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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Life With Really Ugly Legs

I imagine it was an undiagnosed congenital disease, since I barely remember a time that I wasn't hyper conscious that I wasn't like the other kids. By grade six, at the tender age of eleven, I was actively trying to do something about my condition. It was the year my mom required us to pack our own lunches, and let it suffice to say, that mine was left sorely lacking.

By the age of eighteen it must have been catastrophic, since it was at that time I began to puke my guts out. And not from the flu, either. More of a "home remedy" sort of approach to prevention against the fear of growing further out of control.
Often, I could tell that other people didn't notice my curse. They would comment on my skinny-ness, and how lucky I was. I needed that so badly, as I felt I had so little going for me in the broader arenas of personality or intellect. I had a serious deficit in "coolness factor" that no one could deny.
So, I went with skinny, even though I knew how ugly I was. And I puked my guts out because I had to hold the inevitable at bay. Getting fatter would only accelerate the condition.
Somehow I was always a pretty happy person, smiling and laughing a lot so by hook or by crook, I managed to get some dates. I kept smiling a lot, even when I thought the guys were total idiots, because I didn't want them to find out that I had no personality and no brain. So, sometimes they would think they wanted to marry me, since it was a pretty good deal from their angle. That's when I really had to bolt, since I hadn't even been honest about my problems, and if they knew me at all, they'd start laughing and running and not stop until they reached the sunshine coast.
By the time I met Brian, I was pretty tired of smiling all the time, and super tired of puking. So I told him all my terrible truths, especially the one about my legs being really ugly. I cautioned him that the condition was irreversible, chronic, and progressive and that he may want to consider his options, and quite possibly take up the sort of long distance running where you never, ever look back. But Brian was distracted by my breasts, I think, and kind of tuned out of the whole bit about the legs. Maybe he thought it wasn't really a big deal, just a little something that would clear up,over time.
He was wrong about that.

We're more than twenty-two years in now, and my legs are uglier than ever.


But Brian's legs are strong and beautiful, and since he has stayed married to me despite my condition, I like to think of them as at least half mine.


With his legs and mine, we even managed to compile a gorgeous family. Incredible.


A few years ago, I started to think about this word: "Enough". I'm pretty sure it was after a cousin told me that she had finally aligned herself with the truth that she was enough.

It sounded big and daring and bold to me. Outside of my reach.

But, it played on my brain, and I started to wonder about living as though I too were enough. Thin enough, smart enough, bold enough. Just for today. And to say ENOUGH! to things and thoughts in my life that were choking out the good, making the air feel thin and raw, and like I had to gasp and claw for a little place to feel safe in. Maybe there was already enough space for me.

So, one summer day at the beach, I didn't cover up my Really Ugly Legs when I went for a little walkabout. I noticed a lady doing henna tattoos, and I decided to practise wearing a visual reminder to myself that my legs were good enough.
Thing is, my legs have taken me to so many interesting places. Have carried my body and my eyes on such beautiful adventures.
My ugly legs, so utterly lacking in coolness, have been welcomed into some Very Cool atmospheres, where the Ultra Cool people hang out, playing their instruments and chatting about the book learnin'.
Perhaps one of the greatest surprises of investigating the enoughness concept has been that these Ugly Old Legs of mine have carried me through some very turbulent waters of terror, and into the local cross fit gym. These legs have remembered how to skip, have learned how to squat, and how to do a little jog.
My gym friends don't seem to notice my condition, and if they do, we are too busy laughing and loving on each other to take much notice about my ugly legs.

Last summer, my legs went ahead and did some other ridiculous things that I hadn't thought they were capable of. Like, participating in the local Imagine run for Mental Health, and much to my surprise, managing to run four out of the five kilometres that were set out before me. Evidently, cellulite in no way impedes the ability in thighs to grow tiny muscles and just keep moving.
And equally, if not more remarkable, was that my legs began to dance. It was the darnedest thing, that will live in the legends of Blunderview for generations to come. These nearly atrophied, entirely repressed Mennonite legs, with a pretty serious case of RUL, began to dance. They danced for hour upon hour, as the townspeople stood agog and aghast at this thing that had come to pass.
For sure, there are days when my condition feels crippling and my mind and eyes can't see straight. All I see is shame, disgust, and horror when I look down at the sags and bags, cellulite, fat, veins, lumpy mashed potatoey mess that is my legs.
But if I could gather up that little girl in the chevron fortrel pants, I would tell her not to waste a minute of her precious life worrying about the state of her limbs. I would tell her to pump her legs on the swing and go really high and really far, to use her legs to explore the big tree in the garden, and to love on her legs early on so that they know they are enough.
I'm pretty sure that 50, 60, and 70 year old Joyce would like to sit 47 year old Joyce down to do some leg talk too. I imagine them encouraging younger Joyce to stay mobile, limber, to use those legs to live out her life.
They might even say- "You think your legs are ugly now? Whoa mama! Those were the good old days, cuz now we be living with Really Ugly Legs!"
And I would try to remind them, in the kindest way I know how, that our legs are enough.
Just the way they are.




Unknown said...

That's the beauty of marriage. We do compensate for each other's weaknesses. Brian may in fact have better legs but his boobs don't hold a candle to yours, honey.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a read...All my life I have had a similar chronic crippling view of my legs! It hasn't mattered if I was at the best shape in my life and running marathons, those legs were still somehow attached there. Now at 34 and expecting baby 6, I am challenged to be thankful for the legs that have traveled, climbed, ran, rode, walked and danced! This is your first blog that I have read of yours and I say thank you for your refreshing take on ugly leg syndrome!