I was biking along Route 66, heading into campus for a violin pedagogy class. Sometimes I get lucky and can cruise through intersections, but oftentimes I feel like I stop at almost every one, watching the cars turn left.
I had my left foot unclipped and on the asphalt, grounding me. It was also helping me balance my violin case on my back. I felt relaxed, as I had given myself extra time to get to school, and happy, as I was on my bike in the warm sun.
I looked down at my belly and saw that it was soft. It was very round, like a little basketball, and pushed the top of my leggings and the bottom half of my shirt out. Maybe not everyone’s belly can do this, but, with some effort, I can really get my to protrude, and wouldn’t be surprised if I could trick people into thinking there was a little baby in there. At that moment, it was just relaxed and very soft. A belly you would want to cuddle with and touch.
I have a friend named Elizabeth (who this blog is dedicated to!) who has a soft belly. I remember seeing it many times when I lived in Ashland. I always admired that she felt comfortable with her soft belly. Maybe she didn’t even know that it was “soft-ing”, but I noticed and loved it. I also thought, “My belly isn’t cute enough to be soft; I must keep it tucked in and muscled and firm.”
I think that my relationship with my belly then reflected my mind’s inner workings and motivations. I was trying to control my world. I was anxious and tight. I didn’t feel comfortable in myself. And I certainly did not like my belly.
I am a naturally slender person, and when I think about my present comfort with my soft belly, I imagine that others might say, “Well, you can go ahead and let your belly be soft: it’s relatively small and contained and on a person with slender legs and a small-ish butt.” But whenever I project those counter-statements, I always travel back in time to when I was a sophomore in college and weighed 119 pounds (as a 5’8″ person). During that time, the thought of letting my belly relax was anathema. I don’t know how much I weigh now (I do know it’s more), but I can’t get enough of letting the belly hang out.
Breathe and let your belly go. I know that many women carry themselves through the world with half a mind on keeping their belly tight and tucked. Breathe deeply into your belly and relax it, maybe when no one is looking. A belly is not for competing. It’s the part of you that holds your essential organs for digestion, reproduction, and detoxification. Honor other women’s bellies, no matter their shape…firm and muscular, basketball, just-had-a-baby, has-had-three-babies, large and resplendent. Breathe and let your belly go!