Even her sweat is cute.
Her cheeks flush a blushing pink like a peony petal, opened up and covered in dew, as poreless as a baby’s. Her hair curls in damp wisps around her face as she lifts a water bottle to her glossed lips and my gaze flicks away from her to the full length mirrors lining the walls of the gym.
My New Year’s resolutions started with a gym membership where a man with biceps the size of my toddler’s head took my picture and managed to capture an angle that gave me at least two additional chins and the skin of an acne-ridden teenage boy, printing out a small laminate key chain fob. I was supposed to put this on my keys? For real? He gave me the customary tour of the gym and the class schedules, highlighting which ones were for beginners.
My face is cherry splotched and my pony tail hangs limp and greasy. My oversized t-shirt is soaked through and I can see where it’s now clinging to the bulges beneath my industrial sized sports bra, one I had to struggle to wedge myself into with hooks and clasps and enough velcro to stick a grown human to a wall, one that might require the jaws of life and some serious intervention to release me from.
I won’t be showering at the gym. I’ll load myself into the minivan and drive home after class, stripping down to immediately step on the scale, willing it lower with my effort, counting calories in my head, feeling the ache and burn of my muscles, punishment for my weakness.
I have visions of goal weight and my goal outfits, before and after pictures that wow, which float like a dangling carrot as I Google recipes consisting mostly of kale and tofu. Every stomach growl is penance for misplaced desire.
I am a grasping soul, never settled in peace. Always striving to make the outside look better because I know the inside is churning and chaotic and filled with jealousy and self-loathing.
I push myself to be what I fear I will never be, good enough.
I go every day for two weeks and then never again.
Years have passed since then, but I still remember gym girl and gym guy. I remember the feeling of being way too much and not at all enough every time I went.
I’ve sown a lifetime of envy into my soul, and reaped a harvest of fear.
Fear that I didn’t add up. That I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or pretty enough. Because there was a time when my skin was smooth like marble, and my body was strong and young, and I was cute-store-sized and I wasn’t enough then either.
And when I got married and had kids, everyone else seemed to remember to put the laundry from the washer to the dryer without having to rerun it 3 times.
Other women managed to keep their houses clean and artfully decorated with book page art and thrift store finds repurposed to look like Pottery Barn catalogs. Other women serve in children’s ministry with homemade healthy snacks and hand-sewn puppets. Other women didn’t show up to the community bake sale with cut and bake cookies and spit up on their shirts, their buttons wonky from misaligning one.
Other women ran marathons and started nonprofits and had careers and wrote books. Other women travel and speak languages and have passports needing additional pages. Other women have degrees and letters dangling off their names from prestigious universities. Other women speak and people listen, they fit in and throw their heads back when they laugh, wide toothy smiles, they don’t hunker down in the sofa and pull the throw pillow over their belly while trying to think of something to say.
Other women match ankle booties to skinny jeans and layer infinity scarves without strangulation of any kind. They can tackle a messy bun without looking like a small woodland creature is nesting in their hair. Other women wake at 5 am and have quiet times next to their vases of fresh cut poppies grown in their gardens which they Instagram next to their journaling Bibles with handwriting that looks like a custom font. They cook steel cut oatmeal for their children who eat it without complaint. Other women homeschool their children who are all fluent in Latin, have memorized the Epistles and have raised money for refugees in Africa, the homeless in their community — all while starting a clothing company from fair-trade-organically-sourced ministries in their spare time.
Other women do it better. Other women are better. I’ve believed it for far too long.
I see gym girl everywhere when I let envy dictate my dreams, my goals, my reality. I see her in all the women who do it better, in all the ways I come up short. And much like that ridiculous gym key fob with the horrible picture, my insecurities dangle there taunting me. I let it keep me away from the process. Not to change into a me that’s good enough, but to believe that just showing up is part of the journey, not just to a fit self, but to a fit soul.
I am back to exercising. I pull on my oversized t-shirt and work myself into a fine ache, and when I look in the mirror bypassing the scale, I feel spent yet whole, flushed, and alive.
I’m not looking for a better version of myself, but a truer version of who I have always been: loved, cherished, beautiful, strong.
I sow grace for myself. To be where I am, to be who I am. Enough.
I reap grace for others, to excel at what God called them to do in all the excellent ways He’s gifted them. To allow others to own their gifts and calling without resenting being passed over. They are running their own races. No one can outpace me when my route is different.
I surrender envy and find the deep exhale of enough being poured over me like an anthem.
I make space to breathe deep and beat my heart out before God and feel the width of my soul stretching out like limbs hungry for a race. I look to what’s set before me, and I take my place in the line up.
I make my peace to belong wholly with no goal weights or sizes or lists of accomplishments. My only resolution is to know God more, to seek His face.
I take my place, comfortable in this small and ordinary life, in this calling to imperfection and grace, and I run it good and well and hard, my beautiful blotchy sweat stained skin a testament to His work in me.