Unless you know me pretty well, you probably don’t know that I have scoliosis. It manifested when I was about 10, shortly after a growth spurt (which came after I started taking medication for hypothyroidism).
My scoliosis treatment was a body brace that I wore 16 hours a day, including while I slept, from about 6th grade through my sophomore year of high school. I hated it. I couldn’t bend easily at the waist. It fastened with Velcro straps that could be seen through my clothes, and sometimes it creaked with my breathing as those straps inevitably loosened a little throughout the day. At a time that is already difficult for most kids, I felt like an ultra-freak. At a time when getting a hug from a boy was like, the best thing ever, I was paranoid of what they would think if they did hug me. To say I was insecure about my body would be the understatement of the century, but the doctors assured me I was lucky my scoliosis was not severe enough to require surgery. I know that they were right, but I often wished I had a “quick fix” like that.
Thankfully, it was around this time that I was also given a really incredible group of girlfriends who loved me for my quirky, nerdy, awkward self (maybe because they were also quirky and nerdy just like I was). The insecurity was still there, but around them I felt 100% safe to be myself and let my guard down. You know that song from Wicked “Because I Knew You?” That was these girls. They definitely came into my life for a reason (and we still get to be friends now).
As an adult, I’ve come to realize that everyone around me was probably just as insecure as I was, crooked spine or not—that is unfortunately the name of the game, I think.
Well, I thought I was pretty much OK with my body now. But then, I saw a picture from our recent trip to Seattle (not the ones you see here—it wasn’t the best shot anyway) that my husband took where my still-crooked and slightly twisted spine was really obvious to me (one of my shoulder blades sticks out more than the other) Instantly, those insecure thoughts and feelings came rushing back: “Can everyone see that? What do they think? Ugh, I hate this picture.” That immature, terrified little 12-yr-old showed her small, freckled face and her fear manifested. This, combined with my (teeth) braces made it really hard to like pictures of me from this trip.
Then, I was looking at this picture and something about it made me love it. I’ll be honest—it was staged because photos of me don’t happen unless they are—but it still feels truthful. I see a woman who has overcome a lot of different obstacles, most ones that I never expected to encounter. I see a woman who is stronger than that 12-year-old ever thought she would have to be. I see a woman who has changed and grown and loves deeper.
At this time in my life, my body is not just performing the miracle of growing another human, but holding kids, wiping noses, enabling me to see and experience and walk and do yoga and taste delicious food. My body is the vehicle by which I get to express myself creatively through many mediums, the means through which I serve my family and my community. My body allows me to love and live and she deserves my love, every crooked-spined, imperfect part of her.
Those people in the picture (and the handsome man behind the camera)? The ones I’m currently experiencing the most with? They don’t love me for my body, they love me for who I am and they’re mine and I’m theirs. Just like my amazing group of friends from growing up, they allow me to be me and accept me with all my quirks. They each are teaching me and helping me figure out this life. They matter more to me than anything else, and when those boys and that baby in my belly look back on their childhood, I want them to see me and remember our experiences together. Even more, I want them to love themselves and always know that they are so much more than their bodies, and that’s a lesson best learned by the example I set more than anything else.