by Crystal Kupper,
I watered the blueberries and raspberries, grateful to be out of the house and away from the kids after a long day, even if only for a little bit. Hose in hand, I noticed my neighbor Carolyn in her sunroom across the fence. She lounged in a lawnchair, book in hand, enjoying the perfect evening temperature. Nearby, O.J. the cat (so named for his voluminous orange hair) purred contentedly. Every few minutes, Carolyn glanced over at Marlin, her husband of many decades, and smiled. He smiled back. Nearby, Arnie — their beloved motorhome — rested in the driveway, freshly unpacked from their latest adventure across the Pacific Northwest. Tomorrow, they would probably work in their yard, go to the gym, visit some friends for drinks, all on their own pace and schedule. Their two sons, grown and living across town, would most likely visit soon for dinner.And in that moment, my hair matted with fresh spitup from Avinly, shin bruised from Jude’s line drive and brain frazzled from questions such as “How does tape get made?” from Jack, I was insanely jealous.
Get a grip, Crystal, I told myself. You’re seriously jealous of an old couple with gray hair and wrinkles? You would trade your fitness level, your smooth skin, your flat stomach and 50+ years of life for what you’re seeing right now?
And immature, tired Crystal said yes, why yes I would.
|Marilyn Monroe was NEVER this cute when the wind was blowing!|
After a decent night’s sleep, I changed my mind. I’ll keep my smokin’ hot, still-looks-like-a-college-student husband (well, technically he still is) and everything else that goes along with that. But still, the temptation remains: how not to wish away the hours, days, weeks and months from deep within the foxholes of motherhood.
A few days later, my in-laws came for a visit. “You look fantastic,” my mother-in-law told me. I started in with my usual line of “Thanks, but you should see me naked.” But then I switched and let loose with how I really felt. “I seem stuck at this one stupid weight,” I complained. “Everyone tells me that I look great, but I can’t fit into any of my clothes. In the meantime, I just want to eat a Blizzard every 5 minutes and hate myself when I finally give in. I just want to be thin again!”
Jeannie didn’t tell me I had no right to complain. She didn’t give me more compliments, or weight loss ideas. She didn’t detail her own postnatal body stories. She simply grabbed my hand, looked me dead in the eye and said, “I get it. You’re tired. You want energy and a full night’s sleep. But really, more than anything, you just want to be yourself again. I hear you, and I’m also going to say that you will get there.”
The next morning, I ran a 10k, Jeannie’s words running along with me. I felt grateful to have a mom-in-law who listened to and encouraged me. Looking down, all those positive vibes flowing through my body and spirit, I was pumped to see that I had run my fastest 6.2 miles since Avinly’s first trimester. When I believed the truth of Jeannie’s kindness — when I stopped listening to my own negative self-talk about my body — I ran farther and faster.Kind of like with my own mom.
There have been nights when being a mommy just felt like too much. When I had to eat corn on the cob one-handed while nursing one baby and disciplining another while my husband lounged in a movie theater hundreds of miles away on a TDY, his tummy full of a meal he didn’t cook.“I just don’t know what to do!” I wail. And Mom — she of 8 children raised — quietly says, “I know. I didn’t either. But I learned, and you will too.”
There’s a cheesy old Val Kilmer movie called At First Sight. Virgil, the blind main character, gains his sight back after a one-in-a-million new surgery. Staring at Jenny, his sister and caretaker since childhood, he’s amazed.“Why didn’t you tell me you were beautiful?” he asked.
Jenny turns away to hide the tears. “No, seriously,” he reiterates. “You’re so beautiful. Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
I know why she couldn’t. She was too busy working, too consumed with her little brother’s needs, to ever even consider the fact that she might be beautiful.
I, like Virgil, am seeing these women in my life with new eyes. Why didn’t they tell me they were so beautiful?
Because, of course, they were too busy serving, too busy being a blessing to others to ever stop and consider their own profound beauty.Carolyn, I see the way you have served your husband and family through the years. I see how you are kind and patient with my energetic boys, always ready with a smile and an encouraging word of “I’ve been there, too.” And I see that you’re beautiful.
Jeannie, I see the way you found strength within yourself to raise a family, to rise to unexpected challenges (baby #4 in particular!), to have a backbone and not apologize for it. And I see that you’re beautiful.
Mom, I see the way you’ve sacrificed your career in order to stay at home, your Christ-like attitude in the midst of trials, your perseverance to always do the right thing even when it hurts. I see your quiet selflessness, how the world often passes you by, yet you never complain. And I see that you’re beautiful.
These women may not have told me. But I know, and I see.
I see you, too…and I know.