Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Dream Come True

I spent my day with three 7th grade girls. I took them shopping for dresses for their winter formal. My daughter asked me if I would. She was pleased when I said, "Of course; I'd be happy to!"I was a little surprised the other moms didn't mind that I took them. To me it seemed a privilege.

We went to lunch first, then we went to Macy's, then Dillard's and Nordstrom and Delia's. We gathered stacks of dresses. The girls tried them on, passed them back and forth and posed for pictures.

They giggled, enthused and complimented each other. They tried on outrageous things they'd never wear and enjoyed showing off.

Not once were any discouraged by something that didn't fit right or looked silly. They just kept on, clearly enjoying themselves.

They preened and pranced, admiring themselves unabashedly.

They might not have liked some of the frocks, but they loved looking at themselves! They were not embarrassed to be admiring, but nor were they vain.

There was no sense of comparison with one another; none whatsoever. Not once did I hear any girl put herself down.

After they tired, they wanted ice cream. They all ordered and ate large servings, unselfconsciously. We looked at the pictures I had taken and confirmed our favorites. We returned to the places we had "held" the options and made our purchases. The girls were sensible about price and courteous with the sales clerks as they completed their own transactions.

We made a brief stop in the shoe department and then proceeded to hats. For what is a shopping excursion without some hat modeling? Large brims, church-lady styles and newsboy caps. All took a turn and our laughter was so loud I feared we'd be asked to leave. It was nearing six o'clock when we decided to call it a day.

Once back in the minivan and headed for home, they bubbled with plans to practice hair and make-up.

"Can they sleep over, Mom? Can they? Please?"

"Let's check with their parents. If it's okay with them, it's okay with me."


We've had pizza, dress modeling and make-up demos. I've stayed out of the way, admiring the efforts and enjoying, vicariously, the fun.

Long ago, when my precious B was born, I hoped and hoped that our house would be the house where the neighborhood kids gathered. Mine, growing up, was not. I wanted our home to be a place where my kids' friends felt comfortable and welcome. I never intended to be the "cool" mom. I wanted to be the "nice"mom, who genuinely welcomed their friends and whom their friends considered "safe"- to talk to and to hang around. My Mom was many wonderful things, but she didn't much care for my having kids over and made no effort to know my friends. I always felt it was annoying to her for me to have my friends around, so I rarely did. It was one way I wanted to be different from her.

I watched these three young women today with awe of their self-confidence and poise; their sense of their own style and their appreciation of each other. They are so unlike the 13 year old who I was. They seem to possess an unconscious understanding that their own unique beauty is neither lessened nor increased by the beauty of those around them. I hope they never lose that.

Now I sit before the fire with a glass of wine, listening to the chatter coming from upstairs and the soft singing of a popular song by three voices. I hear the clicks of their tools as they curl one girl's hair and straighten another's.  And I think to myself,

"This. This is what I have always wanted and I've got it."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Owning It

It is humbling, no - humiliating, to look at yourself in the mirror at the yoga studio and see that you are the fattest one in class. I do not mean this in a pejorative way; it is fact.

It is discouraging to be unable to do poses, like plow, that even a few years ago I could roll into easily. Today I had to heave my ass into the air so hard I nearly did a backward somersault, just to get my legs over my head. The handsome young instructor rushed over to make sure I hadn't broken my neck. Once I got into position I was fine, but it was embarrassing to have him feel that he had to help support me in such a, well, "vulnerable" position.

I have spent the bulk (hah!) of my life believing both that I was fat and that my fatness made me unlikeable. I strove, at all times, to dress and position myself so as to appear thinner. I did not have an eating disorder, thankfully, just a heaping helping of self-loathing.

Objectively speaking, as supported by recently unearthed photographic evidence, I was nearly always in a healthy weight range, though not thin, as I was growing up. Facts did nothing to reduce or eliminate my disgust with my own body. I know that my weight has not prevented others from liking me. Still, traces of the self-consciousness I have felt since childhood linger.

Ironically, even though I always felt fat, I also knew I was strong. My body never let me down, whether it was moving furniture, dancing all night, biking, swimming or riding horses. I might ache the next day, but I could always push through and do what I wanted to do. I loved the contours of muscle I gained when I worked out regularly. I had an endless well of energy. No longer is any of that that true.

