At this moment in time, my clothes are a little snug and I weigh more than I’d like to. It’s not out of hand – but it’s what I would anticipate for the end of the holiday season, not just as we’re getting into the swing. As part of my ongoing experience with practicing Our Raw Material, my body is ‘forcing’ me to give it some thought early this season (during Wholeness Week, no less). Normally, this wouldn’t be my mid-December train of thought, but I’m doing things differently now. Recognizing my body image as something separate from my self-image has become easier, even though they are tangled and entwined. I can more clearly identify the ways my specific size, the state of my muscle tone and my collagen-challenged skin have informed my confidence from the very roots of my self image. I haven’t directly related these things for a long time, perhaps even believing myself to be ‘above’ it, (as if that state exists!), but since it’s appearing front and center in my life right now, I’m up for a fresh take on my mind/body connection.
It appears the universe is having a little fun with me, and while I’m not fully here for it, I take the point to heart, graciously. Natural conditions have afforded me an honest opportunity to see myself through a lens I haven’t looked through in a very long time. My younger self’s weight-related body issues have landed in the middle of my thoughts, leading me back through the winding timeline of my self-esteem as I find myself facing my old feelings with new familiarity. It’s a little ‘scary’ to openly examine myself from this angle, but I see the value of being aware of these connections and know the benefits of detangling long-held feelings. I believe this sets me up to develop some clear intentions as I play around with my ideas of ‘healthy food’ and how I have used it to care for my body, as well as how I want to define my overall health, (especially my self image) moving forward into 2022 and beyond. Broadening the range of what I believe is possible tops the list.
Healthy eating has always been a personal rule, and I’ve always enjoyed reading about nutrients and the properties of food. As early as I can remember, I’ve devoured cookbooks not just for their recipes but for their stories about food and people, and the undercurrent of what we each call healthy. Fun fact: each of my mother in laws (I’ve had 3, and they’ve each taught me vastly different, but wonderful things) gave me a subscription to Prevention Magazine, so I spent a good 20 years soaking up articles full of nutrition facts and self-care advice. I never once asked for this magazine, it just showed up as a consistent source of information throughout my adult life.. How’s that for cosmic continuity?
When you pay attention to the trends of a publication over time, your brain pulls out the simple truths and separates them from the buzzwords and ‘newest discoveries’ that are used to recycle the same basic information over and over. It’s designed to sell magazines, yes, but it also allows the reader conscious time and space to determine how to incorporate the ones that continue to resonate into their own life. That being said, while I’ve learned a lot about ways of nourishing our minds and bodies, it doesn’t mean I ever expected myself (or anyone for that matter) to follow only healthy practices. For my life as it is, that would feel unhealthy, even though it appears to work well for a lot of people. It’s an ideal thought for me at this point, but I’m not ruling it out! Wholeness comes down to the balance we strike within ourselves around our boundaries, combined with where they are in relation to our ever-changing feelings that really dictates the overall ‘health’ of our choices, mind and body.
I’ve always made room for breaks in ‘living healthy’ to indulge in some salty and/or sweet treats, let my mind wander around what some might call ‘impure’ ideas, and walked right up on the line of what I believed was ‘acceptable’. Moderation has been my motto for as long as I can remember, and I believe holding that simple value has served me well thus far. I hadn’t realized the protective effect it has had on my life, but as I’m faced with a full-length mirror, bright lights and Wholeness Week, it has become clear that my weight has always had a definite bearing on my self-esteem.. It’s effects have been so subtle, however, that I hadn’t realized the full impact of those thoughts in my subconscious. Namely, that it could still affect me as it did when I was younger; when I thought the way I looked mattered a lot more than I eventually came to believe it does. As soon as I hit an uncomfortable (to me) threshold, those feelings came back and reminded me how they used to make me feel in low moments.
‘Everything in Moderation’ (in many derivatives) has always saved me, because it provided me with a lot of breathing room around sensitive subjects. Believing for years that weight gain at ‘appropriate’ times is acceptable, but otherwise it’s an actual problem? Seriously, where and when did that thought enter and become my reality? if this extra weight hadn’t shown up in Wholeness Week, I couldn’t and/or wouldn’t have seen this impediment to my feelings of wholeness. It would have taken it’s expected path and I would have spent January attempting to work off the spoils of the holidays, creating ample opportunity for rampant self judgment and criticism. I’d work it out of course. I always do. Breaking my habituated practice, however, allows me to change the patterns I’ve been unwittingly establishing for years and detangle this issue from a deeper space than I’ve been able to reach in the past..
Once I organized my thoughts around the issues and tasks before me, I decided to take the deep dive into the overall health of my body image, by recognizing all of the patterned thinking and behaviors that have shaped it. I’m facing some deeply-rooted self-image stuff in order to further experience my own wholeness, with the hope of teaching others to do the same. Sounds simple, right? At ORM, feeling whole is our collective goal, and Wholeness Week lets us all put some common energy toward that end as we welcome all of the parts of us, especially the ones we’d like to forget, as what goes into making us each feel Whole. It’s an active state of mind that holds a consistent state of acceptance for the worst of our thoughts, feelings and actions, balancing them with our better efforts and being our unique experience.
Thoughts formed with the support of outside influences (like monthly publications), combined with all of our individual experiences, have formed the basics of what we each call ‘truth’. From that personal space, we determine who we want to be and how we want to be in relation to the world at large, and to each of its inhabitants, individually. Our concept of truth is a living, breathing part of us that can grow and change by allowing wholeness. Conversely, it can feel like a struggle when we deny certain experiences as integral parts of our wholeness. It appears to me that the universe is providing me with an opportunity to transform some old triggers into something I’m passionate about - healing.
Billie Eilish hosted SNL last night. She talked about body image and wearing baggy clothes, and then she proceeded to mostly wear baggy clothes. It brought me great joy from within and I felt a kindred spirit flutter in my heart. Billie is about to turn 20; the same age as my youngest daughter. I wonder how my own unspoken feelings affect all of my daughters, and I recall the habits of my mother and my grandmothers… I can feel the angst of my younger self through many of Billie’s words and actions, and I marvel at the many ways the universe provided opportunities for me to heal from so many negative thoughts. I share Billie’s love of baggy clothes, no matter what my size has ever been. There has always been a lingering ‘stuckness’ for me about appearances and snap judgments, even though I’ve overcome many negative feelings on the subject. I am comfortable in comfort, and there is something in me that resists allowing myself to be viewed as a physical object. I am fully aware that I am one, and I definitely intend to look ‘good’ in public. I just don’t want there to be an expectation that I put a lot of effort into it, because that begins to feel unbalanced from within me.
As I reflect on the wholeness of the issue, I can trace back to an early age where my mind and body were at odds. I know that a certain version of myself would be willing to go to great lengths to attain a youthful, best-dressed, nipped and tucked appearance and I’m lucky I didn’t have the means to go that route. Who knows what I might look like today? I’m grateful that my skin’s compromised healing ability has prevented my vanity from taking over–it literally gave me no choice. My stretch marks keep me in constant check about my personal value. My hair has never been smooth or shiny. I am legally blind without my glasses and let’s just go with ‘unsuccessful at’ wearing contacts. From an early age, these facts pushed me to find things I like about myself and lead with those. I was making attempts to practice wholeness before I was calling it wholeness and that makes my body feel pretty damn good, even with these few extra pounds.