Thursday, January 23, 2014

What is it about my belly?

I've been (probably over) thinking about my body dissatisfaction.

So here's the thing: I have to admit that I have thought to myself if only I had a flatter stomach I could live with the rest of my body. Sure I have a big booty, but I can live with that. But if my stomach was flat, and my waist smaller, then I'd be ok.  

When I really spent time thinking about it, I recognized the feeling that maybe my belly fat is protecting me. I have created a protective layer between my vulnerable abdomen - and all that lives there - and the world. This makes sense on a couple of significant levels. 

First, my abdomen was literally cut open nearly a year ago. I had a healthy kidney removed from my body and placed into my sister's body. [See Frankenbelly below:]

And that got me wondering, what is it about my belly?  Why is that the specific focus of my dissatisfaction? What is it that a few extra inches around my hips doesn't do, but a few extra around my mid-section does?

I imagine it takes a while to fully recover from organ donation, perhaps even longer than the doctors would have you believe. I feel recovered, but every once in a while I stretch too much and something pops deep inside - something let's go. Scar tissue? Old habits? False perceptions?  

However, I was wondering if there was more to it, this physical protection of my vulnerable core. I began looking into the symbology of the belly. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, "Angst about the body robs a woman in some large share of her creative life and her attention to other things." This is particularly interesting when you consider that the belly is also the location of the second chakra. Your body is known to have seven chakras - each one is a center of spiritual power within our bodies.

According to the  Chopra Center, the second chakra "is associated with creativity and birth―both literally to a new baby but also metaphorically to new aspects of ourselves, projects and ideas...[W]hen this chakra becomes congested, we may experience a block in our creative powers and a sense of dryness or emptiness."  It is not surprising then, with the amount of change I have recently gone through, that I may be protective of that tender, vulnerable part of myself. 

Now that I am on the other side of my mother's prolonged illness and death at age 61 from severe early onset dementia; the breakdown and eventual end of a long-term, emotionally abusive marriage; the successful life-saving kidney donation to my sister; as well as positive changes - like a new, healthy romantic relationship - is it time to release myself from such real, physical, tangible protection of my vital organs? 

I also read that the second chakra governs one's sense of self-worth. This really resonated with me, since I am clearly struggling with my sense of self and perceived worthiness.  Who am I, really? What good am I entitled to, and how can I manifest good things in my life? What do I really want and do I feel I deserve it? Can I accept the possibility that what I want is within reach? When will I release old beliefs that are holding me back? Can I let them go? 

These are the questions I am contemplating as I move forward with this deep introspection and move toward fierce and radical self-acceptance. I believe that when I am really ready, really feeling safe and secure, the protective layer of adipose tissue will let go, dissolve away. Or maybe it won't and I won't care anymore, because I will know and value who I am, deep down, below the outer shell that covers me, but isn't me, just as the thick paint strokes of a Van Gogh or Monet only serve to add depth, interest, and tangible character to a larger work of art.


Current fabubellyness. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 13 : Define Beautiful

What does the word "beautiful" mean to you? When are you compelled to use the word to describe a person? 

When do I think to myself, "wow, she is beautiful!"?

I have thought that about women who are confident, in a subtle way. I see beauty in a woman who seems comfortable in her skin, a woman who (usually) doesn't wear a ton of make-up. One who has her own sense of style - knows her strengths and plays to them, is smart about what she draws attention to, and what she doesn't. I admire women who make bold fashion choices, who own their sense of self. Confidence. Definitely. Natural, not overdone (though I do think there is a time and place for that and if that's your thing then own it!)

Relaxed. Natural. Healthy. Confident. At peace with themselves. Caring. Open. Joyful. Laughing. 

Here are some images I have come across of women I think are beautiful:

And, for good measure and evidence of possible progress, a time I think I looked beautiful: 

In Beauty, 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 12: Realize That Your Dissatisfaction Is Not About Your Body

Say what?
I've been thinking about this question (as posed by Rosie Molinary in her book, beautiful you, that I am working through/with) for the last 36 hours or so:
 "If we find ourselves consumed with body hatred, dissatisfaction, and preoccupation, our issue is likely not about our bodies at all. It is about something else that has kept us from maintaining perspective about our perceived imperfections." 
Well, Ok....I can get my head around the logic there, the idea, yeah, sure. But where I get hung up is:  what then, is my issue? What is the true root of my dissatisfaction?

