NOTE: please check out Back to the Arms that Held Me by Charlotte from The Great Fitness Experiment which helped to inspire this post.
My great aunt's hands are weathered from age with their wrinkled and almost leathery look, but somehow they maintain their beauty. They are hands that show the signs of a life well lived. Hands that show an abundance of love. If you know my aunt, and you are lucky if you do! (everyone deserves a great aunt Joan -- pronounced Jo-Ann) you would know that this embodies her perfectly.
She often claims that she comes from "hearty stock" - though a reference to her larger size, she does not mean this as a derogatory phrase, in fact the opposite. She usually goes on to say that she's built to pick up grandchildren and to give hugs (hugs that caused me to believe as a child that you were giving up a part of yourself if you hugged hard enough). Hugs that made me feel safe and secure... and loved.
Her hands, which allow those aforementioned tasks, worked on a farm, sewed beautiful clothing, handed out bills as a bank teller and later as a bank manager, painted and created beautiful things when my great uncle and her went into the craft business, put bandages on my legs when I fell off my skateboard on a steep hill near her home, picked up the phone when I called and desperately needed to feel connected to someone, and they lovingly held (and still do) in moments of great emotion - soaking up some of the feelings for me when they became too much for be to bear alone.
Like my great aunt Joan - my mother's hands are beautiful. I remember people telling her at stores as a child that she should be a hand model.
Her hands show neither a life of leisure nor a life of manual labor - they're hands created through a transition from one to the other and then to somewhere in the middle. There are some signs of genuine wear and use. her veins becoming more protrusive through the years.
These days she wears a wedding band composed of a large, impressive diamond as well as a few smaller ones from my father and from her mother. A mother that she lost her senior year of high school - a mother she takes with her wherever she goes in her heart and on her finger. If you go back to her first year of marriage a very simple gold band would have graced that finger.
A gold band given to her by the hands of a man whose hands tell their own story. A story of work. Hard work and persistence from beginning to end. Work that took him from a life scoffed and laughed at by some into an upper middle class lifestyle. They enabled him to landscape and to do one armed push-ups... to love and to hurt.
My hands, not unlike the hands of my parents and great aunt tell a story - but so does the rest of my body.
Starting with my hands one would see scars on my wrist-bones and a scar on the palm of my right hand. A white little scar that almost goes unnoticed. There's a scar on the inside of my left wrist along the vein and when you travel up that arm you'll find nearly a dozen more on my shoulder from two shoulder surgeries from time spent in the service.
On my back there is a tattoo of an oxygen atom also from my time in the military - a reminder of living. on my right side going across my ribs there's another tattoo - my favorite - of a dandelion with the script reading, "and God sees a flower..." reminding me that beauty comes in every form there is.
On my right thigh there is a burn mark from an iron falling - another one (a matching set of sorts) on my right arm. My hip bones bear other scars. An ode to the destruction of my life. A reminder of places I do not wish to revisit.
Another scar lies on my left eyebrow - a scar that was left long after more than a dozen stitches were removed - old enough to be from a time where stitches did not dissolve or just fall out
My feet show signs of extreme wear. The skin on my ankles are stripped from walking over eight miles in ballet flats through Washington DC after getting lost during a recent visit. My heels are rough from years of the odd combination of military boots, running shoes, and high heels and currently have blisters from going on long walks in my neighborhood wearing dresses and cowboy boots.
My legs are long for a person of my height and are rather toned -- a testament to time spent running, biking, and centering myself through pilates.
My body has morphed a lot through the years, but has been remaining constant for awhile now - settling in to a healthy place. The ride has left a history inside and outside my body, but my body gives me hope. Hope that the moments where being who I am, where I am is enough will increase... and become the majority of the moments in my life.
While I was in Washington DC, EDC Lobby Day made me acutely aware of the power of stories. The power of what we can say with our mouths. However, our bodies can also tell a story... What story do you want your body to tell?