I looked in the mirror this morning and started to say something unflattering about my pregnant-again-3-babies-in-less-than-4-yearsbody. After all, it’s what I usually do.
But today I bit my tongue. I looked at the little blonde ponytail bobbing next to me and I shut my mouth. In that split-second, I didn’t care if I chewed a hole in tongue – I refused to speak those words
I don’t know if I can change the way I see my body. I don’t know if I can ever convince myself to embrace the soft, poochy tummy that means tiny people once slept inside me. But I darn well won’t contribute to her feeling that way about her body if she chooses to have children someday. Not if I can help it.
Lies get inside of us. The lie that I should look a certain way, no matter what, is already entwined in the ways I think and feel. I’ve bought into it, intentionally and unintentionally, and I don’t know if I can get it out. At the very least, it’s going to take some time and some energy to figure out, like untangling a child’s necklace.
Lies get inside of us. The worm their way into our hearts, minds, and into our very souls and take up residence, outlining their territory and building up little monarchies inside of us where they crown themselves king.
Lies get inside of us. We don’t want them to, we don’t mean for them to, and yet we still look up, sometimes, to find that we’re believing something false.
More often than we’re comfortable with, we know that what we’re believing isn’t true. I suspect that most of us have heard (or said!) something that we know is untrue enough times that, suddenly, we believe it. I know I’ve done this with my body. I’ve read the wrong magazines, listened to the wrong people, and even told myself, “I should look different” when I know that my appearance is a direct result of some of the best choices I ever made.
Sometimes we find ourselves assenting intellectually to these oft-repeated lies, but other times we find ourselves simply acting on them, body passing reason by altogether. When I look in the mirror and begin to think and speak critical things about the way I look, I’m not evaluating those things at all. I’m not deciding if they’re true and then whether or not they’re helpful to speak. No, my habits are passing reason by, without even stopping for a heigh-ho. It’s like a short-circuit in the mind.
But today was different. Today, by grace and practice, I was able to pause before I spoke. And that pause helped me – not to tell and believe the truth, because I’m not there yet – no, it helped me not to perpetuate the lie. It helped me to care for her more than I wanted to disparage myself.
The pause, I’ve found, is critical. It’s not a long pause, not even a breath sometimes. Often it’s a split-second where I’m conscious of nothing more than something saying, “NO!” somewhere deep inside.
I suspect that “NO!” is present in so many places where I can’t hear it yet, and I more-than-suspect that it’s inside of you, too.
We miss our “NO!” because of the short-circuit I mentioned earlier. When we act on habit without allowing thought, idea, and reason to play a part, we miss out on hearing our own voice. Further, we often think that we’re hearing our voice in the voice of the lie, which just tangles us up more.
Learning to pause, learning to hear ourselves and separate our own voice from that of the lie we believe, takes practice. It takes mindful, compassionate presence with ourselves even when we fail, and it takes more than that. This morning, when I paused, I felt like something stopped me. This was something outside myself, outside of the patterns that I get myself into, and that wasn’t the first time that’s happened. Pausing, in my experience, often depends as much on grace as it does on my own practice, and yet I’m not sure I’d even notice the grace if it weren’t for the practice.
Practice opens us to grace and grace takes us where practice cannot, and so we learn to pause. When we can take a beat between our habits and our actions, we’ll learn to choose differently, to counteract the lies inside. And when we can do that, we’ll begin to change what the people around us believe. Slowly, slowly, we’ll influence the small worlds around us. The ones we influence will influence others, and then maybe, just maybe, more people will stop believing what isn’t true, just because we paused.
Indeed, it’s positively revolutionary, that pause.