Living outside the lines

June 23, 2011

I’m not sure how often or even clearly I was fed this line, but somewhere in childhood, I came to believe that I could not be attractive without bangs. I believed this through my early 20s, suffering the torments of rain, wind, fog, and humidity for the sake of looking my best.

Somewhere after college, however, that line began to wobble, and I felt constantly hidden and frustrated by the bangs I had worn for so long. I wanted the freedom to walk in the rain without worry. I wanted to get up in the morning without my eyelashes catching the strands that would reach them after sleep. I wanted the way I looked on the outside to more closely resemble the freedom I was coming to feel internally (my fine hair required bangs to be coaxed and sprayed into place).

So I grew them out.

Can I just tell you I still feel giddy, to this day, about that decision? It was a move toward something I wanted, rather than away from something I feared.

Fast-forward to last summer. It’s hot out, and the kids and I are going to the beach. In addition to spider veins, my legs have developed full-fledged varicosities, bulging masses on both of them. My height and accompanying history of feeling watched has made me self-conscious about wearing short shorts anyway, but add these veins to the mix and I’m sentenced to a lifetime of skirts and capris every summer, no matter the heat.

But on this particular day I’m so hot. And my swim suit bottom is actually made as short shorts. And I know that in addition to wrangling two intractable preschoolers, I’ll be carrying so much gear from our car to the sea that the thought of wearing capris over top of my swimsuit, as per my usual practice, makes me want to faint.

And a slow, sheepish smile creeps across my face as I realize that no one really cares what my legs look like. (Why have I not thought of this before?) I’m not trying to win beauty contests here, anyway. I’m not trying to trick some unsuspecting man into loving me for my looks. And considering the company I’m keeping on this day, and the bags of sand toys and sun block and tupperwares of snacks, I’m probably not eye-catching material for anyone, regardless of my physique.

So by god, I wore my swimsuit shorts without covering them up. I walked down the street with my gaggle of kids and gear, white, veiny legs blinking and glowing in sunlight, exhilarated by the freedom I’d just discovered.

I made a move toward something I wanted, rather than away from something I feared.

And I’m wondering: do you have lines like I’ve had in my life…like I continue to have…about what you surely can and cannot do with your body? Ways you simply must wear or color your hair, colors of fabrics you have to avoid, cuts of clothing or shoes that can’t ever be worn by you?

Or maybe your lines are about activities that are off limits for you and your size/shape/race/athletic (in)ability: dancing; yoga; sports; zumba. Or how about swimming in public places? Revealing that tattoo you had done in your youth? Oral sex with your beloved?

How does it feel when you bump up against the fences that these lines create around your living? Do you ever look longingly past them to the other side? Do you ever daydream about actually wandering out past them, shudder at how it would feel or come across, and dutifully obey the lines another day?

Here’s what I want to tell myself and all of us about such things:

Those lines you’ve always believed about your body and what you can and cannot do with it? They aren’t set in stone. They may not even be true! And the more you’re able to live into the life you want, rather than live to avoid the shame you fear, the better all of us are for it.

The more we can peer out from our hiding places (long pants, padded bras, full-coverage make-up, slimming undergarments, hair dye, eyelash extensions, too-busy-to-take-that-dance-class-excuses, et al) and see people comfortably embodying their actual size, shape, color, texture, and (dis)ability, rather than working to stifle or cover it all over, the more freedom we’ll all feel to step, as we are, into the light of day. Or, as it were, the beautiful darkness of night.

Want to try a baby step beyond your lines already? I’d love to hear about (almost :) any steps you take! Large or amusingly small, I will celebrate whole-heartedly with you!

P.S. I love the way this song flips lines about wrinkles on their head (click here to listen if audio player doesn’t appear below). Surely songs like this could be written about all of the “lines” that we carry!

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This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Short People

June 22, 2011

This is a guest post by the lovely Pamela Hunt-Cloyd. If you haven’t read her Walking on My Hands, I hope you’ll click over and add it to your reader. Despite what she might say about it, her writing epitomizes what trust tending means to me. And while you’re at it, go read this that she posted at Lindsey’s A Design So Vast yesterday. Teared me up in the very best way.

