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Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

It’s a hot day at the end of the school year.  92 degrees feels even more oppressive given the humidty and “urban heating” of our public school. I am dressed in a t-shirt, black sweatpants and sneakers. I am 11 years old, and know for sure I am too fat to wear shorts.

I walk to my seat in the back of the classroom and sit next to my only three friends in the class, V., A. and S. They are all wearing shorts. V. immediately stares at me like I’ve grown a second head.

“Why on earth are you wearing sweatpants today? It’s 90 degrees out!”

“I’m too fat to wear shorts.” I say, my head down, eyes memorizing the floor.

V. Tells my I’m crazy to wear sweat pants on such a hot day, especially when the whole class is going outside for the end of the year party. A. and S. quickly agree with her. I look at my bookbag and mumble that I brought a change of shorts with me for after school, I just don’t feel comfortable wearing them here. V. eggs me on until I run into the bathroom to change.

The morning goes by quickly and at noon we are released from the room and out into the school yard for the fair. I feel exposed, and enormous. I’m positive everyone in the school yard is focused on me and my thunder thighs, which carry my womanly 160 pound body from game to game.

Only somehow nobody notices. Nobody cares. I wore shorts on a hot day and the world hasn’t come to an end. And I felt physically comfortable instead of hot and sweaty.

I’ve been a number of different sizes since that day (both higher and lower than 160 pounds), but have never again felt the need to hide my body the way I did that morning.

I will always be grateful to my best friend V. for pushing me out of my comfort zone and into a comfortable pair of shorts on that hot summer day.

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Polar Bear Club

Polar Bear Club 2012: dashing toward the Atlantic Ocean on New Years Day with some of my favoritie people.

2012 has been off to an amazing start! At 3pm on New Years Day I gathered along the beach with some of my favorite people. We stripped down to our bathing suits, lined up arm in arm, and on the count of “three,” took off running into the ocean to join the ranks of the 2012 Polar Bear Club.  The air temperature was a warm-for-new-years-day 52 degrees with a steady wind blowing, and the ocean water temp was 47 degrees.

I’ve wanted to do a New Years Day polar bear swim for at least the last 10 years. This year, with a little encouragement from my friends, I quit just talking about it and made that dream a reality.

Before joining Polar Bear Club 2012, it had been a very long time since I had set and then achieved an outrageous goal. I am pretty good at setting goals and seeing them through to their completion, but usually they are goals I feel pretty certain I can reach. This one felt like a stretch. I was pretty sure I could do it but there was always that niggling doubt at the back of my mind.

“Will I turn around and give up as soon as my toes touch the cold water?”

“Am I too out of shape to do this?’

“What if I get really sick afterwards?”

Which is why it felt so amazing afterward and realize I was stronger than I imagined I was capable of. When push came to shove the momentum and me “want to” were greater than my fear. Which opened up the thought in my mind.

“If I could do THAT, what else is possible for me?”

My Polar Bear Club adventure came with an unexpected bonus too. My mother-in-law came to watch our new years day swim and took video of us on my phone. In the past week I have watched that video a few dozen times and every time I do I smile. I have been much thinner in my life and cringed while looking at photos and videos of me. At those times all I could see were my “flaws;” I was unable to enjoy the moment in time being captured in the photo or video. This video is different. When I see it I smile at how strong and beautiful my body is for taking me on this awesome adventure. I see my body standing next to the bodies of my friends, and I see that my body is neither better no worse than theirs. Even though we all vary greatly in height, weight and body structure, we are all able to accomplish the same goal. My body, just as it is right now, is as good as anyone else’s.

I encourage everyone reading this to set at least one outrageous goal this new year. Pick something that stretches you just beyond what you think you are physically, mentally or emotionally capable of.  And then go about the business of making it a reality!

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes I feel like life is just an exercise in repeating the same lessons over and over again until they are mastered. As we head toward a new year I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am on the path to mastering the lesson of accepting my body.

At the beginning of this year, instead of once again vowing to lose weight, I made a resolution to make 2011 the year I finally made peace with my body. One of the ways I followed through on this resolution was to start this blog. My journey this year, just like the timeliness of my blog entries, has been far from perfect. At the same time I can see signs of progress.

Last week I read a fantastic post at the blog Already Pretty about flawed notion of  body flaws.

…the assertion that bodies can even have flaws implies that some bodies are flawless. It creates an imaginary and impossible hierarchy of beauty that women strive to ascend. It makes us all feel inadequate on a fundamental level because flaws are damage, errors, mistakes. Flaws are wrong…

…Your body is NOT WRONG. Your body is NOT FLAWED. Your body is also not perfect, but guess what? Neither is anyone else’s, and that’s just biology. Anyone who wants to talk to you about how to hide or mask or eliminate your flaws wants to sell you some crap that they’ve invented. And whatever crap they’re selling may slowly, subtly strip away your humanity and uniqueness. Because the Beauty Machine believes that we all want to look like identical airbrushed photos of former humans, and it sells us that desire over and over again.

You get to decide what you love about your body and what you want to show off. You also get to decide what you don’t love about your body and what you don’t want to show off. This is not to say that if you haven’t learned to adore and proudly display your keratosis pilaris that you’re a failure. No, indeed. Bodies are complex and our relationships with our bodies are complex. You as an individual get to make choices about how you dress your body and why, what you downplay and what you highlight…

This post stuck with me when, exactly a week ago today on vacation with my husband, I took the opportunity to really look at my body in a full length mirror. My eyes focused on my usual “problem areas” that have lead me to have an on-going love/hate relationship with my body. He saw my narrowed brow and asked me what I was thinking. I admitted there are parts of my body that I still don’t like, but said that I have decided to love them anyway, because they are a part of me. He hugged me and told me he found my answer “deep and impressive.”

I laughed and admitted that I was paraphrasing something a friend had said about a different situation that she chose to accept because it was a part of her. This friend, Kim, also helped me re-learn a lesson about body image with her recent post on A Brave Life. In the post she talks about how everyone has their own body “flaw” that they feel is holding them back, and described her own experience coming to accept her percieved appearance short coming. The reason this struck me is because I know Kim in real life and to me she always looks beautiful. This “flaw” that was once so apparent to her I never even noticed. It made me wonder again how much my percieved flaws really matter to anyone but myself.

While I know I still have more work to  do before I can say that I’ve mastered accepting my body, I know  for sure that I’m farther along now than I was when this year began.

 

 

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It’s that time of year again.

Halloween has come and gone, the days are getting shorter and the temps are getting colder. And thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. This time of year we shift our focus on what he have instead of what we lack (something that honestly helps no matter what time of year it is!)

So much of the focus on body image — in the media, in research and in our self-perceptions — is on the negative. Today I want to do something radical and focus on the positive.

No matter what challenges we face, everyone can find something the like and appreciate about their body. One small thing that we can marvel at and appreciate. This doesn’t make our problems any less real, but it does shift our focus from anger to one of gratitude, giving us more energy to address the challenges we do have.

Repeat after me and then finish the sentence: “I love my body because___________”

I love my body because it has never given up on me, even when I have tried to give up on it.

I love my body because it is strong.

I love my body because it is a part of who I am.

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