Idk, this morning I wanted to share how this body was feeling. This body was feeling like it’s fine as it is. These eyes caught this body in the mirror and this mind thought, This body has its own loveliness for those who can see it… Most days, this body’s strength is far more apparent to me than its beauty. So in a moment of celebration, I’m sharing what struck me as lovable. ❤️
Day 30: 30th Day of Belly Pictures!
I can hardly believe it’s the last day of this project! It’s been, all in all, so fun to find different ways to look at, photograph, and write about my relationship with my belly. Through this process, I’ve become better friends with it. I’ve held it with a different sort of attention: more tenderness and more curiosity. I’ve come to know it like never before, and I’ve started to undo some deep old conditioning. I’m digging some more positive tracks into my neural networks (which had some ratty old ruts to get out of), and maybe making it a little easier for someone else to do the same.
I still have times when I catch myself thinking harsh thoughts toward my belly. But I notice them more and try to intervene in them more. I think of Masaru Emoto’s work with water crystal photography, which dramatically showed how words, loving, angry, or otherwise, could affect the crystalline structure of frozen water.
The human body being about 60% water, I feel that this is relevant regardless of what effect thoughts, beliefs, messages, etc. may have on anything other than water!
So I took this picture as a way of both speaking the words, and reminding myself to speak the words, “I love you” to my belly. I am sure it has an effect. Speaking love has an impact. It changes things, often on levels I’ll probably never be truly aware of. I hope I will continue to grow in this, long after the project is done, until maybe one day I give up the self-hate habit forever.
Thank you so very, very much for coming along with me on this journey, for your kind words, for letting me know how this has impacted you. If you feel inclined to share this blog with anyone who might be encouraged by it, please do!!! None of these writings are secret — I would love for them to reach more people, if it would be of benefit.
So in conclusion: I’ve had a great time and I’ve turned up some good soil. We’ll see what grows.
Day 29: Belly Reflections
Today I’m writing from someplace from which I can’t take pictures: Valley View Hot Springs. I’d already planned to use this day’s post — the next to the last in the series — for reflection on this journey, and now it just so happens that I’m in one of the most wonderful places in the world for reflection, introspection, and transformation. I’m surrounded by magical water showing me glimpses of myself as seen by the fairies.
Perhaps the biggest gift of this project has been how it has encouraged me to look at myself, letting go more and more of the veils of illusion and self deception, coming much nearer to how I “really” look and am … if there is such a thing at all. This looking has brought me also much closer to acceptance of who I am. I feel more empowered ownership of the body that I’ve been given. I feel like I’ve dropped a layer of pretense in my interaction with the world. I’m not as much inclined to try to hide my belly (especially since it’s not possible, anyway!).
I think that after this experience, I may be a little less apologetic for being myself.
I feel more ready to take this body, as it is, as my starting place, and to let it express its highest potential — rather than trying to make it be something it’s not, or berating it for not being that.
There is a true beauty within me, a true joy, a precious heart, a powerful light. I’m starting to see that — and to live as though that’s true of me. As it is of everyone.
In fact I find the more I look for the beauty in myself, the more I see it shining out from all the other human beings around me. As I celebrate it in me, I want to celebrate it in everyone! It’s as though I’ve had a film of fear removed from my eyes, and where I used to see a warped and dark reality, now it seems like everything and everyone is glowing.
So that’s this picture: the reflection in the water shows the true Goddess essence, the twinkles of magic that are always there, but sometimes hidden. At least in this moment, from this peaceful place, I want to live like my true self. That sacred essence created this exact vehicle to walk around Earth in, so let me now get out of its way — let me embrace it and live it like I was meant to do! By the magic of Valley View — let it be so!
Day 28: Mountain Belly
I love name-play. I’ve always been someone who’s had a lot of different names. Right now there are about four names that I regularly go by. Some were formally given to me by parents or teachers; some were self chosen for a variety of purposes. More than once I’ve dreamed about receiving a name. One of those once bestowed on me in a dream was the name Mountain.
