Tenderly

Today’s soundtrack comes from Duke Ellington.

My first exposure to this tune was in 1996, when a boyfriend gave me a mix tape with several recordings from the Indigos album.

This track has everything I love. A freely playing solo instrument to start, each supporting instrument entering discreetly, the rhythm section entering to build intensity. Oh, I just love this arrangement. Once the band enters, the soloist can start flourishing, and flourishing he does. I am ever the fan of a well-prepared improvisation. (Does that sound like an oxymoron? As a musician who loves to improvise, I assure you that this is a thing.) The flourishes dervish around the heavy handed band, making the whole thing feel like whirl around a smoky blue dance floor with someone who loves to dance and makes it feel easy, finding myself spinning and dipping when I don’t even know how!

Did I mention that I love this arrangement?

I must have listened to it three thousand times when I was in high school.

Then, it went away for a long time. I must have lost the mix tape.

Then, my first child was born.

Tenderness is not and has never been my strong suit.

I remember trying to keep that infant from scream crying non-stop nearly the instant my husband would get home from work at 5:00PM (which was we came to know as “the witching hour”, and my husband came to believe was entirely his fault, oh the irony.) It would start at 5:00PM. I could try feeding the child, I could put the child down for a nap, I could try changing the child, I could do anything and he would not stop crying. Unless…

Unless I was 1. bouncing up and down enthusiastically on the yoga ball holding the child upside down with my hand under his belly to the song Arkansas from Big River, but only the first minute, thankyouverymuch. (I wish that this were not true, but it is.) 2. dancing back and forth in the hall of our apartment to Ellington’s version of Tenderly.

Since I could only bounce to Arkansas so many times before my legs would go numb, I ended up dancing in the darkened hallway to Ellington many many many many times.

Tenderly. I still don’t really know what that word means, but I am pretty sure that it needs to be part of my plan for 2022.

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the stumbling blocks to fishing my self-worth out of the sewage system is that my body is playing tricks on me as I age. I am mercifully healthy in most ways. But that one path most women venture down is only adding to my self-worth problems.

Cue Tenderly.

I have a concerted desire to love my body, no matter if it is healthy or sick, bigger or smaller, strong or weak. As I was considering what Body Positivity and Health would look like to me in 2022, I inexplicably had the melody to my favorite Ellington Indigo, Tenderly, start playing in the back of my thoughts.

What will Body Positivity and Health look like to me in 2022? Learning to love myself tenderly.

Is binge eating loving myself tenderly? Uhmm, no. It really isn’t. Is eating lots of fruit and vegetables loving myself tenderly? Yeah. It is. So is drinking a lot of water. So is taking a walk when my hormones are driving my mood into the dumpster with the rats. So is taking a nap when I’m too tired to think straight. So is getting rid of the jeans that I will never in a million years fit into again.

A while back I wrote about how self-love is not a feeling. It is about the myriad of tiny things I do to make my life easier–putting things away where I will go to look for them, planning ahead so that future me will not have to scramble, decluttering now to prevent accumulation that I will one day have to deal with.

These things I mentioned above are genuinely good for my mental health. When I do them consistently, my menopause symptoms bother me less, and I have more heart and head space to actually do my work and be creative and maybe, even, sometimes, be a passable parent.

What if doing the little things for my physical health, like declining the urges to binge, and eating the fruits and veggies, and drinking the water, and doing the sleep and taking the walk, could be little acts of tender affection towards myself that would, in turn, make my menopause symptoms bother me less and give me more heart and head space to be creative and be a passable parent, too?

What if, what if, what if.

As I start planning for next year, I know I want Tenderly to be the soundtrack. I intend to have a tab open all year with Tenderly ready to play…just as a reminder.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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