This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you're too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world ― Oprah Winfrey
Growing up, and for as long as I can remember, I hated my body. Thinning at 23 and bald by 26, my hair loss was a bit of a painful experience. I've never been slim, so I make jokes about my tummy, saying, "Yeah I've got a six-pack... it's just in the cooler." I never liked my arms, or my lack thereof. I like the musculature of my legs, but I feel like a monkey with how hairy I am. The three parts of my body that I like are mostly things over which I have little to no control: my eyes, my smile, and my vocal ability (singing, not speaking - let's be clear here).
Two weeks into quitting smoking, which was right around the time of my last post, I got in my car, drove across the street to my local LA Fitness, signed up for a membership, and that very same day, I started working out. Since then, at least 3 but mostly 4 times a week, I've gone there to work out. I completed one 5-week program, and am now in week 5 of another 12-week program. I've become more intentional about what I put into my body food-wise, though my relationship with sweets is as strong as ever. I apparently drink less than I did 2 months ago. I sleep better, apart from the Chantix dreams. On any given day, though I might feel slightly tired, I still have more energy than I've had in, well, ever.
In the last two-and-a-half months, during yet another period of radio/content silence, I've grown to love and admire my own body more than ever before. And in that time, I've become comfortable with both my singleness and with my solitude. Having a balance between work, home, and gym time has been invaluable for my emotional, physical, and honestly, spiritual well being.
With this change has also developed self-awareness of another sort, one less comfortable to tackle. Learning to be present in my own body and aware of my feelings towards it, I've also realized how my views of my body have impacted the way I view (and sometimes use) the bodies of others.
The fact is this: from a very early age, I was conditioned with particular perspectives about people, about their bodies, and about what I could assume of their character based on the body they inhabited.
I cannot escape the ideas embedded in me about race and attractiveness, but I can be mindful when I find myself less attracted to a man based on the color of his skin.
I can remember that round really is a shape, and guys who are larger than me are not lesser than me. I can be attracted to and enjoy time and intimacy with men whose bodies look like mine without suddenly finding shame in my lack of a six-pack.
I can look at a man's age and realize that avoiding bodies of men older than me does not make me immune to the reality of aging and its effect on my own body (wrinkles are real, and getting old is a reality).I can also choose to not judge another man because he enjoys the company of other men 10+ years his junior.
Perhaps if I assume best intentions on the part of those around me, I'll have to deal with less cynicism and skepticism towards my fellow human beings.
There may not be a solid point to my writing today, but rather, maybe I just wanted to take some space and share something both celebratory and reflective with you.
Maybe if we all start having more time being present in our bodies and more love for the physical space we inhabit, we can grow more love for others and the bodies they comprise.
We can pass legislation that respects of the bodies and stories of women, holding men accountable to their actions, thoughts, and views about the opposite sex.
We can acknowledge that every person has the right to afford and eat healthy food and drink clean water.
We can acknowledge and respond to racism both individually and systematically.
The list goes on. I genuinely feel, however, that learning to see and love our bodies will change many aspects of our lives and our communities. But we have to start with ourselves.
Maybe that's just what I'm doing, and maybe I want to find some traveling companions.
photo credit: Cristian May (via Flickr)