In the summer of 2012, She Loves magazine issued a call for women to submit love letters to their body. Ugh, I groaned, I don't think so. My body and I have not been on speaking terms with one another for decades. I couldn't remember EVER a time of liking my body let alone loving it. I'd have to pass on this one, I told Idelette, the magazine editor.
Like a true story-sniffing editor, she proposed I write about that. And so I did. I posted it the day before my husband and I left to camp in a gorgeous Oregon emerald green forest out of reach of social media and wi-fi signals. It was strategic on my part. If I was going to post something so vulnerable about how I don't like myself, I'd do it and then leave town. I would be far away from any comments (or lack thereof) and avoid any uncomfortable interactions with my blog readership.
So here I am, another quest with my body, a telling on myself in the public square of the fucked up mess I have with the house of flesh I live in. I worry if you’ll judge me. I am a strong woman in so many other regards. I am strong minded. I am a strong communicator. I am a strong advocate and a fierce truth teller. Yet in this I am weak and insecure, my body and I. We are strangers to one another. Distrustful and suspicious.
from, My Body Unknown: Why I Can't Write a Love Letter to my Body (Summer 2012)
It became the single most daring blog post of my blogging life and oh how I underestimated my readership's capacity for empathy and disclosure of their own body-angst issues. The response was strong with many women admitting the same feelings of body shame as me.
The camping trip became pivotal for me and my body. With the Pandora's box opened, there came a sudden rush to confront myself and the parts of my body (just about all of her!) and try to start a dialogue. I don't know where I heard it, but somewhere along the years I came across an exercise that proposed we speak to our bodies and make nice what we don't like. In the throes of this spontaneous epiphany, I took me and my dysmorphic self on a little forest hike. I decided to start with the areas of my body I detest the most.
"Hello there Belly. I know I've been mean to you. I've hated you. I don't even like to look at you, and yet you have served me well. I am sorry for being so unkind. I promise to start loving you and accepting you just the way you are. I will be kind to you."
As I stepped further up the trail, the towering cedars and pines as my witness, I began to feel the first stirring of a connection between my heart and flesh.
"Breasts, how I have despised you and complained how much you get in the way. (It's ok to laugh here. I know I snorted a little myself). I vow to love you and not hate you. Thank you for helping nourish my two children. Thank you for serving my life and body well. I will love you and be kind to you."
And so it went, bit by bit I made nice with my body, from head to toe. Every curve and bulge acknowledged with new found compassion. My body and I were for the first time on friendly speaking terms. It felt good. I felt good.
Fast forward a few months. After years of knowing how unhealthy I was living, I finally made a decision to make healthy choices beginning with my diet. I cut out soda and limited my sugar and carb intake. I enlisted the help of my friend Mimi, asking her to be my nutrition coach. She agreed and has been a huge help educating me in a non-judgey way that helps me stay openhearted with her. My health goals were to avoid diabetes and improve my blood pressure. An unexpected result was the weight loss. Thirty pounds faded from my curvaceous frame which I have kept off ever since. (Well mostly. I did gain five back from holiday indulgences). I continue to try to live healthy with a balanced diet, vitamins and meditation practices. I might take up yoga this spring as I do need to add movement to keep my BODY healthy and happy. Now that we are talking to one another and I am no longer living under the misery of self-loathing, it is a joy to care for Me.
I love how blogger and friend Emily Maynard describes self-love:
Self-love is as personal and intricate and unique as every love affair ever is. It's being my own best friend and treating myself like I want to treat others. It's not waiting for anyone to tell me I'm worth it, because I suddenly know that I am.
It feels weird to be nice to me.
It feels downright narcissistic to be kind to my body, as if I have become a self-absorbed, shallow-minded American female. That's how foreign self-love is to me. It goes against the grain of what my culture and religion taught me about the female body: to be perfect and holy. I fail SO GOOD on both counts.
So here I go, a love letter to my body, more than a year and half after the She Loves sisterhood published theirs. I might be slow, but I eventually get there. I'm so glad I did.
Dear Body of Mine,
I am so grateful for you. You house my soul. You housed my two babies who are now teenagers. You became one flesh with my husband twenty-five years ago and counting. You have carried me around the world and brought me so many sensory experiences. I revel with the feel of the river on your tattooed skin. I adore the feel of the ocean sand beneath my feet and in my hair. I adore the way your curves knock out tshirts and low-cut dresses. I'm not hiding my girls anymore under an evangelical burka of a tent-sized shirts!
You are so good to me. I am doing my best to treat you better and honor the relationship you have with my mind and spirit. For so long I alienated you. That is behind us. Today I declare my love for you, my flawed flesh and frail bones. You are my home and I am yours.