. I did not like my body…One time, my mother was sewing me a dress. I think it was the last time she ever did anything like that for me– And as I tried it on for the finishing, my arms, which have always been strong and big, didn’t fit in the sleeves. My mom said to me, very frustrated and disgusted, “Julie, I’m going to have to buy Chubby Patterns for you from now on.”  The tone of her voice and her words struck me deeply.  I remember feeling deeply ashamed. Silent.

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Then when I was a little older, in junior high I think, I overheard her on the phone saying to someone, “yes Julie’s body is developing, and it’s such a shame that she has such big hips and saddlebag thighs.” – the words again. I was mortified – and that started me on an anorexic journey for over year. I got so skinny I stopped menstruating, developed a fuzzy hair all over my body, and weighed 105. My mother finally took me to the doctor—who looked at me, held me by the shoulders and said sternly, “Julie you will never be Cheryl Tiegs. (A skinny model at that time.) You are beautiful the way you are --You need to eat.” And having someone talk to me like that, tell me I was beautiful, who talked to me like they cared, helped me change my patterns. I started eating again – yet the words I told myself didn’t change much. Words have such power.

It wasn’t until I read the Mama Gena book and took her seminar that I really embraced my femininity and womanhood. I became a “Sister Goddess” – all on my own. I didn’t love my body truly until I was in my 50’s – then I could see how beautiful my curves are, how important it is to celebrate ourselves as women... Even now as my body is beginning to age. I appreciate having this body – I am alive!

Now that I am 59 – I embrace my womanhood in a deeper way. The only other time in my life that I did so it was when I was pregnant with you and Erica. I loved being pregnant! -- I felt the earth. I felt like one of those goddess statues from caveman time – I worshiped my pregnant body and my roundness because I was giving birth to you. I regret that I didn’t worship my body more when I was younger.

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Worshipping our bodies: the main thoughts I want to share --my dear Kristen, I was there with you when you struggled. Your words strike me so deeply because I could feel your pain, how uncomfortable you were in your body then. I remember how you towered over your friends… that you were at least 12 inches taller than everybody else – and you wanted to be petite like they were. I remember telling you how beautiful you were, how tall and statuesque, how one-of-a-kind you are.  And I also know that I didn’t know how to help you. That I said the wrong things…That I’m sure I did many, many wrong things as I tried to help you; my daughter was in pain!

I’m so sorry if I gave you messages that shamed you. Or if I modeled behavior that only reinforced your own discomfort. Your teenage years were challenging indeed – the more I tried to help you, the more you pulled away.  I think I was reinforcing your feelings at that time – of discomfort in your body.  I’m so sorry dear. – I love you. 

Knowing what I know now, and feeling what I feel now – I wish I could go back in time and do things differently…   and I know we do the best we can where we are...yet that does not erase pain.

Sweetheart.  You are so, so beautiful – and such a rare spirit. You are a gift.

So Kristen, let’s change this generational shaming of our womanhood. Let’s embrace our bodies–and jump off those rocks into a lake wearing little or nothing at all. Let’s celebrate the bodies that God gave us, every cell, every curve, and every fold of our beautiful flesh. You are beautiful and strong and tall and curvy and striking and courageous. Own your beauty my dear. You are striking. You do not have to be skinny – you can choose to be so -- or not! You bring such beauty, sensuality, presence, love and heart into every situation. Love your body now. Exude self-love. You shine!

Let’s shift the shame -- Generations -- You will have a daughter someday who will be like you–strong, smart and beautiful.  And as her mother, you will teach her to love and appreciate her body -- to be brave in the world and not care what people think, because you, as her mother, are like that.

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Kristen. Courageous and honest. Your last words spoke of compassion– and the most important person to start with is you. Be compassionate towards that teenager you were. Be compassionate to the struggling young woman you were.  Know that now you will be compassionate to yourself every single day… grateful for this life…and embrace yourself, my beautiful daughter. People are saying ‘thank you’ to you for showing them the way, for being alive, for celebrating life, for simply being you.

Kristen, you inspire me. I am for you. 

Thank you -- I love you always,

Mom

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