Tag Archives: body image

Imagine If…

27 Jun

If I could imagine what life may have looked like, had I not taken this particular journey, I would ask—why did I choose this life? Some people believe that our souls choose this particular body in this particular time and place before we become a fetus, before we are born into this world. Given a true choice, wouldn’t I naturally opt for a thinner body with medium size breasts and straight teeth?

Erin Pavlina makes these assertions:

When you are in the ether you remember that you are a part of consciousness and that you are being sent out into the world to experience, learn, and grow.  You know that physical life is temporary, and that the pain and adversity you face as a physical being is but a moment in your existence.  Why do people choose to enter a life that is filled with pain and torment?  Because from the perspective of the ether, any pain or adversity is but a blip of discomfort in the grand scheme of things.  It’s like asking if you are willing to suffer a paper cut in order to gain vast wisdom and knowledge and tremendous personal growth.

In my mind, I imagine it like a rope swing. I think about the journey that my roller coaster self-esteem-driven body has taken me on, and I see myself considering the options of taking another bite—would I let out a barbaric yawp into the ether and fly into the wild earth? Or would I stay safe—take another bite and let myself sink further into my comfort zone?

If I’d let go of the rope and created a life for myself, full of lean, athletic bodies, popularity contests, and a virginity that withered well before my twenties, who would I be?

Would I have been that vulnerable woman who said yes to the unknown? Would I have met a man in college and stayed in the Midwest? Would I be a mother? Would I tuck my children into their beds at night, kissing their soft cheeks, brushing hair from sweaty foreheads, shushing their protests, then closing the door silently behind me in sweet relief of another day without tragedy?

Would my husband and I become so used to our mundane life that we approach our fifties without a hint of sexual desire? Or would one of us be struck with a yearning so great that we must express or explode—and because the other is our best friend, we must confess—that the tumble-dry cycle of our sex life simply isn’t enough?

Would we then go to a series of sexual enlightenment workshops, awkward at first because this is all new, and sometimes the worn-in feeling of familiarity is much preferred over the fear of the unknown, to find later that we have both fallen in love with our instructor (And who wouldn’t? They are all at once sensual, kinky, loving, torturous, and safe.), who then somehow convinces us that this is completely normal and is actually a reflection of our renewed lust for each other?

Would we then leap back into our home life with gusto and a plethora of spontaneous sex—in closets when the children are in twilight sleep, on the balcony where our neighbors just might see, or with a voracious interest in play toys of all kinds?

Would I, as I am inclined to do, reflect earnestly in my journal, each paragraph a rabbit hole for the next great big blank page?

Oh white space, you are inviting. You tease with your crisp cleanness and your ample availability. You offer your lush white bosom as a landing pad for a sprinkle of thoughts, then a deluge, then a monsoon of words and creativity. I am wet with your weather. Consume me, let me soil your innocence with my wisdom as well as my curiosity, for it is that which completes the circle in the end.

Imagine if…

Naked and Absolutely F*cking Terrified

18 Sep

Last week I turned 36. I honestly hadn’t thought about it much, except for the fact that I was planning a fabulous brunch with my Portland community. (FYI, I cannot imagine a world where I will ever tire of celebrating my birthday.) Then my friend Maggie texted me with this question: So, you’re turning 36. How does it feel?

The sound of thirty-six, in theory, seems like a war cry announcing the foray into my late 30s. And yet I don’t feel like my late 30s are anything negative. I joke about being like a fine wine—better with age—but truly, growing and learning more each year makes my journey all the more fascinating.

That said, it doesn’t come without bumps and bruises of any typical adventure. There are times I feel like a 14-year old, staring at my locker at my new high school, completely unsure of who to talk to, where to look, and how to get to my next class. I push my glasses further up my nose and lift my head up so I can see where I’m going, but it doesn’t necessarily help me get there any easier.

One of these times was last Monday. It was Labor Day. My boyfriend decided to take me to Rooster Rock, part of which is sectioned off as a nude beach…which was the part he wanted to visit. For me it was the last place I would elect to lay on a beach. I don’t mind nudity, not one bit. I don’t care if you’re flopping down on your towel, swimming the river, or playing naked beach volleyball. I just personally don’t have an attraction to being the one in the nude.

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So here’s what happened. We arrived, put our picnic basket down, and stripped. Well,he did. I put on my bravest face and took everything off except my underwear. I just couldn’t go all the way. We spent the better part of three hours there, making food, dipping in the water (Okay, he did. I was too much of a sissy.), playing games, and lazing in the sun. It wasn’t busy that day, which surprised me, but there were groups on both sides of us and across the river. In the last 20 minutes or so, Nathan decided to get in the water for the final time. I stood up and was looking out at him as he swam in the river when I heard a voice.

“Looking good!!” A man in his fifties was suddenly in front of me with what looked like a benign smile…? Now, I don’t know a lot about nude beaches, but I assume that one does not comment on the physical appearance of another nude(ish) beach-goer. And you certainly don’t stare! Right?

