Sometimes I think I will never learn to love myself, and most especially the part of me that I reside in, my body.
Although I think perhaps I knew how to do this during the first decade of my life. Early pictures of me show a girl who seemed quite comfortable taking up space, letting it all hang out, employing creativity to accent my person (oh such creativity!), asking for what I needed and just generally living fully as me.
But around age 10, something big shifted – specifically, my hormones. I was an “early bloomer” and as I bloomed physically, the way those around me related to me changed. Oh how they changed! Suddenly it was all about boobs and butts and boys and girls and rules and dress codes and shame and secrecy.
I remember one day in elementary school the teachers showed this video – yup, it was “that” video. Boys and girls were segregated to watch it separately. We were warned never to talk about it after we’d seen it – especially not with the boys. After the video, which was made quite a bit scarier by how the adults all seemed to be tiptoeing around it, we all filed by each other, boys in one line and girls in the other. All afternoon, we watched each other to see who would be first to step across that silent line and just say it –
MAN. That was WEIRD.
I grew up and out in all the ways a tween begins to do about a year earlier than everyone else in my class, both boys and girls. To say that got me noticed, especially in the wake of the school-wide viewing of “the film,” was an understatement. I might as well have painted a target right over my heart. Even the teachers got in on the bullying, whether by joining in or simply not saying a word. The adults in my life at that point were good at silence.
I got good at it too. I got so good at silence I didn’t really talk to anyone about much of anything for years. It would be another decade before I opened up to anyone again. By that time, as I attempted with all my might to disentangle myself from a mind gripped with an endless feedback loop of thoughts about eating-not-eating-weight-calories-size-shape-body-body-body, I was really out of practice with forming friendships.
So I didn’t really have any of those for awhile.
I had mentors instead. I had caring, nonjudgmental (mostly), certainly quite kind and willing mentors who listened. They were really good at listening, which was good, because I had about a decade’s worth of trapped words that needed to come…no POUR…out of me. Then came the tears. Then the rage. Then the anxiety (panic). Then the depression. The sadness. The apathy.
Then, slowly, the restart. I don’t really like words like rebirth, renewal, regeneration, even. I basically just needed to turn off, turn back on again, and start all over. So I did. I restarted my life. I pretended like it was Day 1. Me. I. Am. Here. I began again, re-evaluating every existing connection, structure, belief, desire, goal.
I am still doing that. That process is still going on. I did a second restart about seven months ago when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. My thyroid decided to go on sabbatical and the rest of me quickly followed (small malfunctioning glands make for compelling leaders, it would seem). I broke in short order and there was no way to fix me. So I needed to turn off, turn on again, reboot, restart.
Yoga has been a critical mass component of forming the new foundation of me. For those of you who have been connecting with me here for some time who are not really into yoga, blessings and thank you for sticking with me! And I know you have your “something” – we all do – it may not be yoga, but it is something wonderful for you (and something I’d love to hear about – please feel free to share your “something” here with us all!).
My online teacher, Adriene, is way younger than me in body and apparently way older than me in spirit. She is so wise! Often she will wait until I am tottering about in some new impossible pose that she made look so easy and then she will casually say something like “move like you love yourself.”
I typically try to tune these types of statements out in the interests of not moving like I am trying to off myself. But today I heard her say it, it registered, I came toppling down and then I thought to myself, “Move like you love yourself. What the heck does that MEAN?!”
I do know one thing: by practicing yoga with Adriene nearly every morning since I first found her YouTube channel back in February, I am certainly trying to move like I love myself. I am trying to learn to love my body back to health and life again. I am carving out time for it – for me – for us – as Adriene encourages us to do.
And actually, I do a lot of things that would make it seem I love my body very much. I give it lots of supplements and essential oils and juices and organic food, my doctor recommended the best supplements for women over 50, you can find online. We do yoga together every day and often we also hula hoop. I take it to the chiropractor to help ease away its aches and pains. We go walking and (my favorite) swimming and I burn lovely incense and jasmine and gardenia soy candles (my nose particularly loves these).
I give it plenty of rest and meditation and vitamin D. We go to the beach as often as I can manage (my feet really love the beach – the salty water and sand is like an oceanfront spa to my feet). For my poor beleaguered face and teeth, I mix up bentonite clay mud masks and brush with activated charcoal and clay toothpaste.
I take my thyroid (and the rest of me) to the endocrine doctor every few months for an updated prescription and blood tests. My thyroid loves all the attention….my veins and my bank account, not so much.
But all this to say – I really do try. I try to say and show my body “I love you.” But then I go to move and it is all creaking and awkwardness and wobbling. Or I look in the mirror after the fifth outfit change and think – well, I’ll spare you what my mind often thinks when it catches sight of sags and wrinkles and grey and lumps and bumps and all the rest that comes with the territory of growing older on the outside while still feeling very young on the inside.
So I guess my whole point in writing this blog post is that I am still learning to love myself. I feel like most of the basic building blocks are there. The foundation is laid.
Now I am waiting. I am just waiting….waiting for the love part to kick in. Waiting for the inside-out, soulmate-level self-love that I’ve wished for all my life from someone else and am now finally realizing I can only truly get from myself. That unquenchable, endless need for love, intimacy, connection, conversation, companionship – others can meet me halfway, at best, even the most earnest and eager of them all. The rest of the way I must travel alone, on my own, by myself, with myself, within myself.
Today’s Takeaway: It feels quite vulnerable, writing all this out loud here for you and me and everyone to see. How does one learn to move like you love yourself? Is there some kind of light, bell, fireworks in the sky, that indicates the lesson has been mastered? I don’t know. But I do know I’d love to hear your thoughts on any/all!