Sunday, April 4, 2010

mysterious universe

this is an old post that i started and never finished....until today....

a new series began on NPR called "the hidden world of girls." it documents stories about "girls and the women they become," female rituals and rights of passage, and unlikely traditions around the world.

i was inspired by the perfectly phrased thesis of one reporter: "one thing we noticed, if you're delving into the lives of women and girls, you can't help but enter into the mysterious universe of their bodies..."

the lives and rituals of girls and women fascinate...the daily ritual of cleaning our pores, plucking our eyebrows, picking out the best bits of granola from the bowl, the 8-octave range of laughter when we gather in groups...

the phrase "mysterious universe" instantly ignited in me two things: my own awe and adoration of the physical body in motion, and the tremendous pressure put on women to look a certain way to be considered "attractive" in our society; the obsession with physical standards put on a form that is so varied and powerful and designed to break boundaries. creating a collective belief that all bodies must adhere to one aesthetic goes against nature. okay, this is not new information. but women are still prey to it's grip on our minds and behavior. women are still fighting themselves and killing their spirits in order to fit into a trendy new look. or, in order to feel accepted in the world. which is what this comes down to. women's day may confuse some people- why do women need a whole day? women are powerful. yes. beyond measure. but we are not accepted completely. our bodies are not celebrated- not as they are, but as someone, somewhere decided they "should" be because it's more aesthetically appealing on camera. i'm going to put out there that 99% of women have/have had some form of an eating disorder. in my opinion, obsessive calorie counting is an eating disorder. it is absolutely true that counting calories can help people get healthier. physically. mentally and emotionally, i believe it is self-destructive. my opinions are based on my experience- what i have gone through myself and what i have witnessed in others.

i think it is a right of passage, unfortunately, to go through a period of disconnection to one's physical self. as a woman, coming in to one's own with a body as capable and powerful as the female body, "women who swell with the tide, women who change when the wind blows, show us we are connected to everything, show us we are not separate from everything." naturally the passage would be fraught with mistrust, misunderstandings and discomfort. i personally spent days gripping onto my inner thighs, staring into the mirror in horror at what i saw. i pulled back the flesh on my legs to see, just for a moment, how it would look, to feel what it would be like, to be 'pretty.' i don't know where this started or came from, i just know that i was living in a body i didn't understand.

over one summer in high school, i dropped from approximately 123lbs. to 102lbs. at 5'4" i was underweight. every thought i had was about food- i had my food down to a science and any deviation threw me into pure panic. i never felt nourished, i never felt satisfied, i just felt i had control over something. i was light and it felt good to hear people tell me i was "little." but i was dying. i had no emotional strength and i was disconnected from the world around me. hell, my hair was falling out. when i look back at that time, i was 100% lost in my neuroses, and never in my body. the result was a shell with a smile that i showed the world. the worst part about that time, in addition to the obscene mood swings, is that i have so few memories. i remember so little about the time i spent with friends and the things i did because i was never present in a single moment.

as is often the case, the weight started to come on. slowly at first, and then with a vengeance. i turned a corner and went from one extreme to the other, eating to fill this well i had created in myself. there were times when i could not stop and i made myself physically ill. there were times when i just ate with the intention of purging later. now eating brought me into my body, but i was even more uncomfortable than before.

with time, only time, and a deep knowing inside that i was living at the mercy of a lie so pervasive it has generated a billion dollar industry, i began to live inside my body- as it was. i was heavy now. unrecognizable when compared to images of my "former" self. but i was learning to accept that, to move on in spite of being uncomfortable and insecure. i not only felt a shift into a different physical space, but mental and emotional space as well. i had depth again. i was becoming whole, although still incomplete.

i found ways to express myself physically that felt joyful. i dove into my yoga practice. i started dancing again. getting back in front of a mirror and putting on tights with 40 more pounds than i had before was shitty, to say the least. but, really, there are worse things in life. i had legs and the desire to move and nothing was going to make me feel bad about that. with my weight, i felt i was in a cocoon so that i could emerge, at some point in the future, my Self. at least, that's how it made sense in my head. it was a lot easier to deal with that than to get up every day and say, "i'm fat and ugly." that method doesn't work if you hope to keep your spirit in tact.

it must be said that i am in no way disparaging exercise or eating right or becoming more mindful of what you put in your body. what i am saying is that everyone deserves to feel at home and loved inside their own space. and as a very wise woman said, we only have dominion over our own bodies. women naturally feel and sense more physically, and that is why this article is addressed to women. if women's bodies weren't so powerful and misunderstood, then how did female genital mutilation come to be? who invented breast implants? and vaginal reconstruction? who put the idea in our heads that after pregnancy and giving birth, a woman's body is "destroyed?" by diminishing and objectifying the female form, we diminish and confuse the woman's role in society. it is in our vulnerability that we have power. i can take into myself and create out of myself. i am soft and it feels good to rest against me. for someone seeking world domination, you can see how dangerous it might feel to really engage emotionally with that power- the power of letting go and receiving and connecting to nature. who's in charge? no one. all of us. it's not for you to know.

women take in the world around them and process it through an inherently sexual filter- their bodies. we give birth, which is, like it or not, the result of having sex. which is, if you're lucky enough to be with someone with whom you share trust and respect, utterly pleasurable. pleasure is part of the life-creating process. women feel, and we give life and we give love, and that is what makes the world go 'round. of course, that is not one-sided. women give, and are happy to give with a little understanding and respect. in order to bring the world into balance, men and women have to accept each other, as we are, and move forward with the intention of growing our consciousness to really view each other as equal. so women become vindicated for their inherent sexuality, and as punishment become "sexualized" and stereotyped. what i experience as sexual does not require me to wear stilettos and leather and purse my lips to express myself. at least, not all the time. the problem is the "stickiness" of that image, the grip it has in the psyche of our society as the apex of sexuality, and even what it is to be a woman. how about the sexiness of menstruation? what's not sexy about a woman moving with the tides of the earth, pulled in time with the moon, generating fertile ground to create life? if we gave ourselves the time and space to ride the waves of emotion and physical discomfort, PMS wouldn't be an ugly word or an ugly reality. it wouldn't exist.

in my current body, the excess has been shed and what's left continues to surprise me in it's effect on people, even myself. i don't have a perfect body, but i have a body you can hold on to. i have a body that's real. i have a body that's round. and i think the sexiest thing about my body is that it's MINE; i know it inside and out and it loves to move, it loves contact, it loves feeling.

i starved myself of my life for so long because i didn't feel like being me was ok. i buried myself in food for so long because i knew what "they" wanted wasn't possible. i wasted so much time not loving myself because, no matter how many times i heard the opposite, the world out there does everything to make you believe that what YOU think about YOURSELF doesn't matter.
what is healthy? what is beautiful? what is any of it?

your body is not a temple, your body is your home, your nest, your refuge. take care of that. spend as much time on the living room and the bedroom and the kitchen as you do on the facade. because really, no matter how good a house looks on the outside, if you walk in and there is garbage on the floor and one lone folding chair in the corner, you'll never want to be there. take care of yourself, and praise the beautiful being you are.