I don’t remember the day I realized I was short. Short, small, petite, diminutive, wee, miniscule, cute. All of those names sound so sweet, don’t they? Our society loves its women small. In elementary school I had a friend, Amy, who was tall. There was always a look of surprise in the other mom’s eyes when they saw her. “Wow,” they would say, “I bet you’re as tall as the boys.” When they saw me, it was different. “Oh,” they would whisper to my mom, “She’s so tiny.”

But there are other memories too. Once, when I was in first grade, I was getting a drink from the water fountain during recess, and after I stood up, there was a big kid blocking my way. He was a foot and a half taller than me, fifty pounds heavier, and wearing a brown shirt. “Hurry up Firstie,” he said, and I remember the feeling of panic that came over me. That panic that only little kids have, that great fear of bodily harm, abandonment, and loss. I quickly ran away from him shaking, and I never wanted to go back to school again.

When I told my mom about it, she asked me what Firstie even meant. “It’s what they call first-graders,” I said and my mom laughed. “Well,” she said, “You are in first grade.” My mom was five feet tall when she was nine years old, and then she only grew about an inch after that. As a tall girl in her childhood, my mom didn’t really see things from my perspective. It was clear to me that this was a battle I had to fight on my own.

The same thing happened again a few years later. “Out of my way Firstie,” a burly kid said to me in the lunchroom. Only this time, I was in fourth grade, and I had on my favorite velour shirt: Izod, with the alligator prominently placed. I was outraged.

“What grade are you in?” I asked, putting my hands on my hips.

“Second,” he said, in a voice that also said, What’s it to you?

“Well I’m in fourth grade,” I said and his face showed surprise.

“Oh,” he said, quickly backing up, his eyes wide. “Sorry.”

I watched him hustle away with his lunch tray and felt victorious. There was power in being the underdog, I realized. You had surprise on your side. I sometimes wonder how that tiny, miniscule, early experience affected me. It’s possible that it made me into a certain kind of person.

There is a way you can be when other people discount you that you can’t be any other time. Dani Shapiro and Katrina Kenison have often talked about “writing in the dark.” Creating when no one knows what you are up to. Protecting the undeveloped image until it is ready for the light. Hiding the secret, creative self as long as you can until the work is finished.

For a time, that was what being short meant to me. It was a prolonged youth, a delayed adolescence. It was a chance to hide for a while and then pounce. Now, at thirty-eight I am not sure what short means to me. I think much more often about how much I weigh than about how tall I am. But really, isn’t it the same thing? Tiny, cute, diminutive, wee. Our society loves its women small.

As I have gotten older, I have noticed that sometimes I use my size as an excuse to play small. I find that I react rather than act, that I am still learning how to take responsibility for my own life. I have always been able to sneak in after the bell and hide behind the tall people. Even as a teenager, I could get away with paying the child’s price to get in. I never had to stand tall or stare out over a crowd. I never had to say this is who I am and you’re going to have to deal with it.

As it turns out, there is a cost to shirking the full price of admission. It’s interesting, what the body teaches us, isn’t it? That the container of our soul can have such an influence on what we decide about our lives, about what we conclude about our own worth. Being small, for me, is easy. It’s convenient and it’s safe. Sometimes I take my six-foot husband’s pants out of the dryer, hold them up, and marvel at how exhausting it must be to stand so tall every day.

But there is always a danger in too much comfort. There is a tipping point at which a dog hiding under the table ceases to be considered an underdog. For me it’s a constant struggle to remember that only my body is small, to realize that even if my five-year old son is almost at my shoulder, I am still the grown-up. Being short is no excuse for living small. Nothing is.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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On being tall (and other body extremes)

June 21, 2011

Before I begin today’s post I want to say thank you, again, to those of you who have offered letters to your bodies. What amazing gifts! Every single one has teared me up and filled me with reverence for who you are and the honest ways you’re engaging yourselves. If you haven’t read the letters yet, I hope you will! And as ever, please consider writing one yourself. If you do, I don’t think you’ll be sorry you did!

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

This post and the next are devoted to tending trust around height. I’m 5’11″, so I’ll be covering the tall end of the spectrum, and my new soul-friend, Pamela, who is 5’2″, will be offering her words about shortness here tomorrow.

So. Where to begin…

You know that bit of wisdom you hear sometimes about there always being more to the story? I want to relate this to height.

