arent-we-beautiful

Aren’t We Beautiful?

Amy Challenger honestly

Imagine staring down inside your body with God eyes. You could perceive every shift of blood and thought, each movement of bone and muscle. You could see your brain changing, your soul evolving, your heart beating as you move along your journey.

If you had God eyes, you could watch the ground, the country, the world all around you. It would be teeming with microbes, insects, green life shooting upward, people, animals and water moving everywhere. You could watch the air you breathe shifting, the clouds whirling by, the people around you touching one another.

Even now, you’re changing. As you read my words, your body becomes one second further on in your life. In my imagination, this picture of change looks spectacular.

“I wish you’d never grow up,” I remember my dad saying. My mom says that I skipped or ran everywhere. I wanted to speed on to the next grade, to high-heeled shoes, makeup and boyfriends. I wanted to keep leaping to a degree, a design job, to awards, to dating, to love. “What’s next?” could have been my slogan. Sometimes I lived life so hard and fast, that it seemed I forgot to revel at the little gems of time coming and going: the creamy colors of my apartment in Chicago as the sun set in the evening; the scent of grilled food filling the air as I chattered with my friend, Claudine, at my favorite restaurant, Q, in San Francisco; the sound of the waves soothing me as I ran along the shores of Baker Beach. Tiny, gorgeous transformations were quietly happening while I whipped on to the next big thing.

But after I married and became pregnant, something changed – it was like a massive gate was erected before my life. The gate was plastered with images of perfect, age-defying moms with fabulous bodies who worked and stayed at home all at the same time. A sign hanging from the gate read, “Don’t change!”

Though over the course of three years, my uterus would house three new wildly changing life-forms; I believed that I must stay thin and toned and tight before, during and after all three pregnancies. I should plan to work the same job, jog the same morning route after sipping the same quiet cup of coffee. I should behave just as sexy and nice as ever to my husband at the end of the day. Though hormones would change my mood and hair and sleep patterns; though babies (one requiring open-heart surgery and years of care and therapy) would twist and flip my world upside down; I thought I should do everything possible to stop changing.

You can guess how things went. I changed – anyway.

After the babies came, I had to respond to the needs of my new family. I was forced to become a new person almost weekly. I still ran, but at a different time, with a double stroller. I still drank coffee, but never alone. I did not sleep much. I did not always act nice, but I learned how to apologize, to ask for help, to share my struggles, to accept love from a husband willing to change beside me. I stopped my design career, and eventually I started writing.

And now, three babies and 11 years later, I’ve reached my late 40s. But the darn gate has returned and GROWN. It still demands that time hold still. “You must not age!” screeches the lying thing. According to western beliefs, my skin, breasts, thighs, hips, eyes, hair and tummy need to stop living, stop proving that I’m human. Peel off, dye, paint, smooth over the years that line my skin, my hair, my hands. Straighten up the bones that have stories to tell. Plump up the breasts that fed three humans. Pull in the butt that sat there nursing, rocking, holding children, driving to hospitals.

But finally, I can say no. It’s time to open the gate. It’s time to live.

I want to work harder at falling in love with the proof of change, of life. I want to walk, run, rest and write through the gate of aging, of living. Sure, I’ll keep exercising, running and eating well, but I will move with my life instead of against it.

We can’t be God, but it seems that every day we’re given an opportunity to try to see like him. We can watch and revel in the incredible, changing landscapes of our lives as women – aren’t we beautiful? When I look at my mom, I see a gorgeous testament to her days on earth. Her eyes radiate with memories and love for her family. Her hands are warm, and when they hold mine, they’re mighty. Her voice is like no other. It travels from her home in North Carolina to mine in Switzerland, and it transforms me.

Maybe stillness is death. And perhaps every minute of change, whether in the form of a tiny wrinkle, a new risk, the beginning of a relationship, the end of one, a birth, or even a death – every new change is part of a great story. This story is beautiful. It is huge. It is life.


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Amy Aves Challenger is a writer and artist focusing on topics relating to the marginalized, families and children. She has been published regularly in The Huffington Post and also in The Washington Post, Mamalode.com, and Brain, Child Magazine. Her poems and a short story will be published in an upcoming anthology by Kind of A Hurricane Press. Amy lives in Fairfield, CT where she runs a support group for special needs mothers and also leads a writing workshop. She is writing her first novel about a child with special needs. Her poetry can be read daily on twitter @amychallenger.