This post is inspired by my first yoga teacher, D'ana Baptiste, who also owns Centered City Yoga. She is powerful and graceful and has worked tirelessly to bring yoga to people who need it including public school teachers. She is also a single mother of three boys. In the last year or so I've noticed her being incredibly honest about what it means to be a woman aging or perhaps gaining weight in the public eye. And then this photo showed up in my Facebook feed.
Beautiful, ageless Dana wearing scroungy clothes, sunglasses, and a hospital mask on her head, trying to cheer up her ex-girlfriend who was in a Mexican hospital recovering from pneumonia and knee surgery. When I saw that photo I felt something shift inside of me. There I was at work where I had already consumed an entire bag of chocolate at 9 am because being in a room full of needy kids everyday is jarring on the nerves, And on top of the chocolate were the thoughts of guilt about my diet. And how I am too tired to work out as much as I want to. And wondering when will I lose the five pounds I've gained this year. And while I'm thinking, I can feel my forehead furrowing and the wrinkles forming. And all of that gets interrupted by this picture of someone showing up in the world in the best way they can, trying to do a little good and not let their ego get in the way of that.
It made me think of that beautiful Mary Oliver quote (which I first heard from D'ana) "you do not need to be good" (you could also insert skinny / ageless / perfect). You do not need to be good, but whatever you do, do not stop showing up as yourself. The world needs the gifts that only you can offer and those gifts have nothing to do with the size of your thighs or the smoothness of your face.
If you look at my forehead you will see the beginnings of my wrinkles.
Sometimes they show up more than others.
Please don't start telling me how to get rid of my them.
That will be a never-ending battle I'm not up for fighting.
I'd rather spend my life energy in other ways.
I am so grateful for those women who were born before me who continually redirect me to what matters. It is easy to get confused. It is easy to start believing the lies that we are not worthy of love and belonging because we are not perfect in some way. It is tempting to start pouring our life energy into juice fasts or plastic surgery or hiding ourselves because we are embarrassed about how we look. But the trouble with that is it becomes a struggle for belonging based entirely on control. And what happens on the day that you can't keep up the diet or your stress gets the better of you? You start to feel like you are less worthy of love and happiness. You start to lose your confidence which is directly related to your empowerment. True confidence comes from within and can go with us wherever we go. It is our birthright as human beings. And when we are truly confident we can begin the light we were born to share shine into this world.
Today is my mom's 64th birthday. She is a woman who has truly spent every second of her life trying to make the world a better place and help as many people as she can. (Those of you who know her can attest to this.) When I was younger I used to wonder why my mom didn't get facials or have her nails done. And I think the answer is this: life is short. We have a limited amount of time and energy and every day we get to decide how we use it. My mom decides to use her time building people up, empowering her fourth graders, helping give welfare to people in her church, creating happy memories for her grandchildren, planting flowers, making my father laugh.
Before my mom and I had lunch today, she said a quick word of grace. "Thank you that Celeste came to visit me. Thank you that I got to live 64 years. I am so lucky." Then her students came in and she played the Beatles' song "When I'm 64" while I had the kids make cards for her. Their cards said it all. "Thank you for teaching me." "Your smile makes me want to learn and work hard." "I love you because you are so fun and you are nice when I miss a problem on my homework." Here is a glimpse of what really matters and what we leave behind when our time runs out.
Happy birthday, Mom! Here's to growing older and bringing our whole selves- wrinkles, courage, cellulite, smiles, tears, kindness, acne, truth and authenticity to the party!