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No Thanks I’m Just Not Interested

No thanks. I don’t want to join your Body Pump Class. I appreciate you thinking of me though. I’m sure it’s great. You’re great. I’m just not interested. I’m cool with yoga only because, for the most part, people keep their eyes closed in a meditative state and aren’t judging me for my middle-aged-mom-of-two-lover-of-carbs body. However, if they ever dim the lights and ask everyone to close their eyes during Body Pump, just let me know, I’m in.

While I’m here, it’s also a no from me on the 5K you are doing on St Patrick’s Day. While I do agree that the green “Run-O-Luck” tee-shirt you got for signing up is cute, I’d rather celebrate the day with a green beer and not have it slosh around on my insides as I ran around downtown for no immediate reason.

I know that, in the past, I’ve always just done it. It was mostly because I liked you. However, I have a confession. Lots of my yeses were because I thought you may not like me back if I started saying “no” too often. Especially if I had said “no” without an excuse to back it up. I saved up my no for special occasions and used my no sparingly. That’s changing.

The first few times I said “no,” I was in a mood. I blamed the no on that. Then I tried it out on a safe person. One who I knew would give me some grace even if it made her mad. But it didn’t make her mad, she just said, “ok” and it was done. Mind blown. Every “no” became easier and easier until I stopped feeling a single twinge of guilt about it. In fact, saying “no” was liberating and stress lifting. Shocked the hell outta me.  I wish the 30-something me and the 20-something me and certainly the high school me could have felt at ease saying it. My goodness, the heartache it would have saved.

I’ll admit, this wasn’t my idea. I learned this from watching a lady say “no” to her husband…in front of people…without excuse…without anything…just “no.” I was sitting in a living room with a small group of people from my church. We were doing a devotional together in her beautiful home. She was an excellent hostess. She had snacks prepared when we got there. She engaged in small talk around her kitchen counter. She participated in the group discussion about the book we were reading. When her husband, who was leading the group, asked her to close us in prayer she simply shook her head and said, “no.” I laughed, thinking it was a joke, but she wasn’t joking. She meant it, in front of all of us, No. Living in the south and being church broken (a term I use to describe how I was taught to properly act at church or in the company of church people), I had never witnessed this before. It was amazing. I sat across from her and observed her face as he asked someone else to pray. I kept watching her after we got up from our seats and began mingling and eating again. I watched her as she walked us to the door and waved bye. Not a single excuse or explanation came from her mouth. She didn’t appear distressed, bothered or ill. Clutch your pearls, she just plain didn’t want to pray. After this, it happened again, on another night. I don’t even remember the question, but I remember her answer: NO.

That’s what inspired me. That and being emotionally tired of always pleasing and being pleasant and smiling and saying “yes” while hoping one of the kids would throw up and give me a good reason out of whatever I’d just said “yes” to.

40 was a rough year for me for so many reasons, but one thing that came from it was my voice. The one that wasn’t speaking for herself because she was too busy making sure everyone liked her.

No has freed up so much time to do other things. Things I enjoy. Saying “no” doesn’t make me unkind or negative or defiant. It makes me honest.  Saying “no” opens the margin for things I want to say “yes” to.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I’d recommend you give it a try. Maybe not wait until you’re 41 for maximum results.

Tiny Purple Bikini

Sports Illustrated came in the mail at my house this week like always.

This issue was the swimsuit issue.

My husband says if there was a way he could opt out of that particular issue he would, but it comes with the subscription. He said it’s awful because he just hates sexy women with perfect bodies wearing bikinis on the beach.  Gross.

Ashley Graham is on the cover this year. I don’t know her, but she did catch my eye. What caught my attention wasn’t her skimpy bikini and sultry look.

What caught my eye was her size.

She isn’t rail thin. I can’t count her ribs. I’ve never seen anything like her in Sports Illustrated much less on the cover.

(Cue the heavenly choir of angels singing.)

Did you hear me?  A size 14-16 model is on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She’s not in one of those plus size fashion swimsuits that cover more than a regular swimsuit would and normally comes in mostly black either.

