(Song Dedication: You Are Enough by Sleeping At Last)
It seems as though the universe has been sending me a new smoke signal hot on the heels of the triggery-fire-of-hell I just doused in retardant last week also referred to as ABANDONMENT. I recognized it…not in my usual fits and starts…but in its entirety from an all encompassing vantage point bird’s eye view….like wayyyyyy way up eagle high. I could see beyond the victimized abandonment role I had become ensnared in and instead see the way I was using it as a perceived shield by abandoning others. It’s like the pregnancy lens…once you are expecting, all you see are other baby bellies, infants, suddenly you are surrounded by all things maternity, which is super weird when you aren’t maternal in the first place (that last part might just be me).
So through the abandonment lens I’ve been gazing through for just over a week, I can’t believe what an instinctual go-to it has become! I framed it as nice grown-up things like “space or boundaries” or “peace” or “me-time” which are still things that can be amazingly important for our balance. But I was over-using it, or at the very least mis-using it. For example, you are asking me too many questions…I’m gonna physically move away from you and perhaps give us some “space”. You are saying something I disagree with…I’m gonna disengage from you and leave that be in the name of “peace”. You are asking me to do something for you…I may deflect your request citing the importance of “me-time”. And “you” refers to all manner of the human species…child, husband, friend, parent, co-worker, etc.
I found my body abruptly rising from the dinner table the other night as I found myself lodged between disagreeable and frustrating (husband and son). Before I consciously realized what was happening I was moving away from my half-eaten dinner plate, the groan of the stool legs backing away along with my momentum and my family’s eyes looking up at me wondering where in the hell I thought I was going? My body initially believed it was taking me away from some sort of tension-filled conflict that I couldn’t handle, but as the consciousness caught up with this action, I was jarred by how silly it felt to flee what was actually happening. So not to seem too deranged, I very pointedly exclaimed, “I am getting Jack more water.” Which I did and returned to my spot at the table, where I finished my meal with my family. I endured the modicum of malcontent and the night unfolded as I would of otherwise predicted. How many other moments had I avoided in my life under the umbrella of abandonment? Hundreds? Nope. Thousands.
So instead of doing an about face and marching my ass in the opposite direction of what curls my toes or hurts my feelings, I am standing steady, toes flat, spreading like deep roots into the earth beneath me. This is where my growth really unfurls.
This past week along with the new shift in perspective I have apparently decided to take on the issue of body shaming. I grew up in an environment where appearance was very important. Hair, clothing, posture, facial expression, shoes, body shape and size. These outward characteristics could be hot topics about me or others. I was fine as long as they were positive observations about me…but this fed my ideal of perfectionism. Another shield I used to protect myself from knowing eyes. And now I also see that perfectionism is just another adaptation I assumed to thwart abandonment by others.
I truly believed that if I looked perfect I would find greater acceptance. I would feel safe. I would feel connected. I would be worthy of love.
This began as a contentious issue that reared its ugly head a few weeks ago, when a well-meaning friend made some comments about my weight. The observation was shared that I was so skinny! Once that comment was mildly ignored more comments came and some jokes. When I felt backed into a bit of a corner I explained that I am actually stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been. Which seemed to trigger one more joke about the frailty of my arms. And then I was pissed. I went to yoga the next morning and carried out an angry practice, my mat wondering what in the hell had gotten into me stomping about in warrior pose and gritting my teeth through several rounds of chaturanga dandasana. At the end, I cried silently as I folded my body into embryo from corpse pose (the most challenging pose that lets life finally catch up to you).
A few weeks later I saw that same friend and the 5 minute exchange was nothing to note…at least in my experience. However, later that night I received a text mentioning the word skinny again and asking if my health was ok. I noticed my urge to abandon ship and instead responded with just the facts. I said I was fine and my health was good thank you. This elicited another skinny joke, well-meaning, but I had had enough. I internally noted my frustration with the ongoing dialogue and rather than the cut and run instinct, I faced it head on. I explained these comments were crossing my boundaries, I explained it was a delicate subject from my upbringing and that I no longer wished to discuss my body with anyone. I was heard and this allowed me to let go.
But why am I then, writing about it a week later you might wonder? Because this person was reflecting some truth back to me to observe and contemplate and it took some time for me to interpret this abstracted image. I have been tested through thick and thin (pun intended) as far as my body shape goes, but when it comes to other areas of my “image” I am not healthy and strong. I am in fact, at times, weak and hateful toward myself. And in order to get by day to day with this shameful internal dialogue, I put on my mask and pretend I completely love myself when this isn’t the truth. I am actually continuing to struggle and abandon my authentic self every single day. Being an artist has made me a master at my own make-up application. The right amount of layers, concealers, powders and foundations. Blotting and reapplying to keep up the facade. God forbid I might hug you and my skin coloured mask transfers onto the fabric of your shirt…this fear is real for me.
So here is the truth, I continue to hate my skin (only the body’s largest organ). I feel shame for the blemishes, imperfections and flaws that cover my face. I feel an even greater, heavier cumbersome shame for feeling this way. I feel weak with the inability to let go and just be. Because here is what I really say deep in the back of my mind where I hope no one hears, you will be enough when your skin is healthy and clear, you are only enough when you look your best. I have been taught by culture, industry and social media that you must always look your best. And guess what?! I fucking. Hate. This. Idea. I have become so accustomed to looking a certain way that I need a make-under. I want to be Amy Schumer’s Character in I Feel Pretty, where I sustain a mild head injury and am suddenly overcome by my natural beauty, which doesn’t hinge on anyone else’s perception but my own. I am in need of a crash course in looking beyond my reflected image that I’ve projected and carefully curated for 3 decades running…as my first ten years of life were not inundated with unobtainable images. Back then I just wanted to be as beautiful as my Mom. Which became more confusing over time as I learned my Mom also did not believe herself to be so.
I feel a bit lighter to just admit this dirty little secret. I want to change. I want to become brave and trust in the idea that I am enough…end stop. So today I have decided to post my most vulnerable photograph. I call it “before and after”. I wish that I might begin to exist more in the “after” as I continue to locate enough self-love to accept myself, imperfect and undone…free of this self-imposed prison I have locked my face in. It is important for me to do this on many levels. I am demonstrating to myself that I am enough, that I can change, that I do see the detriment of this negative self-talk that is just another form of body-shaming. And I hope it helps you reflect on your own level of acceptance for self and others. Putting the mask down for a moment of unabashed self-love and compassion. Gulp.