I do believe that every name I use does describe some part of me, and even when they’re mainly meant for fun, I still think about why that name came to me, what it expresses about me or what it calls me to be.
I’ve thought about the name Mountain at various times in my life, considering what qualities it might point to that I can use. The word conveys solidity, stability, massiveness. It carries a strong earth energy, endurance, physical force. Treasures are buried within it.
Its temperature is cool for a long way down, but fiery at the core. That’s kind of how I see the me that I would like to grow into.
Mountains, to me, are a refuge. I’d like to be that, too.
They offer a higher perspective, clarity; their peaks are close to the heavens.
At certain times of challenge I’ve tried to summon up my inner mountain capacities. Of course, my body shape helps rather than hinders this endeavor; I do not think that’s coincidental.
I’ll tell you this: the mountain certainly provides an ideal for me to aspire towards, and that is plenty gift. And if I acknowledge that the seeds of these qualities exist within me, it may not only ease my path but also better equip me to serve.
I couldn’t ask for more!
Day 27: A Letter to My Belly
Gosh, I’ve been talking about you a lot lately. It suddenly seems a little rude to me that I haven’t actually spoken TO you about my concerns, my fears, my hard feelings or even my love and appreciation for you.
Like so many relationships, ours is complicated. Sometimes I’m proud to be seen with you. I can walk down the street or dance in a circle with you just hanging out there, all obvious. Sometimes times I feel your creative furnace burning — your escaping steam moving my hips in figure eights, your wood-fired oven baking my gingerbread brainchildren to readiness.
Other times I wish I could hide you, belly — I work hard at picking clothes that de-emphasize you — or I persuade myself that they do, only to see myself tagged in someone else’s picture of me and realize I was kidding myself. You’re impossible to hide. You’re like Sir Mix-a-Lot’s girls’ butts: “It’s just so round, it’s like, out there, I mean — gross.”
What can I do? I don’t talk to you when I’m feeling this way because it’s not like I can just tell you to leave, I’m tired of you. You are part of me. So I turn those feelings inward to my heart instead of my belly, and I myself become what’s wrong. I berate myself for being so embarrassing. But as I take all that anger and rejection into my heart, guess where it ends up going? Down into you, my belly.
Yes, I’ve certainly been feeding you a crappy emotional diet all these years. When I was young and didn’t know how to relate to other people, when I didn’t know how to live in a way that would make me happy, when I didn’t know how to process sorrow and hurt and anger and loneliness and fear — I did know that certain foods made me feel better for a little while. I didn’t realize it that those stolen and hidden binges were kind of like the pill-pocket treats I use to give my cat her medicine: Whatever sugary or greasy thing I ate was actually wrapped around a bitter chunk of feelings that I had to put somewhere. Turns out, though, I wasn’t actually getting rid of those feelings — I was just saving them for later.
So now when I look at you and I want to cry, I realize that indeed — you are the stored sadness of three and a half decades, the rage covered in batter and stuffed down tightly under a layer of comfort food; you are all the heartbreaks that my undeveloped heart couldn’t bear.
I want to release you now. I’m much stronger now. I can hold the space for these emotions now — I want to tell you, tell every cell that makes you up, tell each cell to release whatever it’s holding. Let it come out a speck at a time or in a torrent. I want it now. I can use it now. I can turn that shit into fertilizer for the garden of my spirit.
And then I look at you from another angle and suddenly all those cells look like little safe deposit boxes, each one holding a single gold coin. There’s a reason why fat is called rich. It’s like money, it’s like power: it is simply energy, no more and no less. It’s raw fuel that has no inherent positive or negative charge. Like a lump of coal can be a disappointing Christmas present or heat for a winter night, what use we make of it is everything.
Looking at you, I recognize that you are both a physical and an emotional entity, my belly. I honestly have not yet found the keys to open your trillions of tiny drawers, to let each itty-bitty ghost fly out and dissolve into the atmosphere. But I’m looking now, and I promise you I will find the keys.
We will find them together.
