By: Jacqueline Gates – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
Until recently, there were very full-length photos of me online.
That’s because, while I’m ok with my face, I don’t think I’ve been comfortable with my body for more than about a year out of my over 50 on this planet.
“You know that mix of shame and loathing and disgust that women carry about being overweight (or underweight, or too short, or too tall, or too pale, or too dark, or…)?
Yes. That.” ~ Sheri Ponzi
That’s been me.
I reckon 98% of you dahlings can relate, right?
My body issues have made me lose theater roles, stay away from parties, cry myself to sleep.
At my worst, the number on the scale became the gauge by which I measured my worth and the enjoyment of my day.
At my best, it was never good enough.
Of course, as an actress I got really, really good at making sure that the clothes and make up and lighting played up my ‘good bits’ and hid everything else from view.
Consequently, any and all compliments would automatically be chalked up to my camouflaging skills and not to any actual … you know, beauty.
I had no idea just how much of the excess weight I was carrying was to protect myself from this endless barrage of self-loathing, shame and regret.
It took a day at a Korean spa to show me.
I’d heard rave reviews about JeJu spa from friends while I lived in Woodstock GA. All of them went into raptures about this authentic Korean spa designed for spending whole days and nights in deep relaxation and crystal energy.
Part of my visualizations of my ‘perfect day’ always includes some kind of spa/massage/healing ritual and my vision of true wealth always entails monthly, if not weekly days spent being pampered, pummeled and purified.
So I followed my bliss to this alien world of saunas and steam rooms and heated pools.
I was not prepared for the nudity.
Taking my locker key from the attendant, I left my shoes at the door, and walked into a communal changing room that was filled with naked women.
No-one wearing fluffy, modesty-retaining robes like the ones in the other spas I’ve been to.
No-one even in bra and knickers.
Lounging on benches. Laughing. Chatting.
Did I mention, naked?
Now, honestly, dear hearts, this goddess is not a prude.
I’ve spent way too many hours in crowded dressing rooms, or doing split-second changes backstage to give the occasional flash of butt or boob a second thought, but this level of uninhibited, un-self-conscious comfort took me quite by surprise.
I found my locker, thankfully in a far, isolated corner of the room, and began to undress.
I got to my undies and froze.
Maybe I should get a towel? The attendant said there were towels. OMGpleaselettherebetowels!!
I wandered over to the pile by the door, awkwardly returning smiles of welcome, keeping my eyes very firmly on nothing in particular.
Picked up a towel.
They call this a towel??
At home, I’d call it a dish cloth.
(I knew no-one would believe me so I measured it with the handy dandy tape measure I keep in my purse … 12″ x 15″. Dishcloth size)
I held it up in front of me.
If I covered my nether regions, the boobs showed.
If I covered the boobs … well, you get the idea. Definitely a case of ‘why bother’.
At this point, panic set in.
Now, you have to understand, sweetcheeks, that besides the occasional unplanned flashing of bra and panties backstage, nobody besides my doctors and husband have seen me naked in the past 50 years.
I’ve been much too aware of the droop of my two-baby belly, the genetic (mother’s fault) sagging of my butt, the bulges of extra cushioning over my hips, too filled with loathing.
And despite the heat of Southern summers, I almost never swim.
I stood there in the sheltered corner of the locker room and dithered …
Should I go get another towel?
Should I go get a towel from home?
Should I just go home?
And somewhere in the back of my ricocheting mind, I heard a crystal clear voice say,
THIS. IS. HUGE.
Immediately, the gremlins shot back.
Really? How can it be huge? It’s just a spa. No-one knows you here. You could walk away. You could leave it undone. You could leave this gift unaccepted, this dream unrealized.
And that’s when it hit me.
How many other gifts from God/Universe have I turned away from, unaccepted and un-utilized?
How many other dreams have I/will I left unrealized because I was uncomfortable/uncertain/supposedly unworthy?
If I couldn’t do something as relatively risk-free as walk naked into a room filled with equally naked women, how was I going to summon the courage to do something really EPIC? Something reputation-risky, like speaking on stage with all those eyes upon me? I would be clothed, but they’d still be judging.
All of a sudden, I knew it was time to be done with this.
It was time for me and my body to be friends.
I sank deep into my inner-ness, listening for the whispered message, gently clearing away the grey fear that muffled the voice.
And I heard,
“I’m trying so very hard. But you keep giving me mixed messages.
One day it’s all green juices and cleansing soups and water …. ugh, soooo much water.
But the next day it’s all chocolate croissants and grande lattes and ‘why, yes, I’ll have some more’.
And all the progress I’ve made on the inside gets wiped out before I can show you on the outside.
I do what I’m designed to do.
I use what you give me the best I can, and I store the rest in case you get all mean and sad and starve me again.
I wish you’d be kinder.
I wish you’d be consistent.
I wish you’d give me time to show you how beautiful I am.
If you’d just give me what I need, and not let those demonic taste buds talk you into sweet poisons, I’ll get thinner.
Maybe then you’ll be proud of me.
Maybe then you’ll love me as much as I love you.”
(I’m crying as I write this.)
I stood in the corner of that locker bay, soft warm tears coursing down my face.
I used the a corner of the tiny towel to dab my eyes and took the deepest breath of my adult life.
Not just any breath.
The kind of bottom-of-your-lungs blasting gulp that I last took as a newborn, freshly emerged and just as naked.
I tossed the handkerchief-masquerading-as-a-towel over my arm and walked out into the crowd.
And nothing happened.
Every inch of exposed quivering flesh was screaming in flushed vulnerability …
and nobody noticed.
Breathing deliberately through my nose, I made my way …
“not too fast, not too slow, try to look casual” …
to the steam room, and sat down on the blessedly deserted jade-tiled floor.
Moisture and heat and anonymity enveloped me but I honestly didn’t notice.
All I could feel was the heart-surge within my chest, the melting of 50 years of resistance and self-loathing. I savoured the soft relief from self-inflicted torment and relished the depth of the love that was surging through my veins.
I was overwhelmed with what I’d just done and by what it meant.
I’d walked stark naked through a room-full of strangers ….
so why on earth should promoting my work, or speaking up for homemaking, ever frighten me?
I’d conquered my timidity … and my new-found courage opened doors that were till then unseen.
My body was screaming for attention, nurturing, consistency …. I realized my business needed that too.
Because everything is everything, right?
“As within, so without.” as the Emerald Tablet says.
I’d shown my body that I was proud of her and comfortable with her current shape … just as she is … and she thanked me by dowsing me with every feel-good chemical she could concoct.
I was soaring, euphoric, in love with myself.
I knew … for once and for certain … absolutely knew that there is nothing I cannot have if I’m just brave enough to BE who I am, without any need to defend, explain, or cover up the wobbly bits.
With the Being, comes the courage to DO, and the Having follows naturally.
Be. Do. Have. In that order. It’s law.
I gazed down in awe and adoration at the folds of my tummy and the breadth of my thighs …
and knew there’d be no more hiding.
Bliss-ings and endless self-love,
More by: Jacqueline Gates
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