I have always been tall, and have felt my height like a current, pushing me ever up on “stage”. Stages, for me, have come in many forms: feeling stared at and pointed out by strangers (not because of beauty, but because of my size); being the person, among groups of friends, that salespeople and servers and teachers direct their comments to; feeling an unspoken abdication of leadership to me, for anything from initiating conversation to asking the next question to deciding where to sit or which direction to face.

I have felt out in the open, constantly, with no where to hide, and often with the added expectation to say or do something.

There are times when this has felt natural to me, and normal, but just as many that have felt awkward and strange, and the normal adolescent wish to fit in and blend in startlingly present – even now, well into adulthood. Even when the force of this current has felt normal, “normal” hasn’t always meant comfortable, either. My normal has involved a lot of forcing my spine straight and shoulders back – literally and metaphorically – when everything in me wants to shrink.

I could say so much more about the way my early height, and boys’ seeming lack of romantic interest in me, shaped and continues to shape my self perception as a sexual/sensual being (more on this next month!), or the way I embrace and resist the challenge my height is to patriarchy in my relationships with men, or the wish I sometimes (secretly, abashedly) have to slide into a more comfortable subordinate role in relation to them.

But my point is this: my height has ushered me into certain roles and not others, certain beliefs about myself and my rightful place in the world, and the sense that options other than these simply aren’t mine.

And in one sense, this really is true: I will never be a short, curvy woman. I will never be a gymnast, nor could I have been if I’d tried. And I will never be a woman easily dominated or hidden well in crowds (…or anywhere else, for that matter! :).

But here’s what I’m asking tonight:

What if trust – for me, and for anyone who feels trapped or frustrated, sometimes, by the roles their bodies usher them into – could be nurtured by challenging the notion that these roles are the only ones available to us?

We are complex creatures. We hold whole hosts of personas within us. We want to be weak and we want to be strong. We want to be sexy and we want to be regarded outside the realm of attraction. We want to lead and we want to follow. We want to hide and we want to be seen…and sometimes, to shout it from rooftops or shake our thang BIG.

And throughout a lifetime, whole seasons of any of the above can cycle through.

Maybe you’re tall and you want to go incognito for a while, completely off-stage.
Maybe you’re short and you want to lead powerfully or take up more space, and without needing to fight for the honor.
Maybe you’re obese and you don’t want to be silent and shameful about the space you take up, or rely on jokes or anything else to make others comfortable around you.
Maybe you’re wiry thin and you feel a full-bodied, sensual self wanting to express itself through your very (thin) limbs.

Could it be that the beliefs we have about ourselves are every bit as powerful as the societal expectations of us, and if we shifted our beliefs, and gave people around us different cues about who we are, no matter our appearance, we’d discover clear adjustments made in others’ expectations of us…and whole new words of possibility open up for the roles we can fill?

What if those of us whose bodies are extreme (and anyone else for that matter!) made a habit, then, when chafing at the roles we feel are ours to fill because of the bodies we inhabit, of asking:

What if there’s more to my story than this?

Maybe the person you are…the person I am…has far greater leeway to express diverse personas and roles than our bodies, and the chapters we’ve lived so far in them, might lead us, or anyone else, to think.

If you’re new here, welcome! This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Dropping the disguise

June 17, 2011

One of our biggest sources of shame, it seems to me, is feeling like we’re uniquely flawed: gross, ugly, bumpy, stinky, flat, gigantic, sickly. We often want to hide our perceived flaws, too, and so move through the normal challenges of life with the added work of keeping parts of ourselves hidden. I get this image of us all slinking around like kids in a game of detective, missing out on the ease of walking leisurely down life’s street as we dash from tree to tree, hedge to building, trying to keep cover.

I want to talk overtly next week about some of the hiding I’ve done in my life, but before that happens, I want to tell you about a page I’m setting up here as a place for all of us to drop the disguise, so to speak, and talk honestly with and about our bodies.

The idea came from yesterday’s post about rituals for coming home to our bodies, and specifically the exercise of writing letters to our bodies.

I’m wondering whether any of you might be willing to share with the rest of us a letter that you write to your body. I’m wondering whether you might gift us with the knowledge that we aren’t alone in having body issues; that both shame and pride, gratitude and indignation are normal; and that it’s possible to blow our covers, sometimes, and discover ourselves to be safe and actually stronger, and more hopeful for it.

Here is the page that I’ve set up. My soul sister, Kate, has graciously offered a first letter, and I encourage you to click from there to her site to be amazed at what she’s lived through these last months…years, really…all with her sights set on learning to trust. I’m in awe of you, Kate.

