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Friday, April 20, 2012

Body Beautiful: Part A (of the English Alphabet)

(*this topic is impossibly large. I may have to move through all the letters of the English alphabet, and then move into some other alphabet. There's no telling where this may lead)

I love making resolutions. I don't mean the dumb kind like; I'm not eating peanut M&M's until I lose twenty pounds. I mean the "RESOLVE" kind of resolutions. The kind that involve an epiphany; a life-giving, liberating new way of living.

The kind of decision that would mean I could end the fight. Swim upstream into freedom and peace of mind.

Say "NO" to my repressive and demanding culture.

Refuse to provide residence to the screaming monster in my head. Give all my friends and enemies and random strangers permission to do the same. Start a quiet revolution in which we all see our beauty, embrace our power, stop wasting time. Life.

I love these resolutions. And they feel incredibly liberating.

For about an hour, or until I am standing in my skivvies in a fitting room with a flimsey curtain for a door, fluorescent lighting, and a three way mirror.


Then I rapidly transform into some sort of diet crazed, heavy footed, fat loathing feral creature once again. My resolve, my soaring spirit, so recently liberated from its harsh, judgmental dictator crashes down in giant, untamable, chunky bits of horror.

I stare at the ripples and layers of cellulite invading my flacid thighs and wonder how I ever have the nerve to leave the house.

Or bed.

I notice a new pathway of veins creeping down the inside of my ankle towards the underside of my foot. Like my own flesh and blood sneaking around, searching for an escape route.

It was much easier at that profound moment when I'd decided about being beautiful for the rest of my life.

I was pinning at the time. Not wide-eyed in a fitting room with a pair of jeans pulled up to a sudden screeching half near the tops of my thighs.

But I'm only a junior in my quest for a new way of living. In my desire for body acceptance. My thoughts often stubbornly refuse to align with what I believe: That we women are wasting our lives staring down and shaking our heads in disgust and discouragement. That we've bought into some sort of weird conspiracy to keep ourselves very very small and inconsequential. That by constantly focussing on what to change, we've totally missed the point on what needs to change. We're meanwhile giving our lives away. Throwing away our influence, our beauty, our power.

I'm learning that even though my brain torments me, it all comes down to choice. Will I choose to engage in fat bashing conversations? Will I choose to subject people to my insecurities, my ill-fitting craving to live in a smaller body? Will I be one of those voices who reinforces that its not okay for women to have back fat, belly fat, jiggly thighs, droopy boobs, and upper arms that wave back? Will I perpetuate the common belief that weight loss will just 'make me feel better"? Or will I be brave and suggest that feeling good about ourselves has to start right now wherever we are. Whatever we weigh. Will I be brave and remember that when I was skinny I had really sad days, insecure days, desperate days, and perfect days, just as I do now?

Will I go on the ten day soup diet; run when I want to sleep; scan the pharmacy aisles for appetite suppressants? Or will I respect myself more than that- sleep when I'm tired (or promise myself to go to bed early), feed my body delicious food when its hungry, choose not to shove brain and body numbing trash into myself? Will I eat treats when I need a treat, take the dog for a walk when I need fresh air, move my body in pleasurable ways, treat myself with honour?

I'm learning that my thoughts are extremely slow to change, but that each thought is not an end to itself- its more of a reminder of the choice that comes immediately thereafter. Will I choose to promote behavior and lifestyle that honors your and my life, our beautiful selves? Or will I respond out of the insecurity that feeds straight into a destructive culture of telling its women- our daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends... that they're just not quite enough.

It's not going to be easy to start a revolution when three quarters of my brain wants to sign up for every diet, surgical procedure, fitness program that I'm constantly bombarded with. But if that's how damaged my thinking has become after a lifetime of hearing that I'm not enough, I really don't want to join my voice to that choir.

I'd like to join my voice with another choir.

A more inclusive, far-reaching, broader, less one dimensional choir. My voice will be weak, hypocritical, faltering, and frequently out of tune. But I hope that as the chorus swells, we'll find strength and harmony in each other.



Brenda Funk said...

Well Joyce, I think in part your journey and your struggles with body image/thoughts are Every Woman's journey. I work with a whole bunch of women, and right now almost everyone is on a liquid/protein diet from 'Good and Natural' that costs and arm and a leg, and makes people lose astounding amounts of weight very quickly -- not sure if there is anything Good or Natural about it. Pretty sure there isn't.
Think I've come to the place where I really just don't care. Had an epiphany when my youngest sister died of ALS at just barely 40. Life is too short to worry about some things.... like the number on a scale, or every bite of good food that goes in your mouth that some voice is always saying you shouldn't have, etc. etc.
I consider myself very lucky not to be hugely obese, although I certainly have a few extra pounds here and there. I am healthy, and mostly happy and that's good.
I do get very frustrated and bored to the extreme listening to women around me (and at my age they should know better) talking endlessly about weight loss plans etc etc.. Surely there are more important, and much more interesting things that should preoccupy us.
I'm cynically waiting to see how it will look two years from now...or maybe less. They will likely be heavier than before. And missed out on a lot of great food.

Mary KG said...

I'm singing in your choir. Sometimes I forget to go to choir practice, but I will keep singing, even when I'm really off tune. That may just make me sing a little quieter till I get the right notes again.

bygeorge! said...

Well, you know I can't carry a tune, (or a thought), but I sign up to your choir.
Nice moment today at Tim's. Daughter and I line up to order, and I look up and see this authentic, smiling young woman. Without much thought, I announced, "my, you're lovely". Well the smile got bigger, and my daughter talked about it afterwards. The value of saying nice things out loud. While shopping an older girl told my daughter she liked her purse. Again, what nice baby steps to changing the wind of ways.
boler babe (as in liking it short and round!)

janice said...

Well said, Joyce. When I birthed a baby girl I vowed she would love her body as much as I loved her. She has never heard me talk about dieting, or how much I hate my belly. She appears to like herself.

After years of trying to like myself, I think I do. I look at my friends and my daughter, and I just have to. Even my belly.

Brenda said...

You are moving to an echelon of higher thinking and I'm still just running to try and catch up to you. Wait, friend...wait for me, let me catch up! You may need to take my hand and pull me along but I like where you're going. I'd like to come too!

joyce said...

Brenda f, such a great comment, I've read it numerous times. I like choosing friends who talk about things that challenge me, and when we discuss weight loss/body stuff, it tends to be in reference to their deeper hungers and meanings. (except when I have relapses. Then certain trusted friends become victimized by my crazy part selF)
But I aspire to your attitude. It's refreshing and liberating.

Mary, I feel like my ability to actually follow through with having a different attitude about bodies is pretty fragile. I hope it grows stronger.

Bb, I think so much of it lies in this: small, tangible, brave acts of women empowering one another.

Janice, we must think of our daughters- what should they internalize? It must feel good to have an adult daughter who seems unscathed by the north American plague.

Brenda, it's extremely fledgling. It is born out of having damaged myself (irreparably?) through formative years and adult years of body shaming. I hope I can still turn this thing around for possibly the last half of my living time.
And yes, we sure need tp pull one another along. See one another's beauty and influence.

Thanks to you all for being on my ride.

christine said...

wow. this is written so beautifully, i'm just in awe of your talent and ability to express yourself. to express the truth. as you know i can relate so very much to everything you wrote. what a wonderful way to start my day. thank you.
i'd like to resolve to doing what you are've articulated what i've been trying to convince myself of doing. i just didn't have the words. or the language.