I have stood in a courtroom and stared down my abuser. I have buried lovers and friends alike and I have lost everything material in my life and still managed to find gratitude in my own being. I have been left, forgotten, ignored and beaten down in one way or another for the last twenty years or more. I have stayed up throughout the night with nothing but demons to keep me company and I have looked into my depths with such scrutiny that I knew I would never be the same. I have stood up, with my shoulders back at eye level with my fear and not backed down.
Yet here I am struggling with something that seems so trivial in the grand design of my life. I cannot look at myself. I cannot look at my body for longer than ten seconds without feeling some sort of gut punch of shame and guilt. There was a time when I enjoyed my body, when I could look at my nakedness with admiration and gratitude for what my body was able to accomplish. I could look at pictures of myself and not close my eyes with the feeling of betrayal at what had become of my skin, my waistline, or my cheekbones. I enjoyed my body and treated it as it was meant to be treated, as an extension of mySELF. Of whom I am. Somewhere in the last two years, I lost that feeling, that inner gratitude and glow that surrounded me and made me feel beautiful. Not merely physically beautiful, but the kind of beauty you feel outpour out of the center of your being.
I stopped looking at what my body was able to accomplish and started only seeing what its limitations were. Being in chronic pain plays a big role in how one looks at self, and I let negativity and hatred for what my body became stop me from remembering what it IS capable of doing. There are many reasons for the extra 40 lbs of weight I now carry on my 5’3” frame. I could, and have, easily blamed my chronic posttraumatic stress disorder, insomnia, general anxiety over everything, and the fact that some days I just cannot find the motivation to love myself enough to take care of ME… I suppose if I am honest, I could also blame the amount of wine I consume and the endless calories from the comfort foods I eat when I am feeling emotional, you know daily… I could also say that I no longer want to be attractive. That having a psychopath fixate on everything about you makes you want to be less noticeable and less attractive. I could blame all of those things and more, but I believe that as I age being honest with self is more important than making excuses for not having the courage to take care of myself.
And it does come back to courage. Courage in being able to look at your own struggles, see them for what they are and to keep moving forward. Somewhere along the way, I started taking care of my emotional self more than my physical self, which in turn has caused a clash of ego and self-love that feels like an inner war I may never win. It is hard to love your SELF when you cannot look at your own body without contempt and shame. It is hard to love the inner you when your physical you is staring back with reminders of lack of self-love. We lose the courage to know that we are in control of how we are perceived by the world.
We fixate on things, we look at our thighs and do not like the ripples we see, we do not like how that extra fat hangs over the sides of our jeans, and we do not like how our skin is aging. We begin to hate our younger selves for not loving the body that they had. We resent that young woman or man for not embracing the beauty they shared with the world. We begin to look at old pictures of flat stomachs and strong shoulders with hate. We lose the courage to love ourselves as we are; we begin to envy, to let jealousy consume our once peaceful love for all shapes, sizes and strengths.
I had a dear friend, Katy, from I Want a Dumpster Baby, tell me once that the key is to love the self we are now. To love our bodies as they are NOW while working towards the healthier self we long to be. I want to be able to do that and I long for the courage it takes to actually listen to that sound advice. The courage to accept who I am at this very moment, physically and spiritually. The courage it takes to stand in front of my full-length mirror with gratitude that I am still able to stand, that I can change what I see, the courage to love mySELF and my body.
So today, I am propositioning myself, and perhaps you, to strive for the following:
I will strive, from this day forward, to accept that my body is an extension of my inner being. I will strive for the courage it takes to not fall into the traps of self-loathing, of envy, of jealousy. I will start seeing my body as the carrier of my soul, and I will begin to treat that carrier with the respect and love that it deserves. I will start to change the way I see myself. I will stand in front of the mirror and not fixate on my stomach, or thighs touching “too” much, but will begin to see the strength I have in my legs to carry me miles, the strength I have in my arms to hold the ones I love, and the courage of my spine for withstanding the damage I have not been able to control.
I will go out into the world and not be ashamed of the physical body that they see, but will revel in the magic, strength and courage it takes to present oneself as a transparent vessel of love. I will no longer be ashamed of the width of my hips but will remind myself gently that those hips are able to carry things my arms cannot. I will not look at the lack of tone in my shoulders any longer but will see that they have been strong enough to carry heartbreak and a life of trauma. I will look at my crooked spine no longer as a limitation but will see it as a challenge to overcome physical restraints.
I will stand in the courage it took to look evil in the eyes and look at my body with the same conviction. I have the right and the ability to become a healthier person and I will have the courage to love myself NOW and in the future. I will no longer make excuses, or ignore my body. I will strive to take care of my body, to change what I am able to change, and to accept what I am not.
As of today, my body is not a separate entity, but is a powerful extension of mySELf. I will seek ways to become a healthier person in every sense of the word. I will not succumb to fads, to voodoo magic, or to excuses. I will gain knowledge of self-care and will put that knowledge to use and will love myself for having the courage to take a real and honest look at all my body is.
I will have the courage to love myself, my body, and what it is capable of and I will begin to use it as such.
Today I start training for the rest of my life.