Right now I feel like the proverbial horse led to water. I'm there, staring into the mossy tub of cool, refreshing water, I just ain't drinking.  For whatever reason I just can't get my nose down far enough to pierce the mirrored reflection staring back at me. Yeah, Jessica, what is it, really, that you are dissatisfied with? 

I shouldn't be dissatisfied with anything. I have a loving partner (who, it should be noted, loves my body just the way it is - and I believe him), two healthy children, a solid network of super-supportive, wonderful, life-long friends who are like family to me, a close relationship with key family members, a tolerable job, a wonderful, comfortable home, a reliable vehicle.

On the surface I would say I am least satisfied with my work and financial lives - as intertwined as they are. My job is often fulfilling, but perhaps not quite intellectually challenging or varied enough for me. The pay is not enough to support me and my family. It is part-time work.

On the way plus side, my job affords me a fantastic schedule, with tons of "free" time. Which, to me, is worth a lot. More than a lot. In fact, I am not sure I could actually cope with a "regular" full-time, 8-5 kind of job.

I need to work full-time, because I want to be able to support myself and my children without having to rely on others. I want to take care of my financial life so that I can someday retire and also be able to send my kids on school trips and help them with a college education or a life-changing, eye-opening, heart-expanding trip around the world.

I need to be stimulated, intellectually. I want a somewhat flexible job that rewards me financially and challenges me, encourages me to grow, and that offers real, visible room for advancement. I am goal-oriented. I like to receive regular feedback about my performance. I love positive reinforcement.

Hmmm, I sound like an athlete!

Maybe my dissatisfaction has something to do with not feeling accomplished. When I was competing I knew immediately how well I did - my place and time were tangible results. I had a coach who told me what to do, when to do it and if I did it well. And if I did not do it well, what I needed to do to improve next time. And frankly, I usually DID improve. I worked hard. I was dedicated. I enjoyed the challenge and the variety. I enjoyed the travel, meeting new people, going to new places, always having new goals.

I thrived upon the accomplishment, acknowledgement and attention.




We may be on to something here.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fast Is the Family Business

My grandfather ran track. My father ran track. I ran track. My step-mother ran track. All three of my half-brothers ran track. I am pretty sure my daughter will run track, and maybe my half-sister who is her age will too. I'm sure my son will too.

I guess you could say fast is the family business.

I began running competitively in grade school. I loved the trips to the track with my father. He and my mom split up when I was 2 or 3, but in an odd arrangement my mom, step-dad and I lived next door to my father and his girlfriend (also a runner!) My father would take me out to the dirt track at the local community college and we would run together. One of the greatest gifts my father gave to me was a love of sprinting. I love running fast, it is a source of pure joy for me. Even to this day I cherish the nights when I dream about running fast. My happiest dreams are those when I am out on an empty track, at dusk. It's a little cool, but you hit random warm patches on the track as you finish up your 100's or 200's. It's quiet. All you hear is your labored breathing. You feel supple. Alive. Fast.

At the track we worked out on you could feel the fog begin to roll in even before you could see it. The smell of the ocean would tease your nose as the grey wave made its way to the track. If anyone else was out there they would begin to pack up their gear and head out, not knowing that the most magical time was when the blanket of fog came in. The quality of light and sound would change, the energy would shift. We would run, fine mist leaving tiny droplets on our hair. My father would tell me that was the best time to get a workout in, because of the positive ions in the air. I believed him.

I won ribbons on track and field day in elementary school. (Ironically, I teach PE at the same elementary school, maybe half a mile away from the storied dirt track I mention above.) I ran for the junior high school team. I ran in high school. I ran in college. I quit running. I dropped out of college. I went back to college. I ran again. I went to graduate school and studied how athletes can successfully transition of of competitive athletics and back into "the real world". I coached track. I became a PE teacher. I dream of running fast again. I have grandiose ideas like "How about I write a memoir about being middle-aged and out of shape and coming back to train for the World Masters Track Championships? Doesn't that sound great?" 

