Your Body Is Not Your Art, It Is Your Paintbrush


We’ve confused seeking what feels right with creating what looks right.

We believe that we are as beautiful as we can convince other people we are. The things that appear well feel good, because we derive pleasure and acceptance from other people’s nods of approval and gasps of awe.

But they are not the same thing.

Too many people arrive at the finish line, check off the last bullet point on the list of goals they made only to find that it didn’t make them feel the way they thought it would.

So they write another list. They find another thing to perfect. It still doesn’t make them feel the way they thought it would and think it should. The cycle goes on.

The point is, you can’t fake a deep life. You get what you give. If you cultivate the surface, you’ll end up with only the surface of things. You can’t cheat your way to happiness, and you can’t chase certain things, hoping to find happiness at the end – whether or not anyone ever promised you that happiness was there to begin with. You can’t expect to give a little and receive a lot in return.

Most of that giving and taking, it’s worth noting, is what you’ll do with yourself.

When it comes to your body, and your mind, and the spirit it holds, you must do the heavy lifting yourself.

And so the next time you find your life frozen for a second, and you’re looking around feeling nothing toward the things you’ve spent all your time working to attain, let that inner something tell you that happiness is never what looks best, but what feels good in spite of that

When we contemplate what we want, we imagine how it will look. Before we make a choice or a change, we recite the story in our minds: “she went to school here, studied this, started working here, okay yes, sounds good.” Everything has to fit together, and in insisting this, we cut ourselves desperately short.

Your body and your life are not things you’re supposed to cultivate for the sake of other people’s consumption.

But more importantly, they’re not things you’re supposed to cultivate for your own consumption. Your body is not something you’re supposed to put together to create an image that appeases the pre-determined construct you may or may not realize you’re conditioned to.

Realizing this, for me, was the result of one thing and one thing only: reaching the point in which I realized that if I wanted to love my body, I had to love what it contained, not what it was comprised of. That I had to stop regarding it as the art, because it was the paintbrush.

That my hopes for the future, for that deep life I so desperately wanted, needed no longer to depend on how taught and smooth and appeasing to someone else my body was at any given point of time.

That really, as is par for the course of this life, the body is only a vessel and it is impermanent. It will slow, and it will sag, and it will decay, and it will be gone. We cannot choose or control much of how our bodies are shaped or what biological or genetic fates will play out. We can only choose to do something with our bodies, something that will last longer than they will.

In fact, I do hope that I end up with stretch marks and extra skin on my stomach because I had kids. I hope I live long enough to see my body slow and sag. 

I hope I never walk into a gym again. I hope I bike through the roads of the land where I hope to have a farm house in Pennsylvania, and though new countries and cities when I visit. I hope that I always choose to leave the dishes in the sink for another hour and in place of doing something rote, I choose an hour with someone I love instead. I hope that I have to stop painting my nails because I get to grow my own food like I’ve always wanted to.

I hope the next time I’m standing in the checkout line at a store, I think to myself, “I am so happy I have [x amount of money] for a sweater, and that I won’t be cold this winter, and that being cold because I lack clothing or shelter has never been a real problem of mine,” as opposed to: “I am so happy that I have [x amount of money] for a sweater that will make me appear a certain way to someone.”

I hope I feel more than just happiness in a life. I hope that I’m consistently surprised by the magnitude that a person can contain, not just in myself, but what this self experiences through others. I hope I approach and feel everything a person is capable of seeing and feeling, and I hope I learn, and I hope I have the hands and brain and drive to keep writing it down.

I hope I can honor my body by honoring the person that resides in it, and I hope in return, it will honor me. I hope you know that this applies to you and your body, too.

And I hope that I always remember that to feel, and experience, and honor, and learn, and write, does not and will never hinge on how my body does or doesn’t look.

That my body — and by extension, the life that resides within it — doesn’t pick or choose how deeply it serves me.

I take from it only as much as I give.