I was privileged to catch an intimate performance by singer/songwriter/spoken word artist Mary Lambert this afternoon. At 25, she's the inverse of the age I'll be turning this Saturday. Yet the maturity that comes out of her lyrics flipped me upside down. Her spoken word masterpiece, Body Love, left me speechless when she was finished. Every word resonated with me. As she sang I looked down at my hands, slightly weathered, scarred from dog bites, nails uneven -- my thighs, a little bit larger than they should be -- and I realized that the things I worried about at 25 are the same things I dwell on at 52. I've just been dwelling a little bit longer.
So what did I learn from Mary Lambert today?
1. "I only know how to exist when I am wanted."
Until she said it out loud, I would have never admitted to myself that this was the case. But it is. And perhaps it's the case with you, too. You go through life, slightly frumpy from day-to-day until that one day when "he" steps in and woos you with his words and his compliments and his sexy texts and his soft touch. It's like a thirsty plant was watered and your leaves suddenly perk up. Your stems stand taller. You bloom because he wants you. And that desire is reflected in everything you do from grocery shopping to picking up the kids from school to sipping a coffee at Starbucks. You're automatically sexier because someone thinks you are.
The trick is knowing how to exist and feel sexy when there's no one there to tell you you are wanted. When you wake up in the morning with only your extra pillow and your dog by your side and the only person telling you how pretty you look is your own reflection looking back at you in your full length mirror.
If you can happily exist without being validated by another human being, you have reached the first level of Nirvana.
2. "And we're sad and drunk and perpetually waiting by the phone for someone to pick up and tell us we did good."
Whether it comes from our mothers, or partners or bosses or co-workers -- day-to-day we seek the approval of others to make us feel worthy. A job is not well-done until someone else tells us it is. The next time you finish a task or create something from your heart, step back for a moment and just look at it. Take it all in. Wait a day or two before even showing it to someone else. Revel in your own sunshine a bit -- the sunshine that tells you you're happy, you did good, without anyone else's influence or positive feedback. Tell yourself you did an excellent job, give yourself a gold star, and really believe it with your heart.
3. "Try this: Take your hands over your bumpy love body naked."
When's the last time you touched your own thighs? Not looked at them in the mirror, but touched them? Or your butt or your hips or that extra skin under your arm? Take a second right now to run your hands over your belly. Sure you have a little paunch, but who says a paunch is bad? It means that you're being fed and nourished. Though you may have some lumps and bumps and cellulite here and there, it doesn't make you any less beautiful than you were before you had accumulated these life souvenirs. Love you for the you you are today. Because that's who you are at this very moment. You are beautiful.
4. "Love your body the way your mother loved your baby feet."
Think about that for a second. When you look at a baby, what do you see? You see soft skin that smells of sweetness and innocence. It's the new car smell equivalent of human beings. Untouched. Unscarred. Zero miles. Life hasn't had a chance to take its toll with stretch marks and sun spots and laugh lines and callouses. Let's stop Botoxing them to death. Let's stop filling those laugh lines with injectable life erasers -- these are the things that prove that you've lived. You've loved and laughed and smiled and cried and walked thousands of miles with those feet that are no longer soft and untouched. But they've been touched by your life and you should embrace all of it -- and love it -- just like your mother did when she held you in her arms for the very first time. You are born again today.
5. "You are worth more than who you fuck."
For as long as I've loved boys, I've attached my well-being, my identity, my everything to their physical need for me. When physical needs would subside in a relationship -- which, for the record, they always, eventually do -- I would feel that I was no longer as worthy as I was at the beginning when all he wanted to do was be with me. If you aren't currently being loved or kissed or held in someone's arms -- or if you're in a relationship where the sex has waned and more time is being spent hugging your pillow than feeling the warmth of another body in bed by your side -- I need not tell you that there are plenty of ways to love yourself. Fucking doesn't make you worthy of existing in this world. But loving yourself does. One thing I've learned after being married for nearly two decades is that love evolves. Though physical touch is surely a way to plug back into life, to recharge your soul, self-love is what will sustain you throughout your days. It's what gets you through the hard times. It's what will keep you alive.
6 . 7 . 8. "You are worth more than a waistline...You are no less valuable as a size 16, than a size 4...You are no less valuable as a 32A than a 36C."
Diet pills. Starvation. Calorie counting for the sake of fitting into a dress that some 14-year-old, 6'4" model is wearing in the shiny magazine in front of you. Perky boobs in full sun salutation being thrown in our faces from men's magazines, billboards, advertisements and films. Thigh gap and hip bone space -- it's the emptiness that's supposed to make us feel worthy. It's what we don't have that's supposed to make us feel like we've succeeded. I call bullshit. My thighs are soft, my hips are round, my breasts have never been model-perfect, but they're mine damn it and I'm going to love them for what they are and no longer hide them under layers of clothing. I'm past the half-century mark, for God's sake. I'll never be 14 or 17 or 24 again. But I'm a woman and every part of my body is lovable, whether I'm 165 pounds or 108 pounds. My heart remains the same size, regardless of how many calories I've taken in today.
9. "Your sexiness is defined by concentric circles within your wood -- it is wisdom."
Every circle in our tree is proof that we've lived. Every lesson is a notch in our bark. Every person who has crossed our path is represented in the rings that form our personal redwood. The concentric circles are the guest book of your life. Why would you want them to go away?
10. "You are a goddamned tree stump with leaves sprouting out. Reborn."
Go out into the world today with a renewed sense of self. Lift up your chin. Sashay a little bit as you walk into that room of people. Smile and increase the depth of those laugh lines. Feel those hips fill the seat of your chair as you sit back and relax into the new you that you will start loving a little more today.
For more information on Mary Lambert, her songs and her awesome self, visit her website at www.marylambertsings.com.