It is a lazy sunday afternoon, my husband and two sons are glued to the Patriots game, and planning to watch another football game immediately afterwards. Do I feel neglected, resentful, bored??!!!! Heavens NO!! I am loving my own version of a perfect sunday-living moment by moment around what I choose to do or not do, as a blessed antidote to my very structured and full work week. I did not even go for my usual walk in the Harvard hills today, in spite of the sunshine and mild temperatures. This is a day in which everything in me needed to “be” instead of “do”.
I read an article in last month’s issue of Oprah’s magazine. Overall, it was about the ways we choose to perceive daily life and circumstances, in the face of aggravation, stress, and inconvenience. The author made a statement that essentially stated there is no such thing as “atheism”- that one way or another we choose to worship SOMETHING. He followed that depending on what it is we choose to worship, of course shapes our wellbeing. As women dealing with issues around our bodies, in a culture that gives pervasive messages about what we are supposed to look like,it makes sense to really think about this. If we choose to worship appearance, weight, youth, we are basically doomed. I believe most women, teenage girls, and now even very little girls are easily caught up in bowing down to standards that make us miserable and negate all that is vital and vibrant and real in us. Is this really how we want to live?
I remember last spring, feeling very mired in issues around my body as my wedding to Andy approached. I was panicked at how I would appear in photographs, at feeling not good enough, not thin enough, not bride-like enough. It almost ruined the entire event and fun of planning for me. At one point, I thought about the choice that all of the pain was presenting to me. I thought, “this is me. This is my body right now. I am healthy, happy, and living the life I have always wanted. And I am letting my weight ruin it all. ” I felt very humbled by my lack of appreciation for all of the beauty and blessings in my life. I thought about the idea of everyone having strengths and limitations, and how my favorite people lived fully and gracefully no matter what their limitations. Some people have physical disabilities, some people are financially challenged, others have family crises, and so on. I like to think of myself as somebody who makes the best of it, who finds a way to make everything work in my favor and who can find inspiration and appreciation for anything life throws at me (eventually!!!). When I thought about the ways in which I was blocking my happiness from the self-absorption around my body, I knew I needed to shift my attention in ways that would let me and everyone around me look at the larger context. I did not want to be somebody who is so focused on a perceived “limitation” that I would miss everything that life was offering .
I ended up going on E-Bay, finding a long white muslin mexican embroidered summer dress, much like the ones I had worn in the 70’s when I was a teenaged flower-child, living in Indian-print dresses and shirts. My wedding dress cost me all of $35 and I truly felt like myself. This was a big jump for me- finding a way to love myself, where I was, in spite of all of the external ideas about brides, and how one should look, etc. I had a wedding 15 years ago with the dress, and the party and the traditional trappings, it was truly gorgeous. Although I got my 2 beautiful sons from the marriage, it only lasted 4 years.
As an older “bride” this time around, this wedding was about who I am now, my relationship with a man who knows and loves me, and the life that we are creating together, as opposed to the fantasies of the earlier wedding. I almost forgot all of the important pieces I have been learning over the last many years, in chasing and worshipping appearance, as opposed to savoring all of the good that was before me.
It’s hard to love ourselves where we are, when we feel not good enough, not thin enough, different from others, and from cultural ideals. And it’s okay to have intentions that allow us to feel better , or to express our true selves in ways that support who we are. But there are times that we are not where we wish to be. And in those times, loving ourselves with compassion and generousity, and remembering our true nature, apart from appearance, will always feel better than the alternative.
It is our choice what we value, or worship. Are we to let somebody or something OUTSIDE of ourselves dictate what to believe? If we are free to choose our religions, careers, beliefs, mates and all of the other things which we take for granted, doesn’t it follow that we establish our own guidelines for our bodies? Nobody outside of yourself has the right to tell you what size you should fit into, what clothes you must wear, what you can or cannot eat, and so forth. Whether it is an ad for jeans, or a diet book, there is not anyone outside of you, who knows what is right for you. Your inner guidance system, your
“intuitive body” is where you can turn to answers that are the best fit! When you begin to develop this relationship with your emotional guidance system, internally instead of looking to all of the external cues from the outside, you will ease into a comfort with your body and your eating that will allow you to make choices in each moment that support you and move you into the beauty of your life.