And if you feel at all inclined to offer your own letter, please do! You can tell me to post it anonymously if you wish, or have me include your name and website address, if you have a site to share.

Here’s to your body, and to all of us in our squiggly lines of moving more toward trust!

P.S. Can you help me spread word about this page? It feels like such an important space – both for those searching for ways to connect more meaningfully with themselves, but also for those who might find healing or hope in reading others’ letters. Thank you!

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Rituals for coming home to your body

June 16, 2011

I’ve been thinking so much about coming home to my body since writing that last post, and have decided I want to get super practical with this one. Sometimes a-ha moments are best incorporated into our lives slowly, even subconsciously, like a feather floating effortlessly down from the sky.

But I’ve found that sometimes my biggest epiphanies need to be given weight and feet. Something to make them tangible and to communicate to my whole self that I’m taking them seriously.

So in the interest of consciously connecting with my body, and the groundedness and integration and trust that makes possible, here is a list of things I plan to do. I’ll write them in the imperative, in case any of you wants to join me in trying them, too.

Rituals for coming home to your body:

  1. Sit and notice your hands for 10 whole minutes. Notice if they remind you of your mom’s or dad’s. Think back to childhood, remembering activities your hands helped you do, and let your memories move through your life up to the present. Consider how important your hands have always been to you. Consider doing this exercise with your feet, too.
  2. Write down a list of important things that have happened to your body. Traumas, injuries, surgeries, births, miscarriages, ecstasies. Honor this list in some tangible way: lighting a candle for it; bowing, literally toward it; setting it on a table or shelf or dresser top with a bouquet of flowers to symbolize its honor and importance.
  3. Pretend your body has languages that speak in the form of tensed muscles, knots, aches/pains, feelings of pleasure. If you could translate these to English (or whatever is your mother tongue), what is your body saying to you right now? What might it have been saying repeatedly for some time? Write these messages down and give them an internal bow of respect. Consider whether you want or need to respond to them in some other way.
  4. Write down a list of your body parts, starting with your head, and moving down to your feet: hair, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, neck, shoulders, back, chest, stomach, pelvis, legs, feet, etc. Next to each part, write 5 words that you associate with it. These may be adjectives, feelings, or even names of cities, events, or people that have some significance to that part. Ponder the thoughts and feelings each list of words evokes.
  5. Write a letter to your body. Talk about whatever comes up as you sit to write: grievances, apologies, observations, advice.

    I wrote a letter like this yesterday and the lovely soul sisters at 3 Sisters Village have posted it today as part of their summer series, Books, Bodies, Banter. I hope you’ll go read it as inspiration for your own letter writing, and while you’re there, check out the wonderful, trust-nourishing work that Monica, Tammy, and Melissa are doing.

Are there actions you’re taking or have heard about others taking to connect more consciously with your/their bodies? I’d love to hear your ideas!

And if you try any of these things, I’d love to hear about your experience with them. I’ll report back on Facebook as I do #s 1-4, and hope you’ll feel free to share there or hear, too. I truly am interested!

Here’s to your body and to you finding it to be an ever more safe, hospitable home!

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Coming home

June 13, 2011

You know that feeling of desire for someone? The arousal of imagining your hands or lips or body against theirs? Of wanting to know their weight in your arms, the smell of their neck, the sounds of pleasure they can make? And how that wish can grow and even sweeten when it isn’t quickly fulfilled?

And you know that feeling – either in your own experience, or maybe vicariously through watching love scenes in movies – of a long-held wish finally being fulfilled? The surprise, almost, of feeling that skin, that warmth – the very feel and weight of it that you’ve only ever imagined – near you? How wondrous and joyous that can be?

I watched a video about skin cancer last week that got me wondering whether that feeling – that sense of wonder and joy and even startle at getting to feel the realness of a body/soul that’s been long wished-for – could be one we experience in relation to our own selves. To explain…

I have had seasons in my life when I’ve felt more and less embodied. I went through a season in my late 20s and another in my early 30s of seeking out experiences that would help me feel more at ease in my skin. Belly dancing, two types of Thai Chi, and 5Rhythms Dance were all things I pursued, and I remember feeling more connected with myself during both of those seasons than I ever have before or since.

