Like the majority of American women out there, I’ve got a few body issues. It’s not like I wander around in a state of constant physical self-loathing, and there are plenty of things I really like about the way I look, but there are also a few key things I’m not wild about, particularly as middle age sets in. I’m not going to name them here because I don’t want to dignify them that way; see, on a rational level I KNOW this is all very dumb, and most of the time I can just laugh at my insecurities and move on.
Then, other times, I can’t.
The sad thing is that this is not unique to me. Take a look at this article and you’ll see that women all over the world struggle to feel good about their bodies (though not as many in South Africa as in the other nations in the study. What’s their secret?).
Anyhow, I say all of this because as I sat at the vigil Mass last night for the Feast of the Assumption — the day when we celebrate how Mary was assumed into heaven — it occurred to me that there was something about this feast day that I had never noticed before.
I realized that it was a feast day where we celebrate a woman’s body.
And I like that. Even more: I need that.
I need the reminder that a woman’s body is worthy of respect and honor.
I need a chance to think about how my own body, this house for my soul, is something that does great things. It walks and talks and touches and sees and smells and tastes and hears, processes that are amazing marvels when you really stop to think about them.
I need to honor the fact that this body has known pleasure and has known pain. It has needed surgery and medication and yet it keeps on ticking. It engages with creation every day in ways I usually take for granted, even though I shouldn’t.
I want to honor the fact that this body has held four little lives inside it. I mourn the two who were lost before they could be born, and yet I am forever grateful for the two who grew to term, two boys who happened to be sitting on either side of me during Mass as these thoughts washed over me.
I need to think about how my body holds a record of my forty-four years on this earth. It’s there in the wrinkles, the gray hair, the random scars. They all tell a story; my story. I wouldn’t change that story for anything.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to think all of this during Mass. I had gone because it was a Holy Day of Obligation, and I’m that kind of girl. I didn’t expect to be sitting in the pew suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude that my faith has a day where we honor the body of a woman who was well past middle age.
But it does. I love that it does.
And maybe this day is an invitation to me — and to you too, sister — to do the same.