This is the story of a pair of pants. Shorts, really. They weren’t anything spectacular, just a basic khaki Bermuda. They were the perfect style to wear in the minivan grocery store dashes necessary for grabbing the 3 or 7 odd items I’d inevitably left off my list, cute enough for coffee dates with a girlfriend, practical enough for library story hours. They even had the perfect pockets to catch the stray goldfish cracker and juice box straw which would die a slow death navigating the spin cycle of the washing machine.
They were the perfect conservative length to take with me when my family and I moved to another country for missions work, so into one of 27 suitcases they went, the right thing to wear in a tuk-tuk ride as I ran the same errands I had before, only at a different place and in a different language and in a completely different way. They even traveled back to the States with me when my family moved back a few years later.
There was only one thing wrong with them: They were not the perfect size.
The day I had purchased them, I was in the throes of raising three humans under the age of fivve, and subsisting on a disordered diet of mostly coffee drinks and caffeine-enhanced protein bars to energize myself for each 49-hour day of mothering little ones. When I suddenly dropped to the lowest number my scale had displayed in years and when people began commenting on how very good I looked, I knew I had to stay in the size of those shorts.
The problem was, in order to keep the shorts fitting and the compliments coming, I had to ignore the very biologically-basic signals of hunger and fullness. I had to watch others enjoy the delights of delectable desserts and the flavors of family meals as I swallowed my misplaced desire instead of food. When I loosened my restrictions, the shorts tightened and, instead of adjusting my expectations, I adjusted my intake.
Yet I held onto those shorts just as I held onto so many of the wrong things: I held onto the weight other random people decided I looked best at. I allowed external opinions to overpower what was my body’s internal set point, the weight at which it naturally wanted to be. I held onto those shorts just as I consumed the stream of images the media was happy to put upon my plate, the images of what size and shape defined my desirability.
What’s in Your Closet?
Most of the women I know have a pair of those traveling skinny shorts. Maybe they look more like a skirt or a dress or jeans that cut us off from breathing in the joy of the moment we are experiencing. It’s not wrong to want to be at our healthiest but, if we are honest, most of us use the word “healthiest” as a replacement for “skinniest.” If wearing those shorts means we must ignore our God-given body signals; if wearing those shorts means we must focus and obsess more on ourselves than on the others around the table with us; if wearing those shorts means we must fill ourselves with the lies of glossy images instead of soul-filling conversations and songs and quiet moments and truth, then it is time to put those shorts away for good.
What would happen if, instead, we decided to wear shorts that are not a tight reminder of the boundaries we keep placing around our food? What if we breathed deeply of the freedom we were meant to walk in, without the band around our bellies that speaks a constant “No”? What if we clothed ourselves with a belt of truth instead, the truth that a piece of cloth cannot take away from us, the truth that we already know, deep in the quiet places of our hearts? We only have this one fleeting, precious life, and to waste it on any extreme, whether too much Yes or too much No is not the way we were designed to spend our days.
Living this way requires a constant intake of truth, a truth that cannot be found in a steady diet of society’s standards. It means we will have to turn off the noise and be still and be quiet and remember. It means we will have to speak honestly to ourselves and to others when we hear the lies repeated all around us.
It may also mean that we tell our shorts that their traveling days are over.
Jessica Otto is a teacher, a blogger, and a homeschool mom of three. She enjoys residing in a county with no traffic lights and can most often be found sitting on her porch with a book and a strong cup of coffee, or daydreaming about Paris, or wiping the kitchen counters for the eleventy-billionth time that day. Follow her blog here. Or read her posts here.