Comparison, the thief of joy

The brush slides down my freshly-washed hair with ease, thanks in part to the knock-off brand of hair serum I’ve been using that promises “easy to tame tangles” and “lustrous locks.” I steal a glance at our bathroom’s toothpaste-stained mirror, and pause to take in the image before me. Who is this girl? I think to myself. I can hardly recognize her.

It’s like a light-bulb turned on in my head a few weeks ago, and I can see how different I look. The extra weight I now carry on my legs, arms, and mostly in my midsection. My once-firm pre-baby belly has an obvious pooch. My once-cute shorter hairstyle is now in that awkward in-between place of short/medium trying to be medium-length but not quite there yet. My clothes are tighter and odd-fitting. Meanwhile, my hormones are all over the place. Three pregnancies in three and a half years. I wonder how long it’s going to take me to get back in shape, I think, as I struggle to voice positive affirmations instead of ugly-crying over my newly-realized mom body.

I’ve never been this big in my life, without being pregnant. I shudder.

The past few months have been a huge struggle at times. Moving and adjusting to life in a teeny-tiny cottage. Having a newborn baby. Sleepless nights from breastfeeding and juggling toddlers who are sharing a room, budgeting fails and coming to the realization that living in Hawaii is extremely expensive and will require many sacrifices, along with intense feelings of fear and grief as we journeyed through Cyrus’s struggle with food allergies, and his recent hospitalization due to a rare infection. Oh boy, it was rough at times.

And now, here I am coming out of the haze and find that I don’t recognize the body that has carried me through all this. I keep wanting to see who I used to be staring back at me through my mirror. To live in a time and place that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like my mind keeps going back to my body’s “glory days” when I looked so different.

It’s almost too hard to believe…I used to be thin. I used to workout regularly.
In high school, I never thought of myself as an athlete. More like a bookworm who won science fairs. But there was that time I competed in what was the “Olympics” of canoe-paddling, where I fought for a seat on the World Canoe Sprints team that traveled from the US to Australia. I was so strong, so focused.

Six years ago, I used to run for miles at a time, and bike throughout the city of Seattle with Ken, up some crazy tall hills even.

Then, when we moved to Alaska, I trained for my first half-marathon. I’d bike for 20 minutes in to work, and run the 8-10 miles home as part of my training.

Who am I now? Are my “glory days” all over? That famous quote from Theodore Roosevelt comes to mind: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Especially in comparing myself and my current body to who I once was. I don’t want to get stuck there. But in moments like this, I feel stuck. I want to be able to adapt and change, and allow myself the grace moving forward to know that who I am now is just as worthy and loved, as who I once was.

My body has been through so much. It’s experienced incredible joys and deep sorrows and everything in between. It’s been hurt and felt healing and carried me through all these years of life. It has also grown life and birthed babies. What a profound gift this body has been!

This new year, my prayer is that God would help me to pursue peace and joy in this place, exactly how I am right now. And that I would have faith to see that in Christ, I can pursue health and strive for it. I can have fitness goals and work toward them, and at the same time to not let what I see in front of me become my idol.

C.S. Lewis says it well: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Cheers to 2019, and working toward greater health: mind, body, and spirit!

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