Travel has given me the opportunity to explore both my inner world at the same time as I play and move about in the outer world.
I feel like I have been cracked open. More vulnerable, more receptive, more available to others and myself, more raw, more agreeable to all that life has to offer me. As a result, I have liberated myself from some systems of belief that no longer serve me. "Acceptable" body image is one example.
The seed was planted when I was 13 years old. Stay thin. You are more lovable when you are thin. And when the seed sprouted, it just grew and grew and grew.
It happened one day in 1982. I lived in Sarasota, Florida where the popular girls wore Jordache, Sassoon, Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans — as tight as possible. I had a pair of the Sassoon jeans but was not allowed to wear the tight version. I just remember feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
And that is when the voice in my head started a monologue that went on for years. You can only be lovable if you look and act like these girls in their tight jeans.
There was no chance my mother would let me get those jeans.
But I could control my weight. And that is when it began. Thin signified loveable and anything else was unbearable. (NOTE: Upon honest reflection, born small boned, I have been thin my entire life with no real need to diet.)
Various health issues presented in my early 20’s that provided the opportunity to combine the obsession on my body with pain. I noticed the correlation between eating and the way I felt and became obsessed with figuring out what “the problem” was. Hours were spent analyzing which foods might be causing my pain. It was much easier to focus on physical pain than emotional pain.
This took up so much energy and mind space. AND NO ONE KNEW ABOUT IT! It was my little secret in an attempt to be lovable.
I identified the body type I thought was acceptable. Without even realizing it, I walked around in the world rating bodies according to this acceptability. The thinner, more pre-pubescent the person, the more attractive they were in my mind. Anyone that looked heavier than me was unattractive.
All these years were spent thinking about food, my body image, and how I felt. It was my very own obsession that occupied the majority of my thoughts.
Meditation and self-introspection have been a part of my life for over 20 years. But there has always been a wall of pain that was impenetrable. It was not until recently that I have been able to look into the pain. To sit with it, to feel it and accept it.
And suddenly, my obsession with food and my body and my pain is starting to ease.
It occurs to me (with great joy) that I have adjusted my rating system. I am currently living in Vrsar, Croatia and have the opportunity to go to the nude beach each day. There are many nude beaches in Croatia and they are extremely popular —especially with the seniors.
I realized the other day that I am no longer looking for the thin people. I no longer have a rating system. I have the opportunity to see so many naked bodies in their true form without shame. So many clothes are made to cover the parts of our bodies we do not like. But in the nude, their is nothing to cover. We can celebrate our bodies to the fullest.
At the nude beach you will find nearly every single body type. It is NOT about being thin. These are real bodies; aged and worn with curves and shapes. No shame. I am able to simply admire these beautiful human forms. It is beautiful.
To be in the presence of these people is an honor. It is raw. It is real. It is vulnerable. It is beautiful.
Now the voice in my head is so much different. It says “Here I am. This is who I am. This is what I look like. I am proud to be me. I am not going to try to be something else.” And in this state, I can see the beauty and grace in all of the other bodies.