Recently I read the story of Robin Korth – called “My ‘Naked’ Truth.”
Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure how I came across it.
But once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.
Here is a beautiful woman, vibrant and alive in the decade just one ahead of mine (Robin is 59, I am 44) being told by her 55-year-old boyfriend that she is “too wrinkly” to be desirable in the bedroom.
Lately it feels like everywhere I turn, I am confronted with another story like Robin’s.
And lately, each time I read another one of these stories, I discover another courageous mentor – someone I desire to emulate, to embrace, to thank, to join.
Here I have to share that, in the two decades since my eating disorder battle subsided, I have maintained an uneasy truce with my ever-changing body.
I have agreed not to mention the parts I don’t like, and it has agreed not to flaunt them in my face when I look in the mirror.
But I know they are there. And it knows I don’t like those parts.
After reading Robin’s story in particular – and even though her tale is not unlike many others I have heard in the last several months (years, decades) – something inside me just put her foot down.
It said, “Enough.”
Enough of this.
Enough waffling over whether or not to really “go for it” – for the full experience of genuine body love.
Don’t get me wrong.
I don’t love making mistakes.
But I love mistakes themselves.
Mistakes are great mentors.
I usually hate mistakes when I’ve just made one (especially if other people notice) but then I start learning whatever cool new lesson it has to teach me, and everything shifts.
At that point, I fall a little bit in love with mistakes….all over again.
For the past couple of months, I have been successfully guarding a slip of fortune cookie paper from the sharp and eager beak of my parrot, Pearl.
The fortune reads:
It was when you found out you could make mistakes that you knew you were onto something.
Yet for most of my earlier years, I didn’t realize mistakes were okay….allowed….expected, even.
I didn’t think any of the people around me ever made mistakes.
I didn’t think I was supposed to make mistakes either – not if I was living right.
Yet mistakes kept happening, all the time and in so many ways.
I made mistakes about what I ate (or didn’t eat), what hobbies and classes I pursued, what friends (and boyfriends – don’t get me started on this one) I chose, what I wore, what I said, and what I did.
For a time I thought that I myself was a mistake.
This was the most painful time in my life to date.
The other day I cracked open a fortune cookie.
The fortune read:
Better face danger than be always in fear.
I nodded sagely….totally on board with this philosophy.
But looking at my own life, I can see how, time and time again, I still forget I am brave in the very moment a new danger appears.
For instance, I forget I overcame a deadly eating disorder.
The other day I caught myself saying these words out loud:
Today, I am so much closer than I ever have been before to becoming the person I want to be.
I seriously impressed myself.
Not just for having the guts and the honesty to state my truth, but also for recognizing that this IS the truth, and for being able to look at the past-present picture of me and predict such a positive future for myself.
I was all kinds of proud of myself for that.
But the real truth is, I can still remember a time in my life – many years in fact – when I honestly hated who I was.
I didn’t think I would ever turn out to be anybody worth being.
I looked for ways to help others to justify the space I took up….somehow assuming that if I didn’t “pay rent” on my life, it would be taken away and given to someone much more deserving.
Today I know that the real me – the me I thought I would never be able to be – has been inside me all along.
I wish I had known that earlier.
I wish I had known I would someday be proud to be who I am becoming.
I wish I had known I have had it in me all along.
So I am telling you now, here, just in case you don’t know this yet either.
On July 27, 2014, my treasured colleague and fellow MentorCONNECT board member, Emi Berger, will participate in Ironman Lake Placid.
An Ironman event (in case you, like me, were not aware) is death-defying.
Just for the record – there is noooo WAAAAAY you would ever catch me doing something like this!
My idea of “strenuous exercise” is racing after my baby red-foot tortoise, Malti, as she heads away from our front lawn and out towards the street yet again.
But Emi is an athlete – and a champion one at that.
She is also recovered from an eating disorder, and she is absolutely determined to use her athletic dreams to help others recover as she has done.
So (because you will never have to worry about being asked to support me in an Ironman event) I am inviting you to consider joining me in supporting Emi instead!
Also, all funds raised from her “Ironwoman Dream” event on July 27th go to support MentorCONNECT, the charity I founded in 2009 that provides peer mentoring for recovering people all around the world.
Please help us help others if you are able.
You can read Emi’s “Ironwoman Dream” blog to learn more.
You can donate via her blog or go right to her Indiegogo campaign.
I will be joining you in both activities – from my comfortable couch-side …
Not that you asked, but my mom had me by c-section.
So – without even the courtesy of a minute to prepare – I was literally infant-jacked from my nice, warm, dark, solitary shelter and summarily thrust into the “real world.”
I know you will think I’m crazy (sometimes I can’t help but agree) but I still totally remember that day.
