My Body's Journey

April 03, 2012

Portia Nelson wrote one of my favorite poems, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk, an Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.  I’m going to use it to help illustrate the story of my journey with my body.

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost …. I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

As a child I never felt good about my body. I couldn’t trust it.  I was extremely uncoordinated, couldn’t catch a ball, and was the last to get picked for the team.  I dreaded kickball, Red Rover games, and completely loathed gym class.  My peers teased me mercilessly.  I often felt frustrated, embarrassed and ashamed. Although I was smart and got good grades, I always got a C in PE.

Chapter II

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

My mother was (and remains) glamorous and thin.  People would exclaim, “Oh, your mother is so beautiful!  And, you look like…. your father.”  And I did.  Both of my parents are extremely judgmental about appearance and weight.  Because of her own issues, my mother monitored my food intake like a hawk.  I never learned how to eat normally.  I went on my first diet at 15 before I was even finished growing.

I went to college and gained the freshman 15, elated to be able to eat junk food to my heart’s content.  When I came home, my mother took me to the doctor who gave me pregnant cow hormones and put me on a 500 calorie a day diet.  Sure I lost weight, but then I gained it all back immediately and then some.   I began years of yo-yo dieting and self-loathing.  I never felt pretty or thin enough; its no wonder I developed disordered eating patterns.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

When I was 28 I started training in martial arts. Initially, I only wanted to make my butt smaller. It was the first time that I experienced my size as an advantage.  This was during my feminist rage stage so I was sizing up men as opponents.  I wanted to kick some serious ass.

Although the instructors believed I wouldn’t last two weeks, I stuck with it for five years. I was more proud of my orange belt than I was of passing my oral exam to get a Masters degree.  For the first time in my life, I experienced physical success.

Even though I was the most fit and lean of my entire life, I still thought I was fat.  My boyfriend tried to convince me that I wasn’t and encouraged me to get my fat measured in a water tank.  I came out just below 22% but scientific evidence wasn’t enough to convince me.  I knew my body image was distorted but I continued to fall into the hole of negative self-esteem.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I continued to exercise and diet after both of my pregnancies.  I lifted weights for years and then I walked regularly.  I walked around the hole.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

My self-esteem has improved from years of effort on personal and spiritual growth.  Now I’m confronting issues related to age. I wish I had appreciated my body at its physical peak, but I couldn’t because of my own distorted body image.

Now, as I approach 60, I am learning to be at peace with my body.  Last year I took weekly self-portraits for a project of mine and became more comfortable with seeing myself as a normal-sized person.  Practicing loving-kindness has taught me to be gentle with myself.

I can view my body with love and wash it with appreciation. I inhabit my body through awareness and the use of my senses.  I know that I will never regain that fit, firm body with tight skin no matter how hard I try.  Because of that I feel a sense of freedom I didn’t know before.  There’s a unique level of acceptance as I walk down a different street.

Loran is a travel guide on the spiral journey of life.  Her business, found at Loran’s Heart, is filled with journaling prompts, nature photographs, and inspirational products to help others grow personally and spiritually. You can find Loran on Facebook and Twitter.