My current life season, however, while involving lots of physical motion, has left me feeling much less embodied. The work of raising kids and of thinking and writing here has left little space in my days and brain for noticing my body. Apart from my time at this screen, I’m rarely without kids under foot, so that, too, makes it difficult to take time for anything beyond the bare essentials of hygiene and grooming, and when some part of me is injured or aching, time beyond popping an Advil or just gritting my teeth through the pain while I work at more pressing tasks at hand.

In essence, right now, I’m a brain, a soul, and a worker. I’m not a body.

And then I watched this video.

And while this wasn’t the point of the video at all, it was between the 3:30 and 4-minute mark that I realized, with something similar to that wonder and joy and startle I wrote about above – that I am a body, too. Though the feeling wasn’t sexualized in any way, it was sensual. It was the way movies often have angels feel when they get to experience physicality again, or someone whose beloved has died miraculously getting to hug and hold that dear one’s living, breathing body once again.

I am a body, or at least I’m living in one (or some combination of both!), and this is the body that’s housed me for 30-some odd years. This is the same body that had stitches at age 3, and ran home-made obstacle courses at age 7, and raced barefoot across the yellow cross-walk lines during all those desert summers to avoid the even hotter asphalt beneath. This is the body that stepped on a bee, that wished – always wished – to be shorter and curvier, that traipsed across the globe at 16 and heard the hippos’ nightly calls across Lake Nakuru. This is the body that camped, that rocked the volleyball court, that developed stress-induced hypoglycemia, that bore two kids.

This is me. I’m still here. The shock of it!

I say all of this wondering whether there are many of us here, living our days as though we are brains and workers, disconnected from the flesh that is our home. And I say it wondering, too, whether coming mindfully home to ourselves, to our flesh, might be a doorway to a way of feeling and being in the world that’s grounded in a comforting, reassuring way – no matter whether our bodies are far from what we’d wish them to be in terms of height or weight or dexterity or function or not.

Could it be that looking ourselves fully in the eyes, and in the face, and in the neck, and the torso, and arms, and hands, and legs, and feet – greeting ourselves, maybe literally, in the mirror each day and growing in that practice more comfortable with what we find and see and discover there: could it be that this is a move toward the wholeness and the trust that we long to know on every level, every day?

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Everybody poops and pees

June 11, 2011

You guys, I’m so tired. Moving is hard work, and as much as I wish I could do it without skipping beats, my beats have gone totally missing. I feel much more like curling up in bed than thinking deeply or creatively about anything – let alone unpacking more stuff!

But this is what bodies do, right? They hit up against their limitations. They get tired and over-stimulated when they don’t get enough sleep and have way more decisions to make than they normally do and way less time alone. They think they can do more than they can sometimes, too, and then have the shocking wake-up or slow, torturous dawning that no, actually NO, you cannot just keep trecking on like what you’re doing is nothing.

I found the following song a few years ago when a friend introduced me to kids’ singer Tom Hunter, and return to it, if only in my mind, whenever I need the reminder and reassurance that I’m not alone – that when it comes to having physical and emotional limitations and getting pushed, often reluctantly, up against them, we’re all in the same boat.

The chorus says,

    Everybody has to eat
    Everybody has to breathe
    Everybody poops and pees
    Everybody loses teeth

…but I always swap out lines for whatever physical or emotional thing I’m facing (and, quite honestly, sometimes with tears of feeling so comforted).

Wanna play too? I’d love to hear in the comments what line you might add to this song today.

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This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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I and my body are two

June 8, 2011

I wonder whether it might be helpful, at the start of a month about bodies, for all of us to get more conscious about the ways we relate to our bodies.

Specifically, I have a hunch that even though many of us identify ourselves so closely with our bodies that we equate our whole selves with them (“I and my body are one“), we simultaneously treat our bodies as though they are separate beings from us, and therefore legitimate sources of indignation when they do things or are things we wish they wouldn’t do or be (“I and my body are partners, and I feel incensed / disappointed / betrayed when my body does not behave or respect or reflect well on me.“).

Here’s why I think this kind of awareness matters:

If we equate ourselves with our physical bodies completely, it becomes difficult to gain enough distance from our egos to observe their work or evaluate their opinions of us with any level of objectivity.

