The Runner

There’s a new softness in my belly.

At fourteen, this would frighten me.

Thinness and hardness

indications of worth

an inner *cha-ching*

as my body sells the world an idea.

“You look good!”

my mom would say

when I returned from college

not seeing

late nights of drinking vodka

after not eating

and the times I binged

then let my body release it

out of shame.

Pinching my own sides

became a nighttime ritual

awakening early to pull up my shirt

searching for abs

scrutinizing skin over muscle–

anything less than

unacceptable.

As a runner I heard

I had to be fast to be good

I had to be thin to go far

I had to look like a runner

on the magazine cover–

the “had to’s” on repeat

as I counted reps

around the track:

one, two, three, four.

When I trained for Boston

years later

I squeezed the worth

exhaustion gave to me.

I curled my fingers round

his promise for more:

more miles, more medals

more experience, more esteem

more worth.

I still pinched

I still pulled my shirt up to see.

Nine marathons later

and I am finally creating

space

in my body

space to be beautiful

worthy

soft and hard

curved and straight

rested and tired

creative and blocked

one thing and another

and another still.

I’m creating space

to feel good

in my own way.

Because feeling good

in our beautiful skin

is the worth

we all deserve.

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