08 January 2013

I am a stranger in my own flesh

Photo courtesy Henri Khodaverdi 

I exist in a bag of flesh that I no longer recognize. I catch glimpses of myself throughout the day, reflected in a mirror or a window, and I see a complete stranger. If I'm looking at myself full in the face I look no different, no heavier. But when I see myself out of the corner of my eye the proof is there...who is that woman? It's such a weird thing, to not recognize yourself. Not only do I look different but, of course, I feel different too. I feel the limitations of 20 extra pounds. More fat and less muscle and suddenly very simple physical gestures become challenges. Bending over to put on my shoes, kneeling down, getting off the floor.

You have to understand, this is very new to me. Ask anyone who has known me for 20 years and they will tell you I have been a waif my entire life. Yes, I was one of those chicks who couldn't gain weight if she tried. When I was 18 my mentor and friend and surrogate mother made me weigh in every week when she was directing me in a show because she was concerned about dangerous weight loss. I was able to take full advantage of the boyfriend jeans and exposed midriff fashions in the day. I flipped around on a trapeze for fugg sake - a feat I couldn't even dream about right now!! Ok, maybe I'm getting a little "glory days" on you, sorry. But I'm trying to illustrate this picture for you: I am trapped in a totally foreign bag of flesh right now and it's very uncomfortable and it's also very fascinating in terms of larger societal issues such as body image and perspectives of beauty, and maybe even identity in general and how closely identity is tied to our physical representation of ourselves. And not how the world sees us but how we see the world seeing us, you see? 

For a few months now I've been conversing with myself about loosing this extra weight. I don't feel strong right now and that's a problem. I'm quite sensitive to the concept of physical limitations and I'm definitely feeling limited with the extra weight I'm carrying. But today for the first time I had this very quiet other voice pipe in, somewhere in the background, almost drowned out under the din of the other loud obnoxious voice that is constantly chattering at me about how fat I am and how shitty I feel. This new little voice was saying something about redefining the concept of beauty in my own environment and recognizing a full, curvy, fleshy body as a ripe symbol of life giving gorgeousness. Yes, something like that. Something like a small quiet suggestion to focus on getting stronger to eliminate the physical limitations but not consciously aiming for smaller in addition to stronger. That smaller might somehow diminish what is actually beautiful here.

And what is actually beautiful here is that I grew a human in my body. I expanded my flesh to protect and make room for another's flesh. My breasts ripened with milk overflowing to nourish that new human and every cell in my body changed and expanded and worked toward a new end. My entire chemistry changed and my body is now a result of that change, proof of that shift, a reminder, a beacon celebrating life and abundance.

And perhaps we (yes the great big collective WE) ought to be asking ourselves what is actually beautiful here. In this moment, right now, and with you, what is really going on? What is your beauty about, really? Mother or not. Malfunctioning thyroid or not. DNA and all. Can you catch a quick glimpse of yourself and suddenly, in an instant, redefine your beauty? In the context of a great and wondrous accomplishment, be it creation of new life or creation of yourself as a luminous human whose very existence improves this earth beneath my feet? Can you? Can I?

So this is a new idea quietly being floated down the river of my subconscious. We'll see if it snags on a rock or gets munched by a whirlpool.

Also I find it interesting that I can only see the truth of myself if I'm not looking directly at myself. I don't really see what my body really looks like unless I catch myself in a quick unexpected glance. And I wonder: if these changes to my body are permanent, how long before I am able to catch an unexpected glimpse of myself out of the corner of my eye and not look like a total stranger? And not cringe at what I see? When I am 80 will I have reached a state of total and utter confusion concerning the strange wrinkly face that stares at me from the mirror? Will I ever recognize myself again? Just wondering. Just wondering.

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