Our egos work tirelessly to assign us a coherent sense of self and to make meaning of the data available to them. When that data conflicts, as often happens when our bodies look or act or feel one way and other aspects of our beings look or act or feel another, they work to flatten out those differences and label that smash one thing: “ugly”, “tarnished”, “defective human being”. They (our egos) can’t hold well the mysterious complexities of all of our parts: the strong and the weak, the healthy and the ailing, the supple and the curmudgeonly, the parts of us that trust, and the parts that fear we aren’t enough or can’t be loved or are disqualified from strength or beauty because of some aspect or wounding of our physical selves.

Our egos, for example, cannot readily compute that excess weight does not demonstrate the mental or emotional or spiritual fitness you might have, or that hair loss or sagging parts do nothing to reflect the many layers of your beauty or tenacity. And contrary to what your ego may say, your diseases or disorders or disabilities are not the total of your strength, nor a depiction of all layers of your choices or character.

Your body and you, so far as I can see, are not completely one, and the sooner any of us can recognize this, the sooner we can see the gap between our physical frailties, wounds, and critical self-talk (aka ego-talk) on the one hand, and our deeper, higher, wiser selves on the other, who are often not represented by our bodies or egos well, and who have the capacity for fierce self-love, healing self-compassion, and gentle arms of welcome for all the parts of us who long to feel (and be!) at home.

I make no claim to understand the mysterious connection between our bodies and our spirits/souls/consciousness/highest selves (what in the world do I call our non-body self??), but I have a strong hunch about this: consciously disentangling our sense of self from being defined by our bodies alone is an enormous stride toward trusting that our bodies are okay (my shame and frustration are far less triggered by a body I’m not equating my whole self with), and is a window flung wide open to the healing breezes of the parts of us that, unlike our egos, can hold and honor our complexities, and see without judgment our shadows and our light.

And what’s more…

When we recognize that we (our spirit/soul/consciousness/higher self) and our bodies aren’t one, but are two, in intimate partnership, we can begin to consciously nourish the kind of partnership we actually want between these parts.

Partners can’t always read one another’s minds. They have differing strengths and weaknesses to honor and work with and around. They unintentionally and sometimes willfully hurt one another and need, for the sake of the health of the relationship, to make amends. Forgiveness and patience are often required. And the hard and freeing work of making peace with the aspects of our partners that we don’t like and don’t have any hope we ever will.

Unlike most partnerships, though, we don’t have a choice about whether we’re in this one. We’ll be in it ’til we die. So here’s what I’m thinking tonight: why not do what we can to make this partnership thrive? Why not move away, as we’re able, from total enmeshment with our bodies (“I and my body are one”), and all the shame and frustration such enmeshment can cause, and begin right where we are today to take ownership of at least one side of the partnership that dwells within ourselves?

I want to think and talk more concretely about what this might mean. But for now I’ll say this: I have a hunch that both moves – the disentanglement and the taking ownership in this inner partnership – might be two of the biggest moves I personally make in my life as a bodied creature seeking to trust that my body is good and a worthy, hospitable home for the rest of me.

This month’s theme at Trust Tending is Bodies (description here). Click here to view past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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June focus: Bodies

June 7, 2011

Hi everyone! I’m so glad to be back in this space! Moving is such an unmooring event that it feels good to have the hand-holds of this work to grab as I continue to unpack and orient myself to a new home and environment (have I told you we have chickens at our new place? Chickens! Five of them!).

I am SO looking forward to our theme here this month! I feel like I have a book to write about bodies, with some chapters lived and consciously thought already, and some yet to be discovered.

But beyond my personal interest in this subject, we – all of us – are such bodied creatures, so connected with the particular skin and bones, hair and muscles, fat and lungs and joints and brains and nerves and genitals and temperaments and aches and pains and marks and scars that all, at least by most measures, are ours and no one else’s.

And as bodied creatures we walk around every day with so much of us exposed – so much of us open to the opinions and responses of other people, and to our own wish to be able to hide or change some part (or parts) of it. Shame, to large or small degrees, pulses through most of us around some aspect of our physical beings (“physical” including things like temperament and body chemistry, too), and where there isn’t shame (and even where there is!), other emotions swirl around our body-thoughts, too: grief, frustration, anger, self pity, bitterness, jealousy, regret. Emotions ripe for trust to soothe and heal and breathe life and peace into.

I get this image of us all walking around with bandages around the parts of our physical beings that cause us emotional pain or discomfort, and honestly see bandages on every last one of us!

