it is hard to hold your stomach in when you are hiding under your desk

 We get a couple of weeks notice and I pencil it onto my calendar. We all sigh a resigned sigh as we eyeball one another in the Zoom meeting. It is not that much more trouble to schedule than a fire drill, but a lockdown drill carries other stresses and anxieties. We have to answer kids\’ hard questions about why we do this, what if this happened, we don\’t like this, why do we have to do this? Sometimes for the rest of the day. And we have to squish under our desks ( no huddling together in the corner because of covid) for 5-10 minutes total until the all clear sounds throughout the building, an absurd tangle of xylophone notes indicating that the mass shooter has exited or cleared the building and the lockdown has ended. Please resume your absolutely normal day, with your stomachs churning and that stress headache blooming in the back of your head. And your kids sometimes can\’t get back to where you can work on anything meaningful.

This last one was especially disturbing, because of how my body has changed. The weight that has come to rest in my middle,  has expanded my muffin top into a loaf. The sheer difficulty of curling my body into a ball on the underside of my teacher desk made it hard for me to breathe. I wasn\’t scared. I knew it was a drill. My lungs were just constricted because I was trying to hold my stomach in, as I do always, without even thinking about how idiotic such a thing would be under the circumstances. My knees hurt on the hard floor, but I was more conscious of the compressed rolls pushing up and depriving me of air. It was not a great feeling. It took me some time to feel like I had enough air again. I had to open the window and breathe deeply in and out a few times. I was not having a good time.

As my body has changed in the past year or two, as I have stopped restricting and dieting, my weight has gone up. I don\’t know how much because I no longer get on the scale to find out. We do have a scale, as my husband does like to weigh himself periodically, but I never use it. I know my weight is higher because of how I feel in my body, how much harder it is to not body check all day long and relax my belly, let it hang out and flop over my waistband. I rarely get to that point of comfort before I get my bra off and pajamas on in the evening. I almost cannot relax and let my stomach out in any other way or time. It occurs to me that I have been sucking my stomach in for much longer than it has stuck out. 

Even as a child, with that glorious freedom to have a child\’s pot belly, I was reminded to stand up straight and suck that belly in. That I was too fat, too much and had to appear as less, rather than just focus on riding my bike or having fun with my friends. I was ten years old when I began to hear this rule.

Now that I have the freedom to relax my belly, it seems like I have such a short time to enjoy it.  What if there was an actual shooter in my hallway? What if this was my last day to let my stomach hang out? Will I regret the years of sucking it in? I already do. Unexpected epiphany to have under my desk, trying to catch my breath, but better late than never. I wish I had exhaled sooner.