She’s in a sexy little purple bikini and isn’t trying to cover anything up.

She is stunning.

It makes me feel like taking a victory lap for women.

Hooray, now girls of a more average size can also be exploited on magazine covers just like the little tiny skinny girls do!

While equality among swimsuit models may not be the final goal, it certainly is a good sign of the shift in culture that strong confident women are demanding.

It’s not that I don’t think the traditional slim model is beautiful. I have a nearly 6 foot tall teenage girl who can give them a run for their money in those swimsuits. It’s that I’m happy to see women of other sizes be celebrated as well. Finally.

I fall into that category of always trying to change myself to fit into the standard mold of what beauty is according to pop culture. When I was in middle school I thought I was too skinny. As a teenager and young adult I always felt too fat. I constantly chased the idea of how I needed to look, as it was fed to me by what I saw on the covers of magazines, if I wanted to be beautiful.

Now, at 39 years old, I still struggle with that, although with age comes wisdom and so I do care less than I did as a teenager about these things.  Even so, I still look in the mirror and say words to myself that I would never say to anyone else.

Mean things.

I say things in my head like, “That stretch mark above your bellybutton is disgusting, don’t ever think of wearing a bikini. Maybe you should consider some Botox. And for God’s sake do a few pushups before you wear that strapless dress.”

I’m so rude to me. I’m such a bully.

I would never talk to another woman like that yet I don’t hold anything back when talking to myself.

Despite how I tend to chew myself out in my head while standing in front of a mirror I still manage to wake up in the morning feeling pretty cheerful on most days. Fortunately my husband is also a cheerful waker-upper. However, we managed to produce two children who are anything but morning people. They start their day each morning feeling annoyed and moody.

This really brings me down. Normally about the time we are almost to school on the morning drive I usually begin my sermon on positive thinking.

And let me tell you, there is nothing a cranky non-morning person likes more than sermons preached by their mom on the benefits of positive thinking at 7:30am.

My Daughter: “Today is going to suck because I have (insert any activity) to do today at school.”

Me: “Well if you think that it will suck then it probably will. You are going to believe whatever you tell yourself about today. Why don’t you tell yourself how great it will be instead? You need to focus on what you love about this day instead of what you hate about it. I bet it will cause you to have a better day.”

Her: “Please don’t.”

My son: (he’s not saying anything because he has completely tuned me out and began listening to music through his headset…he’s not as wordy as his sister)

Today, as I was giving myself the less-than-encouraging pep talk in my head as I was deciding on what to wear it occurred to me how hypocritical I am. If my kids could hear the convo going on in my head they would jump at the opportunity to use my own words against me by saying, “Why don’t you think about how great you look today? Think about how you are healthy and happy. Focus on how inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. Think about how lucky you are to be standing in a closet with so many options. Try to focus on what you love instead of what you hate and maybe you will feel better about yourself.”

I get the feeling by looking at the lovely Ashley Graham on the cover of SI that she feels pretty good about herself. One has to feel somewhat comfortable in her own skin to be cool with being half nude on the cover of a national publication.

I know that the idea to begin showcasing a wider range of what is considered beautiful didn’t come from a bunch of women sitting around criticizing themselves. Beauty starts with the heart and then oozes out to the face. This shift in how we as Americans are trying to reshape the idea on what beauty is came from people who were beautiful on the inside. People who believed in themselves. People who saw beauty in others. That inside beauty oozed out and covered them making their outside beautiful as well.

Ever notice how someone can get prettier after you get to know them? That’s inner beauty that has oozed out. I also know people who have looked uglier after I got to know them, but that’s a topic for another time.

So as I sit here and feel excited about the subtle shift I’m seeing I understand that in order to be part of that movement of celebrating women of any size I have to begin with me.

Spring is around the corner and I can promise I’ll be in a swimsuit at the pool. I can’t promise that I’ll be as confident as Ashley Graham quite yet, but that’s my goal. I think the key to making this happen for all of us who share in this struggle is making the focus be on beautifying our inside so that our outside will show it, but remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.”