He was so intent on looking at me, in fact, that he tripped on a scrubby bush, and sheepishly said, “I guess I better keep on walking.” I nodded with what I assumed was a shocked look on my face, unsure whether I should give him a lecture or just be relieved that he had kept on going.

Nathan saw all of this go down from the water and was at my side before the man was out of sight. I stood there, naked(ish) and self-conscious, and told him what had happened. He agreed that it was quite rude to say something of that nature on a nude beach.

Completely outside of our conversation, but deep inside my head, I felt a swirl of emotions. I was ashamed to admit to myself what had actually been my first thought: Are you talking to me? Looking good, naked? Really!? This instinctual chant played over and over. It made me feel incredibly sad, and I felt my face flush with red with embarrassment—and a little bit of anger—for thinking this way. Was I still the 14–year-old, affected by society and still unaware that people come in all shapes and sizes? That everyone deserves love and is worthy? That I should love myself most, unconditionally, and abundantly? Why should my knee-jerk reaction be that he misspoke somehow, or, worse yet, was mocking me?

Yes, as an adolescent I had more than my fair share of middle-school torture about my shape, but I’ve done a lot of self-work since then. I also know that unfortunately, it’s an ongoing battle, and that overcoming feelings of shame and imperfection is something I will always need to be aware of. I know I’m not alone. I know each and every one of us has something they are self-conscious about. I find it so comforting to have my friends and family to talk to, and a community of support that is just a click away. I love that as an adult we can own up to our weaknesses, and, though we might still feel them, have the opportunity to seek out ways to understand the human spirit, and in turn, understand ourselves.

Maybe someday I’ll believe it when a stranger tells me I’m looking good…naked.

Or maybe someday I’ll have finally learned that I don’t need to clog my mind with those little judgments I hold within me.

Belly Beautiful

27 Oct

As you know if you have read my blog posts previously, I have always had body image issues—and for the record, I am writing this post while feeling incredibly frustrated about the vacation weight I gained. I work on these issues every single day, and though I have small victories on a regular basis, it is an ongoing struggle for me (and most American women) to see my body as strong, beautiful, and healthy. This past weekend I had some amazing experiences which connected me with my body in striking ways.

On Sunday I woke up on my own accord at 7:30 AM. I had told myself the night before that if I woke up in time to go to Meeting in the morning, I had no reason not to go. Since I woke up in time without the aid of an alarm, I knew I couldn’t cheat myself out of this experience. The Quaker Meeting I had chosen was new to me; it was a Meeting in SW Portland called West Hills Friends Church (WHF). I intensely dislike going places by myself, however, I had heard great things about WHF, and even though they hold programmed services, I had wanted to go for a while. Note:  It is called Friends Church because this sect has a minister who gives a sermon preceding a short silent worship, unlike unprogrammed services like the ones I was raised with, which have no clergy and have completely silent worship.

The chapel was about a third full when I arrived, so I had my choice of seating. I sat in a pew alone, about halfway back. Immediately I spotted one of the hymnals sitting in the pocket on the back of the pew I was facing: Worship in Song. My mother had been a member of the committee that created this hymnal; of that she was very proud. I picked it up and searched for her name—there it was. I passed my forefinger over her printed name, feeling like this place was already getting brownie points for having my mother’s hymnal in it.

Eventually an older couple sat to my right, and a couple about my age sat to my left. The service began. There was music, and then something called the First Word. A heavyset woman wearing a loose red dress stood up and walked over to the microphone. The minute she began speaking, I was riveted. She spoke about her addiction to food, and how she had used it throughout her life to deal with stress, which consequently brought on shame, which she dealt with by eating more food. She spoke frankly about it, but her voice was thick with feeling. I could feel her words running through me, creating a sensation of empathy, and bringing back my own ashamed feelings about food. At the end, her message brought forth the encouragement to be honest and compassionate with oneself through any addiction. That is something I always forget when I am trying to “fix” my flaws. I constantly have to remind myself not to be harsh when I make a mistake, or fall back into old habits. I have always reacted strongly to positivity, not stringent criticism. When the woman was finished I had the strong urge to run up and hug her. I felt it was fate that I went to church on that particular day, so I could hear her words.

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I was particularly excited about my Sunday evening because I was heading to a Goddess gathering named the “Red Tent.” This is my friend Sedona’s modernized incarnation of the women’s hut, where in some cultures women are quarantined to a separate building during their period or other significant times in their menstrual cycle. Sedona’s version didn’t have anything to do with the menstrual cycle, but it brought a variety of women together to celebrate being a woman. I had not been to one of these yet and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

I walked into the beautifully decorated Datura Studio and immediately saw several people I knew. That was encouraging. (As you already know, I get nervous going new places by myself.) I sat and chatted with my friends for a while, drank some champagne, and ate some yummy food. After a while, Sedona called us all into the main room and to make a circle. I saw another one of my friends, Joy, and stood beside her. Sedona began talking about the significance of the belly, or core of a woman. Her strength comes from it, incredible beauty comes from moving it (i.e., bellydancing or other forms of movement), and it is the source of all life. Pretty powerful stuff!