So. If you’re up for it, let’s see what trust we can grow around our bodies here this month. In the weeks ahead, I hope to do so by exploring things like:

  • The relationship between our essential selves and our physical bodies.
  • When our bodies betray us.
  • Aging.
  • Mood disorders, and how different these are often seen in society than other physical challenges.
  • Temperament, and the feelings that accompany introversion and extroversion.
  • Breasts, hair, skin, height, weight.

Sexuality is our theme here next month, so for the most part, I plan to leave conversations related to sexuality for then, even though bodies and sexuality aren’t two separate things.

Do you have something you’d like to see covered here this month? Or know of songs or websites that are doing great things related to growing trust and love around our bodies?

If so, I’d love to hear! Please share in the comments below, and if public comments aren’t your thing, by all means, feel free to send me an email. Click on “contact” in the menu bar above for an easy way to send me a note. I’ll be delighted to hear from you.

Here’s to you and to the miracle that is your body. Right now, just as it is. Just as you are.

If you’re new here, welcome! Each month at this site is devoted to tending trust around a different theme. Click here to view and peruse past themes and to see a working list of themes to come.
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Loved: A Ritual

February 8, 2011

*For an introduction to this category, click here.

It’s been a long day for me. A long few years, really. This parenting gig is more of a challenge than I ever imagined it would be. And when sleep is getting chopped up by it and by my sense of calling to and love for the work I’m doing here, it only gets harder. I find myself ashamed and disappointed, on one level, by how exhausted and sparkle-less I often feel, and by the ways this effects my cushion for dealing compassionately and humorfully with normal 3 and 5-year-old behavior.

All that to say, I’ve been planning to write up a ritual tonight that focuses on loving our bodies more, as shame around our physical selves is such a deep shadow around our ability to love ourselves and others well. But I think I need to expand this ritual to include other aspects of our beings, too, including the parts of us that are exhausted and beaten down and wishing we could somehow “rise above” more often than we do.

So here goes:

Picture a part of yourself that you find hard to love. Maybe it’s your skin, your breasts, your cellulite, your wrinkles. Maybe you’ve never liked your hair or the shape of your ears or the size of your belly or thighs. Maybe it’s every fat cell on your body, or a cancer you want to survive.

And maybe, like the paragraphs earlier describe, it’s a quality that’s been with you for some time: the way you get cranky on too little sleep, or depressed, or nihilistic. Your tendency to fear a certain thing. Or everything. Your biting sarcasm. Your self that rages at people that you love, or withdraws from them, or shuts completely down when connection and closeness are what you want most of all.

Whatever it is, imagine that part of yourself as somehow floating a distance away from yourself. You might need to personify it to make this work, so maybe you picture your exhausted, cranky self that has a hard time going to bed early even when she knows she needs to (a-hem) as an actual character, complete with crazy hair, baggy eyes, and an unbecoming expression. Maybe you picture your own thighs this way. Or your nose, or that mole on your forehead.

If personifying doesn’t feel right to you, you could imagine that part of yourself symbolically as a colored ball.

Okay, so you’re picturing this part of yourself that’s hard for you to love floating some distance from your body.

Now imagine that part of yourself completely surrounded by love. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be the one extending the love; that very thing is what’s so hard, right? Just imagine that part of you being surrounded by the purest sort of love you can dream up.

Maybe you can even imagine a love so pure that there isn’t any judgment in it whatsoever. There’s no edge of sternness at what you’ve done or not done to get this part of you this way. There’s no assumption that this part of you should have been different or otherwise or nonexistent. There’s no vicarious shame at how ghastly or unappealing this part of you is or expectation that you repay any of its kindness.

All there is is complete acceptance, warmth, and compassion.

Imagine this love like a warm cloud around the part of you you find so hard to love. Picture this cloud whatever color feels most safe and love-like to you. And imagine your unlovable part softening and leaning into this embrace – smiling or actually crying at how good it feels to be loved, how odd and unexpected and unasked for.

Now. Whenever you feel critical of or impatient with or downright nasty toward this part of yourself, take the pressure off yourself completely to love it at all. Don’t even try.

Just go back to your image of it being held by a love that you’re not personally generating – a love you’re only imagining is there at all.

And go back to that image.
And go back to that image.
And go back to that image.
And go back to that image.
Whenever you’re damning or wishing that part of you away, go back to that image.

I’d love to hear what happens if you do.

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