Day 26: The Naked and The Belly
It’s hard to believe that I am down to the last 5 days of this project! I’m more than a little amazed at where it has taken me. I’ve ricocheted between feeling like I had more ideas than I could possibly fit into 30 days of posts, and feeling totally stumped about how to keep it fresh — and between feeling like this was a meaningful endeavor that might be of some benefit to someone, and feeling like I’m fooling myself. Oh well. I guess that’s art! The main thing is to just keep doing it, and that’s what I’ve done, so I suppose I pass.
It’s probably no surprise that I have not taken exactly one picture per day (or one series of shots, trying to get just the right angle). Some days I created a few different images — and some of those images have been sitting on my camera roll for weeks, patiently waiting until I felt bold enough to use them. But it’s getting down to the wire here, and so I think that whether I feel brave enough or not, it’s now or never time.
The photos I feel most hesitant about sharing are the ones in which I look the most naked. What’s up with THAT? I’m an avowed nudist — meaning not that I want to be naked all the time, but that I don’t think there is a single thing wrong with being naked, or with seeing a naked body in a non-exploitative context (and honestly, wouldn’t it be great to balance out all the yes-exploitative naked or semi-naked images that are somehow considered to be acceptable by our society?). I think people should damn well be allowed to be naked if they so choose. Sometimes it just feels good to leave the clothes behind!
But knowing that not everybody feels this way — and some people in fact get angry or repulsed when their eyeballs are grazed by the sight of a nude person, especially if that person has a fat roll — well, I don’t exactly relish bringing hate upon myself.
On the other hand, I do not personally think these pictures are ugly or offensive. I actually think they’re kind of beautiful. And I feel like since this project is about seeing my belly from all angles — it’s only right to include them.
Marc David of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating says this about weight: You’ve got to love it before you can lose it. As with any symptom, challenge, or social problem, there’s a spiritual level at which fighting against the thing actually holds it tightly in place. For an unwanted issue to go away, one has to actually let it go.
I didn’t start this project with the intention of losing weight. Maybe that’s weird. I’ve certainly spent enough hours and weeks of my life obsessing over how to get rid of this belly of mine. Those thoughts aren’t gone — but I’ve come to be more interested in losing the self-criticism than in losing the pounds I criticize myself for having. I guess it just seems like a bigger, more worthwhile goal to me.
And anyway, hating the weight away simply does not and can not work!
Here’s something else weird:
As I said, one of the reasons I’m doing this project is to foster self love in the place of self hate. But when I look at pictures like these, I realize that I don’t actually hate them, or how I look in them. I actually already DO love the shape of this body and the way it relaxes in the sun. I’m just scared to admit it. I’m afraid of getting the smackdown, the imaginary crowd yelling “It is NOT OK to make us look at this!”
Well guess what, imaginary people? You DON’T have to look. If seeing a naked boob or a fat belly bothers you, look away. Or better, ask yourself why the hell you care. What is it hurting you? There are 359 other degrees in your circle of vision; no one is forcing you to look at me. If you are upset by this, I’m sorry, but it’s your problem now.
Deep breath, and, DIVE!
Day 25: Walking Belly
Long walks have always been one of my greatest pleasures in life. Growing up, I used to roam around town for hours, for miles — always alone, and normally without a dime, not that there was much of anywhere to spend money. I loved walking every street, making up stories about alternative lives I could be living in that house, or near those fields.
There really wasn’t any place in Derry where I didn’t like to walk, but some favorites were: the lake; the cemetery; the railroad tracks; the path under the bridge that connected my street with “downtown” (in Colorado we’d call it “old town,” which would be much more accurate, but we called it Downtown Derry when I lived there); any alley; a blind curve near my house called Ash Street (I think) that led to some cool sheep farms.
I also did not hesitate to “off road” it. I was deeply in love with a semi-cleared swath of land that followed the power lines up a hill. Large belly notwithstanding, I had no qualms about climbing chain link fences if they stood between me and where I wanted to go. Once, thinking I could surely get to the tracks by cutting through a fenced-off tract that seemed to contain only some overgrown frog ponds, I ended up climbing straight down into a steep ravine, through a bunch of thorn bushes, and up the other side — very scraped up but extremely self-satisfied.
