(Rare photo of me and my sisters, together, last month.)
Take my arms.
They are short. Thick. Better to hide them. Sweat under the constraints of fabric, then to reveal them in public. Something I told myself for years. Believed, for years.
I suffer from arm and shoulder envy. I wish I had been born with horizontal shoulders (mine slope) and arms that have definition and length (mine are fleshly and stumpy).
Yes, exercise is a factor. Yet, finding the delicate balance to achieve definition without building muscle is tricky. (Thumbs down to the hefty, muscular arm-look on me.)
There are surgical options—liposuction, for too much fat. Or, the more extensive arm lift or brachioplasty for fat and flabby skin. But the $3,800 to more than $5,000 it would cost, is an extravagance I can’t justify.
So, I’m left with the only reasonable option. Change what I can through exercise and diet. This, I’m doing.
In the meantime, do I hide my arms, while I wait for their appearance to change? Or, do I bare them and enjoy the comfort of going sleeveless?
On the rare occasion of sporting something sleeveless, I cover up with one of the many lace, crocheted or thin linen tops that I keep stocked in my closet.
Last month that changed. I was tired of wearing extra, unnecessary clothing—of sweating more than necessary—of satisfying my vanity at the expense of my comfort.
Ignoring the usual flurry of demeaning thoughts that whip through my brain when I see my bare arms in the mirror, I went sleeveless. I greeted a house full of people. I hugged, shook hands, served food and posed for photos.
No one shrieked or laughed at me. No one pointed. Sure, my arms are not what I wish them to be. But they aren’t hideous. (A word I have used to describe them.) They’ve never hurt anyone.
It’s the flaws that can’t be seen that are hideous, and hurtful.
I can be prideful. Critical. Impatient. Unloving. I lie. I’ve cheated and stolen. I’ve shut people down. And cut people off. I’ve failed friends and family. I’ve tried to save people, when I know that only God can do the saving. And when they weren’t grateful, I blamed them.
I’m a flawed human being. And my arms are just a reminder of this truth.
Instead of being the source of envy for perfect looking arms and shoulders, instead of being the cause of my whining to God about what He hasn’t given me, my arms will be reminders of my imperfect human self. They will remind me that I need God’s forgiveness to infinity for the flaws in me that are hurtful. They will remind me that I have and will continue to experience His gifts of substance—grace and mercy, redemption and restoration—cosmic, overwhelming gifts He makes available to us, humans.
Way better, than having perfect looking arms.