I am angry. I am angry that I let it come to this. I am angry that I made my own health such a low priority; that I took the path of least (none, nada, bupkis) resistance. I am angry that I listened to the voice of self-loathing tell me that I am too fat for the pool or the yoga mat. I am angry that I took for granted my body's strength and resilience until it eroded away. I am angry that I let my own self-consciousness hold me captive.

I have never described anyone, including myself, as "fat" within hearing of my daughters.  They know nothing of my secret. I never, ever want them to feel anything but love and respect for their bodies as the wonderful, beautiful, amazing beings they are. We talk of health: healthy eating, exercise and differing body types. We eat well. I encourage them in sports and other physical activities. But now, because of them, because I must make my actions match my words and set an healthy example, I push outside my comfort zone.

I have gone to 8 yoga classes in two weeks. 8 sweaty, challenging classes. Each time I enter a class, I remind myself that this is my journey. I must try not to compare myself to anyone else. I know, intellectually, that the other students are not judging me; that they are likely not even aware that my bends aren't as deep, nor my planks as taut as theirs. After each class, I try to remind myself that I accomplished something just by going and persevering. Each time I go, it gets a little easier. I tell myself that change will come, in time.

In the meantime, I'll keep repeating to myself the words of Stuart Smalley:

"I'm good enough; I'm smart enough; and doggone it, people like me!"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Something Old, Something New; Something Awkward Just For You

I have loved yoga for about 14 years. I started attending classes when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter.

As I got bigger and bigger, I got more and more limber. 3 days before I delivered, I could bend forward and place both of my palms on the floor in front of my feet - with my legs straight. I felt strong and physically competent. And for the first time in my life, I loved my own body- both in pregnancy and in yoga.

I stuck with it over the years, at a small studio near our old house. The style there was unique: very focused on posture and alignment and breath, always breath. I do not have a body like Twiggy (or Gumby, dammit) yet I felt completely comfortable in that studio and doing those asanas. I may not have made it to class more than once a week, but I still felt like a yogi in some sense because of the way it touched me so deeply. I felt the afterglow of yoga for hours, sometimes days, after a class.

I had stopped attending a few months before we moved, two years ago. I have missed it terribly. I have gone to the odd class here or there, but nothing resonated. I have a couple of videos and have used them here and there, but not much. See, I'm a people person. I like the collective energy that comes from a being a part of a class.

I discovered that a yoga studio near our house was running a special deal for new students: $40 for 30 days of unlimited classes. I jumped.

Yesterday was my first class. "Slow Flow" they called it. It flowed, as did my sweat, but I kept up. There were some unfamiliar postures, but I worked through them.  The clientele at this studio are a more upscale and stylish bunch than the earthy folk at my old space. I felt a little out of place in my Target brand yoga pants and an old t-shirt in a crowd of manicured ladies wearing Lululemon gear. Still, it felt good to be back on the mat.

I thought I'd try "Yoga Basics" this morning. I got everybody out of the house and made a nice green juice of spinach, broccoli stalks, pear and ginger, brewed a little coffee for the road and set out in high spirits. Alas, it was not to be: rounding a curve on the way to the studio, my coffee cup tipped over and spilled near-boiling java all over my lap. I almost drove off the road. I pulled into the studio parking lot and surveyed the damage.

I was saturated from stem to stern and reeked of Fog Lifter. Not only would my dampness be a distraction for me, I suspected my aroma might be annoying to others, so I headed home.

Undeterred, I cleaned up and headed back for another go at "Slow Flow," this time with a different instructor. This class was quite different from the previous day's: more meditative and with significantly more inverted postures. Maybe that's what did it: all those inversions.

I have always heard that yoga can bring on emotional release: that bursting into tears during practice is not uncommon. In all my years, it has never happened to me nor, as far as I know, to anyone in a class I have attended. Until today.

During our closing relaxation in savasana, the instructor made her way around the room and gently anointed each of us with aromatherapy oil. She had been very encouraging of me throughout class, and she gave me a brief, gentle neck rub with the scented oil. As she wafted off to the woman lying next to me, I felt a lump in my throat and tears began to pour from my eyes. I suppressed the sobs, not wanting to disturb the peace. I shook on my mat in the darkness, tears rolling down the sides of my face. Tears that came from somewhere deep inside, tears that I didn't even realize I had. There was pain inside me and I could feel it then, though I hadn't (consciously) before.

The instructor invited us to sit up. She thanked us for coming. She looked at me and smiled as if she knew, although I thought I had wiped away the evidence before arising.

"Namaste," she exhaled toward us.

Namaste, indeed.