The sunlight peeking through the cracks in the Vegas-style "blackout" curtains that adorn my bedroom signals the beginning of another day. I reluctantly throw off the covers and begrudgingly drag myself toward the bathroom.
(Am I a positive person? Yes. Am I a positive person immediately upon waking up? No.)
I step on the scale and inwardly groan at the number that greets me. It doesn't even matter what the number is that day ... I am never really pleased with it.
After facing that rotten (code for "honest") scale, it is time for the daily inventory that takes place in front of the unforgiving mirror in my dressing area.
Furtively glancing about the room to make sure that no one is around to make fun of me, I gently tug back at the "parentheses" that appear around my mouth. I ponder the possibility of one day resembling President Nixon. I wonder how to make the mouth-parentheses disappear without engaging in medical procedures that may result in looking like a wax figure from Madame Tussaud's museum.
Do you remember the late Nora Ephron's book from a few years ago entitled, "I Feel Bad About My Neck"? I get that. I just finished losing weight, which is good. Except now it looks like someone let all the air out of my neck. Which is not so good.
I look at my chest and laugh. You know what happens when you're naturally top-heavy and then you have a child? Gravity, that's what. Picture two party balloons. Got the picture? Now envision those two party balloons about three days after the party is over. That's me. I long ago accepted that I am top-heavy -- I just wish that the "cousins" were located in the general geographic area of my chest.
Have you met a woman who doesn't complain about her abs? I am no exception. Thanks to 13 major abdominal surgeries starting at the age of 15 years, I had a "mom apron" long before I became a mother -- and that definitely did not improve with age or childbirth.
My back hurts. What else is new?
My legs have always been my "go-to" feature. Every woman has a "go-to" feature that they love to showcase and for me, it has always been the legs. But you know what no one warns you about? Saggy knees. Knees! Knees are not supposed to sag. Faces? Perhaps. Boobs? Please refer to the above rant. But apparently, gravity also hits you in the knees ... literally. A few years ago, my friend Lee wrote about the "smiley faces" that she claimed were threatening to appear around her knees. I thought it was funny, especially because she is annoyingly gorgeous and smiley-face free. Now I want to yell at her for not including a disclaimer that her knee story was actually a precautionary tale.
Turning away from the mirror, I put on my glasses (because like everything else, my eyes are not what they used to be either) and slog downstairs for a cup of whatever beverage is within reaching distance. It could be coffee. It could be the cats' hairball medicine. I am not awake enough to notice.
Except that today -- I have had an epiphany.
The number on the brutally honest scale that makes me groan also reflects the fact that I am healthy when too many cannot say the same. Not only do I have nothing to whine about, I am grateful for the fact that I have more than enough to eat whenever I wish.
The "parentheses" around my mouth reflect many years of laughter. The faint lines on my cheeks are marks left by dimples inherited from my father. How lucky I am to have a myriad number of reasons to laugh when so many have experienced much more difficulty and challenge in their lives -- and that when I see those dimple-lines, I also see glimmers of my late father as well.
The bust line that I could tuck into my shoes? That bust line nursed a healthy infant. It is also a healthy bust line. When so many women of all ages are fighting for their lives because their breasts have been invaded by disease and especially given that my own personal health "scare" turned out to be nothing more than a "scare" ... I realize how very fortunate I am.
That "mom apron" borne of many surgeries? Those surgeries were performed by wonderful specialists who eventually enabled me to bear a child that I was never supposed to be able to have. Millions of people pray for children. They go through painfully invasive and extraordinarily expensive procedures and afterward, many are still unable to have children. An abdominal flaw seems a small price to pay in comparison to the experience of motherhood and the beautiful young woman who lights up my life.
Back pain? While admittedly uncomfortable on occasion, that back pain is also a badge of honor. It is a back that has twisted, arched, flexed and withstood years of athletic punishment. It is a back that supported a healthy pregnancy and allowed me to carry a child in my arms for years thereafter. It is a back that allowed me to lift, physically support and care for a dying husband. Whatever pain that I experience as a result of all of these things is treatable. Even the most excruciating moments are only temporary for me, while so many others are forced to permanently suffer.
The legs with the hint of smiley-faced knees are legs that still work well. Those legs kicked off the covers this morning. Those legs worked when I put feet to floor to get out of bed. They are muscular and athletic. I can dance, hike, lift weights and wear high heels. How many would give anything to have strong, healthy legs and are instead challenged by illness or infirmity that has robbed them of the ability to even stand?
Finally, the eyes that are not working as efficiently as they once did still do their job nonetheless. They take in the beauty of the outdoors. They read incessantly. They have seen my child grow up. They have cried tears of deepest sorrow; they have cried tears of joy, happiness and celebration. It saddens me to think about the many who can no longer see or perhaps worse, have never seen the sights with which I have been blessed throughout my life.
So in consideration of all of these realizations, I decided to endeavor toward expanding my attitude of gratitude. I will therefore focus on what I have, rather than what I have lost.
Did these realizations change me forever? Not entirely. I still tug at the mouth-parentheses. I still scowl at the scale. I squint when trying to read street signs and curse because I can't wear an amazing backless dress. But while I am yelling at the scale and pulling at my face and laughing at all of the rest of it ... I also remember to be grateful.
And instead of focusing on just the machinery of "body works", I also remember to rejoice.
Because my body -- works.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
Follow on Facebook at Widows Wear Stilettos
Follow on Twitter: @WidowsStilettos