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Seeing Yourself

I hosted a 1920’s Paris themed party years ago. I did my apartment up like a jazz lounge and encouraged guests to dress with the theme. I had not a single photo from the event and I’d even spent about $300 for my hair and make up. Not one photo, zero evidence! I reached out to a friend who’d been there and she sent me what she had. I had worn a sequin and fringe dress originally and I’m not sure how I came to be posing almost nude while friends directed and snapped photos, but this is what she had photos of.

At first I was delighted to see the pictures! Then it quickly sank in how much weight I’d gained since then. Feelings of Shame. Disgust. I always feel that if having a baby had been involved in the passage of time, then it’s the golden ticket out of shame. I probably only feel that way because I haven’t carried a child though. The probably 30 or so pounds I’d gained largely came from owning a car. Also that I’d partnered up with someone who is not a vegetarian, so I started eating differently… and learned how great wine is.

That first day of seeing the old photos was tumultuous. I had a line from the song Breathe by Anna Nalick on repeat in my head:

Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table No one can find the rewind button, girl So cradle your head in your hands And breathe, just breathe

Even though I knew that those words were being gifted to me, and I believed the words to be true, I became desperate to find the rewind button. At all costs. Inserting a couple more exercise classes into the week. No dairy. No meat. (My husband would add No fun.) Control. Seeking control, because, clearly, during the last 8 years, I’d lost it.

My inner guide stayed strong throughout the stormy anger, whispering “If this was a friend, what advice would you give if she went off the rails like this?” and “You’re happy, you have a happy life, why this need for your body to be the same as it was in your early twenties?” Yes. Why indeed? What is it about this 20 year old body that seems so coveted? Young people are dying to hurry up and get there. Older people are buying all the creams, trying all the gimmicks, to get back there. This age group shown in most of the ads, carved into idealized candles. It’s been going on for centuries! Think of all the Greek statues. It’s a time in life we seem to be in awe of. A time for romance, idealist views, passion, new life, not to mention the height of athleticism. And when we pass this time in our life, is it steady decline? Morbid thought, but not altogether untrue. We have plenty of years left to live after the golden decade; it encourages us to find new meaning for our life. To see strength in our inner beauty and values.

My ego is afraid of being less lovable, seeming less healthy, and is ill at ease with ageing. I breathe and sit with this knowledge. I find understanding for my ego, try to soothe its anxiety. The girl in the old picture was lonely, that’s why she threw the party, to have people around, so desperate to not be alone. She paid $300 she didn’t have because she thought it’d make her feel beautiful. She had no idea where her life was going and it was a struggle to find peace.

My ego says, “if you work your way back down to that shape, I bet you’ll be really happy”. I pause to consider its advice. I already have that happiness right now as I am. I’m married to a man who adores me for all that I am. My work is all my own. I design it, direct it, birth it into the world and it’s very fulfilling. With my introduction to meditation and feelings of wholeness, I’ve found that I’m not lonely when I’m alone. I laugh a lot these days. The happiness didn’t lie in the shape of my body. It still doesn’t.

Despite all the mature logic, I still desire to look the way I did in that picture. I’d call this a “flare up and soothe”. I’m not cured, it’s not that easy. My naturist friend worries I’ve learned nothing from all my years at a naturist resort. I think I’m much further ahead armed with my naturist perspective. It’s a journey. The ego has a loud voice, but it’s not the only voice. I’m grateful that I know how to sit and be with myself. To uncover my truth. To breathe, just breathe.

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