After a couple of busy summer weeks, I found myself with a plethora of cucumbers from our CSA. I don’t have a problem with cucumbers, but I don’t necessarily go around eating them like bananas, either. I tried to hide some in a cucumber/hummus sandwich for the baby, but no dice – he promptly licked the hummus off of the bread and threw everything else on the ground. I like making pickle spears, but I went a little overboard last summer and still have quite a few jars.
And so, day after day, I stared, uninspired, at a bowl of cucumbers.
I admit, they got to me. I like clean. I like order. I am a minimalist who has manic episodes about clutter. This one ridiculous bowl was preventing my counter from being the clean, open space I like it to be at the end of the day. And yet, as we hustled through busy summer days, all I could do was say “someday soon, cucumbers!” and, for the time being, make like a Disney song and let it go.
Here’s my big secret: I am really, desperately not good at letting things go.
About three months after I had my oldest son, I started running. “Running” is an incredibly generous term, but I got out there and moved. And wow! Baby weight, pre-baby weight, weight likely still held over from middle school runs to Taco Bell, fell off. I was strong. I was thin! It was hard, but it was also easy – make a plan (tomorrow I will run three miles), follow that plan (run three miles), up the plan (next week I will run four miles). I ran, I ate junk, I felt skinny, I felt fit. I ran a marathon in the sticky Florida humidity and couldn’t walk down stairs for a week afterward. It was the best I’d ever felt about my body.
And then life, as it does, had ups and downs and ups. I got pregnant and lost that baby. My body held on to the bloat that short pregnancy brought with it, and I struggled to embrace its new form. Three months later, I was pregnant again. I delivered my second son exactly fifteen months ago, and I am the same weight I was when I left the hospital on that windy May day.
I know my body is different. I have resumed running. I ran a 25K at the beginning of summer; I am training for a half marathon now. I eat healthy, local, nutrient-rich foods, I limit alcohol, I don’t snack after dinner, I constantly chug water. So what’s the big deal, body?
I know I should feel proud after every race, every run. Every time I bike around the city with the boys riding in the trailer attached to the back, I feel strong. And then I change my clothes and pray “God, why? What am I doing wrong?” and “If you won’t change the shape of this body, will you at least give me peace with it?”
And to the latter, God firmly and gently answers, no.
I strongly believe He watches me struggle, watches me get out and run, choose water over wine and make food from scratch. He looks on and says, continue in this journey. I am molding and shaping you now, as you struggle, to teach others about determination and acceptance. Answers don’t always come easy. Fixes don’t happen overnight (or in fifteen months, I like to add).
God knows I do my best listening as I run and cook. If I dropped all of the “baby weight” quickly and didn’t need to focus so strongly on a fitness routine, I am sad to say I don’t think we would talk the way we do. And He knows that; of course He knows that.
It doesn’t make me happy with my body.
It makes me understand things a little bit better.
It’s a pickle, I tell you.
And so this brings me back to the cucumbers, who were soon joined by similar bowls filled with jalepenos and banana peppers. One evening, after the boys were in bed, I chopped and filled jars and poured brine and processed foods to add to our collection of preserved summer. (If you are interested, I loosely followed the dill pickle recipe found here, the jalepeno recipe found here, and the banana pepper recipe found here.)
I wish I could close with “and then God blessed me with contentment for this season, over my body and whatever other struggle I will encounter on a daily basis.” I cannot close like that. But I can close by saying it is okay that I can’t close like that – that each day I learn, each day I grow. Just as time and vinegar turns vegetables into pickles, so shall time and God turn me into… well, we’ll see.