This week I put on my wedding dress for the first time in many years. I’m not sure I’ve tried it on in the last nearly eight years since I got married because for most of those eight years I knew I wouldn’t fit into it. Now it fits. But not the same way. It served as a reminder of how my body has changed in the last eight years. As my weight has fluctuated over the years with babies and binging and exercise and dieting, the dress showed me that my thighs are thinner and my chest is bigger than before. Even though I’m at the same weight, the dress would still need to be either altered or exchanged for a different style in order to be worthy of such a special event.
But being a wife and a mother has made its mark on me in more ways than just a larger bra size and stretch marks. I’ve changed in the process. I’ve learned more about who I am and what I should be focusing on in my life.
Relinquishing single status made me aware of the fact that I need time to myself to gather energy up. I love my husband more than anyone else, but I can’t spend all day with him every day. I love my kids, but I need to get away from them, too, sometimes. I have to turn off all the noise and just be quiet and still sometimes, with a book or with my knitting needles or just wandering around a store with no purpose except to clear my head.
I’ve become more patient, not just with family members, but with other people you come in contact with in daily life. The slow check-out line, the rude driver, the people you are counting on to do something that don’t do it, the constant preschooler questions, the toddler that is into everything…things are easier to handle and annoyances easier to brush aside while I continue to move forward.
I discovered a strong need to delve into big ideas expressed in excellent literature. I spent a few pivotal weeks over two summers attending the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture’s Teachers Academy. Six weeks, each day discussing literature for its merit and for its application to society and life. I’ve gone back to various lectures and presented at the annual alumni symposium three times since then, and those times help illuminate parts of my brain that grow a little dim in the day-to-day focus on cleaning, cooking, and childcare. What I’m working on now is keeping that from getting dim in the first place.
While marriage and motherhood haven’t been the easiest road (is it for anyone?), it’s been a joy to walk, and I generally like the way I’ve ended up in the process. I’m grateful for the way the years have opened my eyes to truly see myself, and to smile back at the woman I see.