Then she asked us to do something that made my throat instantly go dry. She instructed us to put our right hand on the belly of the woman beside us, and then put the left one over the hand of the woman whose hand was on our bellies. OMG. There was a complete stranger to my left. Her hand would be touching my jiggly belly! I had a momentary panic, imagining her with a look of disgust when she felt it. I couldn’t just run out of the room, so I did as I was told and put my right hand on Joy’s belly. It felt smooth, and weirdly, it calmed me down a little. When our other hands were positioned, Sedona asked us to breathe and feel the pressure of the hand on our center, and to just be aware of the sensation of touching another woman’s belly. Am I pressing too hard on this stranger’s hand? I wonder if she is completely freaked out by touching my belly. Am I doing this right?? The thoughts raced through my head. Then I checked myself and remembered to breathe. I looked up, and saw for the first time the group in its entirety. It was comforting, seeing women of all shapes and sizes, their bellies rising and falling with breath, and I knew suddenly that I was not the only one feeling this way, but it didn’t matter. This was a safe place. No one cared how jiggly my tummy was. They were all enjoying the warmth of this group, just like I was.

I don’t have a witty end to this post. No matter how many momentary highs I get from events like the Red Tent, there is no denying I will always be self-conscious about my belly’s size, texture, and shape. Intellectually I know that many many women share these feelings, but in my heart it always feels so singular. Writing about these emotions can’t heal the pain of a 32-year struggle, but it does make me feel stronger every time I put the words out into the Universe. It’s cathartic. I think of the love that I sent to the woman in church, speaking about herself, and I know that every person who reads this will be sending me love as well. I am so grateful.

Love

Love Yourself

BIRTHDAY POST!

31 Aug

It’s my birthday, so go ahead and take this opportunity to celebrate the day of my birth in any way you wish! And don’t forget my twin; it’s Sarah’s birthday too!

I want to give you a recap of my Portland to Coast experience, but I also want to share the more intimate inner workings of my mind when it comes to my philosophy on running/walking.

The 2011 Portland to Coast Relay Walk was exhilarating and terrifying! (I have not built up the nerve to the full Hood to Coast Run yet, but I’m working on it.) This year was my sophomore year as a part of a speed-walking team. I was a little apprehensive before the event began. There were a lot of unknowns on my team—I had never met three of my new teammates, who would be squished in a Suburban with me for 30 hours. As Captain, I had made every effort to communicate with them, to make everyone feel at ease with the journey to come, and to let them know I had everything covered. Only I didn’t feel like my efforts were much appreciated. Most of my brain knows that just because some of my team members didn’t respond to my (well-written and thoughtfully-crafted) emails, it doesn’t mean they weren’t read. Being a Virgo, I wanted immediate responses from each recipient upon receipt of every email. Ok…I’m being a little facetious here…but I wanted to be assured that my efforts were being acknowledged, and also that I wouldn’t have to read all the rules and regulations to the team once we’d all gotten together. There are a lot of things to remember in this event, and I knew we’d be busy enough with the task at hand.  

Can you tell I put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to things like this? Have you ever been in charge of something and be absolutely terrified that things will fall apart, and everyone will turn and blame you because you stupidly volunteered to be Captain and Team Scapegoat? I have those fears. I bet a lot of us do. My chest tightens just thinking about it. I must remember to breathe.

In the end things went pretty well. They definitely weren’t perfect, but we didn’t forget any supplies, we never missed the baton handoff, and no one injured themselves, aside from the usual muscle aches. While observing hilarious costumes and team names, I also noticed was that there was so much love and support coming from everyone in the event. Yes, my teammates cheered me on when I killed that 8 mile leg in record time, but in addition to that, many strangers rooted for me as I passed their vans, stood beside them in the 2:00 AM chill, and moaned about the lack of sleep with them. I felt such a kinship with the thousands of people walking and running beside me, all of us reaching for our best selves.

That feeling is like a song that makes me fill up with joy every time I hear it. The one that comes into my head right now is “Iwoya” by Angelique Kidjo and Dave Matthews. Whether or not you like or understand the music, you can’t not be happy when you hear it. I feel this song gives the listener a gift of love with every play. And that is exactly how I feel about running and walking. It’s a gift I’m giving my body, and it always makes me happy. I have never said to myself after a run, “I wish I hadn’t done that!” I love running…and I hate it too. It makes my chest burn, my legs ache, and my everything sweat. But the most commanding feeling I have about it is that it makes me feel like a total rock star. I have never been so proud of myself as a physical being. Besides bellydance, no other activity has ever made me feel so alive. I also recognize that it’s starting to make a serious impact on my body. I’ve gone from hating my body to embracing it, thanking the Universe every day that I am able to do these things, and do them well. I wish that everyone will find their love of life the way I have. It’s a beautiful thing.

She's a Walkstar!