On a daily basis, we make choices—some deliberate and some by default—that reveal our stories. A few days ago, I told my partner Chris a story of mine that I had not shared before.
I am ten years old, running through the playground being chased by a boy who I am told has a crush on me, which makes me excited, because I have a crush on him. I am new to the school, so we haven’t spoken much in the classroom. But outside of the school’s walls on the concrete playground, no rules for engagement exist so we do what ten-year-olds who like each other do—we play tag.
After about five minutes of chasing each other back and forth, weaving in and out of the playground equipment, I let him pin me against the wall. I am excited because we are actually touching each other, the most direct contact we have experienced to date. Even though he is smaller than me, he is strong enough to keep me against the wall. I halfheartedly struggle to break free, but then his hands reach for the hem of my dress, lifting it up to my hips. The angel-faced boy with the liquid dark eyes looks down at me and shouts, “Your legs are fat.”
I look down at my stomach because I am sure he has just punched me, his words hit so hard. I smack his hands away from my body, feeling a fire red heat snake up my lower back all the way to the top of my head. I do not say anything—not one word. The buzzer rings. Recess is over.
I carry the weight of his words my entire life. Since I was ten, not a day goes by that I haven’t scanned my body with a critical eye, searching for the imperfections. Each morning for as long as I can remember, upon awaking, I take part in a cruel ritual in which I take the flat of my hand to see how much my stomach has risen or fallen overnight.
The sad part of this story is when I look at pictures of myself, wearing the short skirt, the bathing suit and the volleyball shorts, my legs seem perfect to me—strong and lean and solidly feminine. Up until I am 25 years old, in fact, no extra fat can be seen on my body which ranges from thin to underweight. I attempt bulimia several times from the age of 12 onward but most often engage in the weight loss method of severely under-nourishing myself. After I turn 25, my weight fluctuates and no matter what the number is on the scale or on a pair of jeans, the Judge is always present and the Eye ever watchful.
“and I said to my body, softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ it
took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting
my whole life for this’”
This story is hard to tell.
I feel vulnerable telling Chris whose thick, muscular thighs are celebrated because in our culture his masculine body is deemed powerful. A fearful part of me wonders in the moments after I reveal to him that my Achilles’ heel is in actual fact my thighs, will I be any less attractive to him?
I trust in our love, however, so the thought evaporates in the intimate space we have created to discuss the tough stuff, allowing us to share with each other in ways both of us have not known before. I know it is time to quiet the inner Voice and close the critical Eye on the shape and size of my body—every day, several times a day. I have wanted this prison sentence over for years.
Twenty-four hours after sharing this story with Chris, I am sitting on the floor of a meditation room, in which we are being led through an exercise to create intentions and rewrite some old stories. I regularly engage myself and my clients in this type of reflection and intention-setting process, so I am curious about whether or not anything new will reveal itself in areas I feel I often probe. Serendipitously, we have come to the part of the exercise where we will create new intentions about our bodies.
I close my eyes and instinctively draw my hands over my heart. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. The question gently arises: What do I long for in this relationship with my body?
I drop in quickly and my mind takes me to the playground where I am ten years old and the boy who everyone says likes me has me pinned against the wall. “Your legs are fat,” he blurts out.
But this time, I don’t freeze. I have something to say. I can see my ten-year-old self standing partly in the shadows of the building and partly in the light of the sun, but it is the adult me who steps forward and uses my voice to protect this precious little girl. I gush a stream of angry words while waving my arms in his face. He cringes as if my hands hold magic and I have cursed him.
Who the fuck do you think you are? I mount another attack—this time it’s personal, criticizing his legs that are pencil thin and his height that cuts off at my shoulders. I feel the rising power of justified rage until it peaks and then I rest.
It is at this point in my meditation, a bright light explodes from the sky behind us and above us. Kuan Yin, a Goddess of Compassion, appears and lightly touches both of our heads. Instantly, the movie reel of my mind shows life is tough at this boy’s home.
His mom and his aunties tell this beautiful boy in one breath what a heartbreaker he will be, but on their collective exhale, they break his heart by telling him he’s too small and too skinny, so he will need to man up one day. His embarrassment at their teasing sears a false belief in his subconscious that he is not good enough just the way he is.
I see and feel how the boy’s own hurt seeded my lifelong pain. It is within this moment of grace the story falls away and I feel empathy for him and for me as at one time according to our birthright, we both expected to be loved and adored for who we naturally are.
I had given so much power to four small words that attracted to me throughout my life other unkind, wounded characters and similar hurtful incidents, threading together chapters to a not-so-nice story I have had with my body—a story which had begun as a single sentence.
Thankfully, I have arrived at a place in my life where the desire to be kind in my thoughts and in my words outweighs any intent to tell the old tales that no longer and never did serve. How about you?
What painful childhood stories are you still telling? How do they still play out in your life? The stories we share matter as story holds the ancient power to shape who we are, what we believe and what we experience.
One of my new clients asked me earlier this week, “Why do we dredge up all this crap from the past? The past is the past.” I say to her, “If you are you are still talking about it in the present, you most certainly have not left it behind.”
I believe when we surrender our lives to serve Love, it is a beneficial practice to ask our powerful, lion hearts to illumine where the cracks lie in the tales we are telling.
I believe immense value lies allowing the love medicine of truth, compassion and kindness to pour forth like liquid honey all over those tough earlier chapters of our life story so we can find the cure in the pain and the gift in the wound. In this way, we can write and live word by word page by page new epic stories that reveal how we made love matter more than we ever did our pain.
All my love,
Love Letter 15
March 22, 2017