Honestly, I wonder if I haven't done myself a disservice by never really severing that connection to track and sprinting and running fast. I've tried. I've talked to my therapist about it. "Isn't it time I get over this? Shouldn't I have let this go by now?" And yet I keep coming back to it. Running. I am always amazed by how good it makes me feel, when I do my version of sprinting and don't pull a muscle. I feel good. Carefree. Fast.

It's the family business.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Let's Start with Day 10

Day 10: What do you appreciate most about yourself? 

  1. My acceptance - I accept others, very little shocks me - you can tell me anything and I won't judge you.
  2. My creativity - writing, thinking, working things out. It may not always work, but it will be creative! 
  3. My sense of humor and my ability to laugh at most foibles - sometimes too soon. 
  4. My generosity - I did give a kidney to my sister. 
  5. My optimism - even when things are bleak I end up optimistic.
  6. My curiosity - I am always learning, researching, reading, wondering, thinking.
  7. My ability to appreciate the moment - the clouds, the color of the sky, the hummingbird sitting on the branch, the smell of the sea even miles inland, the little things that often escape us. 
  8. My love for - and appreciation and cultivation of - family that is like friends and friends that are like family. 
  9. My resilience.
  10. My openness. 
Ok, that's 10! Phew! Let's try for 5 more: 

   11. My persistence (sometimes....LOL!) 
   12. My naivete - it allows me to email famous authors and sometimes get replies! 
   13. My willingness to try new things. 
   15., ok, well, that was ambitious!    

I'll stop with Lucky 13. 


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Greetings from the State of Self-Loathing

I'm ashamed to admit this.

Logically, intellectually, I know I am OK as I am. I have written about and celebrated my body parts before. I am aware of the damage done to young girls (and boys) when there is an unhealthy focus on outward appearance. I know all of this and more. And yet, here I am, a middle-aged woman, a PE teacher, the mother of a teen girl, a theoretical ROLE MODEL with irrational body image issues.

I'm too old for this shit. I am 46 years old and I don't have time to waste on mid-life body image issues. I know this. And yet, I feel trapped by them. I can not believe how I talk to myself, the things I say when I see myself bending over in front of the mirror, the way I compare my current self to my past self. I focus on the physical, rather than who I am as a person, how I contribute to the lives of those around me - you know, the stuff that really matters. And so, somewhat reluctantly, I am going to try to deal with this issue. I say reluctantly because it's one of those things that I would rather just wish away. Or get over. As in, "Jesus, Jessica, just get over yourself. This is stupid and not worth your energy." Which is basically how I feel about it. But honestly, that doesn't work. It's just getting worse. I feel ashamed to admit to myself, my sweetie, my friends, how obsessed I am with this issue.

A side effect of this is me wondering what is behind this clearly dysfunctional thinking? Why am I going through this now? What is my deal? While I really, really, really want to just get my head on straight and accept myself as I am, I feel like I have some work to do to be able to get there. I may be over-thinking this. It's happened before. [understatement] Part of what makes me think I have to do some work is because I bought this book, Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance. I always do better when I have some homework to not do and then feel bad about - KIDDING! [lie]

In any event, I started last week, well after the first of the year (the most logical starting point) and I have been working through it a couple of pages a day in an effort to catch up. [see, clearly I have many issues to work on] The telling thing - the surprising thing - is that I have encountered great internal resistance to some of the writing exercises, the daily exercises, that I am supposed to complete. Simple ones like "what is your vision for yourself? what do you wish or want for yourself?'

The one that made me stop - literally,  as in, I put the book down and was done with it - was "what do you appreciate most about yourself?" I couldn't answer it. I haven't answered it. I haven't picked the book up since.

In my world, when one doth resist so strongly there is clearly something deeper there. THAT is the tender spot that needs to be investigated. It's like when you read a poem and all of a sudden you start to tear up or get weepy, completely unexpectedly. This has happened to me on many occasions and most often it has meant that there was an opportunity to really dig deep and get at something that needed to be gotten to. Something that needed to see the light of day - either to grow, or to be acknowledged, or to be set free.

That's why I am writing about this. Sharing what is for me a shameful state of being - this state of self-loathing. I need to bring it to light, out from that dark, hidden, smelly place and air it out! Let's see what needs to be set free, what needs to be addressed to and what needs to be carefully tended to.