Monday, May 11, 2015

Myth: I Can't Love What I've Got

I used to be a little bit anti-Oprah.  Nothing against her personally, I just tend to be antagonistic towards mainstream things and people sometimes.  But for Christmas this past year, Adam gave me this book, "Things I Know For Sure."  Such a little gem of a book with pearls of wisdom woven through her personal experiences.  I'm now a fan of this woman.  Sorry it took me awhile to come around Oprah.

I love her thoughts on body image in the book and decided to include some of them in a myth for my blog.  Hope you don't mind Oprah.

The amount of time and energy I've spent thinking about my next meal will be incalculable: what to eat, what I just ate, how many calories or grams of fat it contains, how much exercise I'll need to burn it off, what if I don't work out, how long will it take to manifest as extra pounds, and on and on.  Food has been on my mind a lot over the years.

I still have the cheque I wrote to my first diet doctor - Baltimore, 1977.  I was 23 years old, 148 lbs, a size 8 and I thought I was fat.  The doctor put me on a 1,200 calorie regimen, and in less than two weeks I had lost 10 lbs.  Two months later I had regained 12.  Thus began the cycle of discontent, the struggle with my body.  With myself.

I joined the diet brigade - signing on for the Beverly Hills, Atkins, Scarsdale, Cabbage Soup, and even the Banana, Hot Dog, and Egg Diets.  (You think I'm kidding.  I wish.)  What I didn't know is that with each diet I was starving my muscles, slowing my metabolism, and setting myself to gain even more weight.  Around 1995, after almost two decades of yo-yoing, I finally realized that being grateful for my body, whatever shape it was in, was the key to giving more love to myself.

But although I made that connection intellectually, living it was a different story.  It wasn't until about 6 years later, after six months of unexplained heart palpitations, that I finally got it.  On December 19, 2001 I wrote in my journal: "One thing is for sure - having palpitations at night makes me more aware of being happy to awaken in the morning, more grateful for each day."  I stopped taking my heart for granted and began thanking it for every heart beat it had ever given me.  I marveled at the wonder of it.  In 47 years, I'd never consciously given a thought to what my heart does.  Feeding oxygen to my lungs, liver, pancreas, even my brain, one beat at a time.

For so many years I had let my heart down by not giving it the support it needed.  Overeating.  Overstressing.  Overdoing.  No wonder when I lay down at night it couldn't stop racing.  I believe that everything that happens in our lives has a meaning.  That experience brings a messing if you're willing to hear it.  So what was my speeding heart trying to tell me?  I still don't know the answer.  Yet simply asking the question cause my to look at my body and how I failed to honor it.  How every diet I had ever been on was because I wanted to fit into something or just fit in.  Taking care of my heart, the life force of my body, had never been my priority.

I sat up in bed one crisp, sunny morning and made a vow to love my heart.  To treat it with respect.  To feed and nurture it.  To work it out and then let it rest.  And then one night, I was getting out of the tub, I glanced in the full length mirror.  For the first time, I didn't launch into self criticism.  I actually felt a warming sense of gratitude for what I saw.  My hair braided, not a stitch of make up on, face clean.  Eyes bright, alive.  Shoulders and neck strong and firm.  I was thankful for the body I lived in.

I did a head to toe assessment and though there was plenty of room for improvement, I no longer hated any part of myself.  Even the cellulite.  I thought, "This is the body you've been given.  Love what you've got."  So I started truly loving the face I was born in; the lines under my eyes at age 2 have gotten deeper, but they're my lines.  The broad nose I tried to lift when I was 8 by sleeping with a close pin and two cotton balls on the sides, is the nose I've grown into.  The full lips I used to pull in when smiling are the lips I use to speak to millions of people everyday - my lips need to be full.

In that moment, as I stood before the mirror, I had my own "spiritual transformation/a root revival of love," which Carolyn M Rodgers writes of in one of my favorite poems, "Some Me of Beauty."
What I know for sure: There is no need to struggle with your body when you can make a loving and grateful peace with it.

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