I chatted on Facebook with friends a few weeks ago about paring down my wardrobe enough to wear a uniform – a specific, few pieces of go-to gear designed to simplify my life.
I was surprised to find this idea online, even more so to find so many attracted to it. The online embassies I frequent are nothing if not huge portals of marketing madness. Checking in on Facebook has become just as much about keeping in touch with friends as feeding my desire for retail therapy. But I shouldn’t have been – we are creatures of comfort. Uniforms help us establish our identity.
I like the idea of a uniform. I decided who I wanted to be a long time ago and I don’t think that through the seasons of life – it’s changed much.
My go to look is a princess. My uniform would include a rotation of dresses maybe 4 per season that I accessorize with boots, sandals, or shoes, my ever-present big earrings and a head wrap or two. I always defer to the princess.
This idea appeals to me because as creative and imaginative as I can be, I crave things I can rely on. I don’t like change. Predictable is where it’s at when it comes to how I see myself and how I want to be seen. Like I said, I decided who I wanted to be a long time ago. Through the different seasons of my life I’ve worn a gown – always a gown.
Whether it’s my ballet dancing background or deeply imprinted images of maidens from fairy tales, I’m my most comfortable in the role of princess. That image is so pervasive in our culture we even turn to it when we imagine ourselves in the wilderness – even when it becomes useless. Too often, when a pair of jeans and sneakers would have served me well, I opted for the dress and for no other reason than my own comfort level. I’ve wrapped my identity in the dress. I don’t want it to change.
This season I’m encouraged by the expanse of my perspective and the changing of my wardrobe as I enjoy my consilium (read : midlife) years. God has shifted my reluctance to change and pressed me toward a wilder yes.
Specifically when it comes to my body.
I’m learning to reconcile the dancer I used to be with the dancer I am today. My waif like form has been replaced by a body of mommy love parts. I treasure the safe place of my form for my children but its different. Twenty years hasn’t been enough time to make peace with it. It’s always changing. In my mind, all this would be fine if God didn’t call me to dance. Are ballerinas busty? Can a princess be plus-sized?
My body image is layered, a multifaceted journey of culture and experience filtered through a western lens of what beauty is or should be. From the first of my body’s failings in a 14 year-long journey through infertility, to the experience of growing up in the constant dialogue and gaze of a mirror, I know my story isn’t unique. Maybe the voice came from your mother or in comparing yourself to someone you idolized. Either way, like me, you had a voice. That voice set the standard for what you hoped your body would be and achieve.
That voice gets in the way of my midlife journey and now in addition to everything else – it tells me I’m too old, that my dress won’t fit, that I’m finished.
This year I promised God I’d say yes each time He placed an opportunity at my feet. Sometimes it’s worked out, other times it didn’t. But I’m saying yes – and with the body I have. Restoring the temple for me begins with entering in , embracing the temple. I’m learning to reconcile the dancer I was with the dancer I am today. the body I had then, with the body I have now – the body I will have as I continue to age.
I’m doing the work. I’m eating right (most of the time) and committed to working out 3 times a week. I ran a 5k last summer and I’m in the middle of training for another. To reconcile doesn’t mean giving up or in, it means recommitting to the beautiful work of joyfully living in my body. In whatever state at find it – simply because I can. I still have the ability. I can live the truth of my #wilderyes with all the doubts and fears that come with it and still find a way to move.
I can still wear the dress. But I have to be open to seeing myself the way God sees me. I’d never have imagined running – or owning a pair of sneakers for that matter. This season He’s calling me to be open to an outpouring of grace and to be willing to switch it up a little when it comes to the gown.
For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen, let it be so, to the glory of God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:20 NRSV
“The treasure we seek requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are.”
― Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World
Paul and Barbara are right …
That yes from God to the thing he created you to be is always there. It isn’t tied to how much money you’ll make doing it, or how much fame you’ll gain from it. It is not tied to your aging process. The dancer God created in me is very much alive. I just have to imagine I have everything I need to fulfill the call he’s placed on my life. My yes is the affirmation that I trust Him, that I don’t limit his ability by leaning on my own.
My midlife dancer has wider hips and needs a bra (sometimes two, don’t ask), she’s not nearly as agile. In an interview Carmen de Lavallade said “the legs are first to go”. I’m living the humble truth of that now but the dancer, her spirit – is alive. If I’m brave enough to allow her expression, offer my #wilderyes to the wilderness of the unknown of my physical form, I’ll get to experience a new dance at every stage. How amazing is that?
The deepest sense of reconciliation comes from the sacrament of grace we encounter in finding a way to make both sets of ideas about ourselves exist – at the same time. This allows me to dance through arthritis, step out of my comfort zone to believe my effort is holy and worthy despite the truth of change. Maybe even because of it.
How is God pressing you into a wilderness? A #wilderyes? Is it physical or emotional? I took a crash course in the wilderness of forgiveness recently and I find it’s lessons useful in this space. Tell me about yours. How are you embracing change?
Let your handmaiden find grace in your sight … #GiveMeGrace