It was the summer before my junior year of high school. I’d just gotten back from a two week-long bike tour in Minnesota and was feeling pretty good about myself. My great grandmother was visiting from Florida and we’d stopped by my grandparents’ house to see her.
“You’re not as chunky as you were the last time I saw you,” she said.
I’m 40 years old and I still remember that single comment made to me 25 years ago.
The thing is, we never know what will stick with a person. Words do, in fact, have power, and the ones that do the most damage are sometimes the ones we think the least of at the time.
I broke the unrunstreak on Saturday with a “long” run around town. (While that might seem like a semi-momentous occasion for this blog, let me assure you it was nothing of the sort. It was, in fact, so brutal I considered giving up running until the last bit of snow has melted from my front yard in April.)
Anyway, I’d been seriously lagging in my podcast listening and remembered that Dan Pashman had recently done an episode with Margaret Cho, a Korean American comedienne whom I have always loved.
The episode focused on eating disorders, told from two points of view: a young woman who’d emailed Dan about doing an episode on the topic and Margaret Cho, who has battled and continues to battle with the disease.
While I have never considered myself as someone who suffers from such things, as I listened to the podcast I couldn’t help but see glimpses of myself in these women’s stories. While my experience as a young(er) woman were not nearly as severe, I found myself on at least some level, relating to them.
Though I’m not a hardcore dieter, I’ve dabbled plenty. And every time I gave up on a diet, I felt like a failure. Even though those diets were setting me up to fail from the very beginning.
And I feel like I’ve gotten to a place, finally at the age of 40 post-childbirth x 3, where I’m learning to be okay with my body, the one that’s done some pretty cool things (see above: childbirth). The body that’s carried me across plenty of finish lines of long races and that’s pedaled me across states, through mountain ranges and miles of single track. The body that houses the brain that got me through college. The comforting harbor it provides for my kids when they climb into my lap and fall asleep.
It’s not a perfect body, but it’s the one I have and the one I want to keep using for a very long time.
But back to words. It made me wonder what my kids will remember. Will I say—have I said—words that hurt instead of help? Will they only remember the crap I’ve spewed when I was pissed off or not trying very hard?
It made me really mindful of what I say to them on a regular, mundane basis. Because those are the things they might remember. Those are the words that might stick for 25 years.