I remember the glaring high beam headlights, the unwarranted whack on my sensitive booty, that awful siren sound (which I now suspect was my own wailing), and one solitary repeating thought:
Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! Who signed me up for THIS?!?
Somehow I made it through that day….the day I still consider to be the most challenging, terrifying, incomprehensible day of my whole life.
I also made it through 5,475 later days (or approximately 15 years) of battling my eating disorder before I started to gain a toehold onto recovery.
And (more recently) I survived the first few days of my young tortoise’s life – but it was touch-and-go there for awhile for this new turtle mama.
I’ve survived breakups and makeups, the dissolution of dreams, friendships, and whole careers, a grueling six months in India (which included both the “hot season” and the “monsoon” season – whew!), an unexpected side trip to Serbia during the Gulf War Crisis (which is why you really want to make sure you get on the right train when you’re traveling)…..
I’ve survived a lot of very bad days.
I’ve also survived a lot of very good days.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve always felt the same about myself.
For many years I felt like two people – the gentle, appreciative nature-lover who would melt at the sight of a fledgling songbird….and the terrifying tormenter within who raged against even a glimpse of her own reflection.
Finally, I had simply had it. I was dying and I knew it – if not yet in body, then most certainly in spirit.
I also knew my only option – if I wanted to survive – was to live the life I’d been given as “me.”
So I started wriggling and wrangling and twisting and turning, trying in every which way to find something to enjoy about being me.
I am not always (ever) the first to catch on to new trending news.
For example, let’s take the 25 year-old singing Italian nun, Sister Cristina.
I discovered the video on You Tube last week….after about 31 million others had already discovered it (a number that I have since discovered includes every single person I know who has an internet connection, and also some who do not).
But since my life motto is “better late than never” I still sent it out to everyone in my list group – just in case.
It is just that good. And I don’t mean just the singing (which of course is awesome).
But it is her presentation – her life – her authenticity – that continues sinking into all the sore, bruised, broken places in my heart and spirit, bolstering me for daily life yet to come, reminding me that there are no “impossibles” in this life.
There are only “possibles” we haven’t tried yet.
You may not think this statement is true.
I know I didn’t for many, many, MANY years.
This is because, while it is happening, time appears to move ohhhhh sooooo slowly.
This is a problem because, when we are in pain, we want healing NOW.
Like what the &$*! is taking so long?!
I know I personally never felt content to sit back and wait for the healing to happen. No way. It had to happen NOW. NOW was the only time. It was NOW or NEVER.
Yet as I look back now over the decades I struggled to heal from an eating disorder, I see that time itself was perhaps my greatest healer.
Time is simply amazing.
Time doesn’t care about terms like “now” and “never” – it is not at all intimidated by scare tactics, insults, or disbelief. It won’t cut corners and it is impervious to peer pressure.
Even today, having witnessed its power firsthand, I honestly have no idea how time does what it does. But I do know that, whether it is a broken bone or a broken heart, given enough time, both will heal in full.
Time works miracles.
Time can turn the impossible into the possible and the actual.
Time is the cheerleader we often don’t hear screaming itself hoarse from the sidelines of our lives.
My friend and fellow Psych Central blogger Margarita Tartakovsky recently crafted a moving post about aging and our bodies that I can’t stop thinking about.
The reason the post stays on my mind? I am aging – and my body is aging with me.
Of course, my 75 year-old father doesn’t think 43 is “old,” but I point out to him I am getting older each year….and 43 is certainly older than either my body or me have ever been before.
I have also noticed my folks and I now do something we have never done until the last couple of years – we companionably complain about a laundry list of ailments from bad backs to thinning hair to poor eyesight to mid-body weight gain.
But as I continued reading Margarita’s post, I began to wonder yet again – why all the complaining?
Why is there so little acceptance of the aging journey as a process we all go through when the time is right – another phase of life we can share and learn from together, a sign something is actually going right, a chance to ruminate on every treasured bit of progress we’ve made, even proof we are evolving right before our very eyes?
Perhaps because, as Margarita shares (and I paraphrase), we learn from a young age that aging is undesirable, bad, something to fight against with every weapon in our arsenal.
Here, statistics support this. Increasingly younger – and older – folks are opting for all kinds of surgical procedures to stall or stop the aging process…even when those procedures are expensive, painful, have dangerous side effects and/or will need to be repeated frequently.
I will admit I, too, have thought about cosmetically altering the parts of myself I am less fond of. In my less body-satisfied moments, I dream of how I might look different if this or that were sculpted, reshaped, tweaked, enhanced, or even removed.
Today’s society makes it harder than ever before to accept our authentic selves, naturally aging bodies and all, because the option to …