When there was nothing else to do, I walked. And most of the time there was nothing else to do.
I don’t mean that my town or my life were boring. I almost never felt truly bored. I’m someone who is easily entertained by a book or a notepad or a leaf floating down a stream. I mean that I didn’t know what to do with, how to handle, my inner life.
In those days I wore out many a mix tape in my Walkman. At one point, when I was in college, I realized that I often couldn’t stand to be alone with my own thoughts. I mean I could think — but without some buffer, I was in danger of plummeting down a very dark hole. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what thoughts I had that were so intolerable in the years before I got real help for depression. All I can recall are the feelings of hopelessness and despair, the conviction that I had already (as a teenager/twentysomething) failed at life, the belief that I didn’t really deserve to live or to be happy or to be loved. I did not honestly think I had what it takes to create a satisfying life. These fears rose up all around me, submerged my spirit, and led me to take reckless chances with my existence.
Luckily, and thanks to the protection of some hard core guardian angels, I survived that period of life. And although it took a while for me to trust that I really could spend time in silence with myself, as I got older and my life became more and more filled with activity, I’ve come to crave those chances to mull things over, to integrate my experiences, and to cleanse my cells with fresh air.
Back on the streets of Derry, I feared my shadow — not because I thought it was someone or something else’s, but because I was terrified of being so wide. I hated seeing my broad body with what looked to me like a disproportionately tiny head silhouetted on the ground (especially if there were other, skinnier shadows nearby). Like everyone at that age, I wanted to look cool. But whatever “cool” meant in my mind (basically some blend of urban and hippie style), I knew I could never be that with this body. The conflict between what I wanted to look like (on some level, the image I had of what my “true self” should look like) and what I believed I DID look like (a warped perspective, as should be clear, from depression and a bunch of damn lies provided by my environment) made it hard for me to be okay with existing. The disconnect was too vast to process. Mentally, my self image could do nothing but collapse into panic. It was truly unbearable.
Well, and how am I now? All cured? I’ve gradually given up more and more of my arsenal of self-destructive habits as I have started to feel more and more like I deserve to live and thrive. Now I’m down to the nitty-gritty: the deeply ingrained beliefs about my body as failure. But recovery has momentum, and the more I heal, the more committed I am to healing. I’ve become downright fierce in my drive to uproot the habits of self-hate. Insecurity, sure, we all feel that from time to time, and it’s ok: like weather, all moods pass. What I’m talking about is the inner campaign of self-sabotage.
So, ok, that was a long story, but the gist is this: pictures like these are hard for me to look at, and I NEED to look at them. Adolescent me wanted to lean against cool paintings found on garage walls — but didn’t want to have this body, and in the gap between “want” and “is”, nearly broke down.
Adult me is learning to accept that what is, is all it needs to be. I mean I am MAKING myself learn this, like a class I don’t want to take because I secretly think it’s too hard and I’ll never pass — but I need it to graduate.
I guess I’m about tired of holding myself down.
I guess I’m ready to take the freaking class already and get it over with.
I’m ready for a larger life.
I’m ready to be and own and embrace what I am: large in body.
Large in heart.
Large in vision.
Spacious. Full. Abundant. Powerful. Big.
And — in my own way, according to my own values — finally, cool as shit.
Day 24: Kitty Belly
I was totally going to write something different — I don’t know what exactly — but something, but then I had to spend an entire hour tracking down my cat and “rescuing” her from the neighbor’s yard, which was so thoroughly fenced I could not tell how she got in there in the first place. Then, of course, once I’d found her, her plaintive cries for help turned to rolling in the dirt three feet out of reach.
That whole process made me feel simultaneously pleased with myself for finally getting her out and, bizarrely, a little afraid that if I wasn’t so large-bodied, I would have been able to do it faster. What is up with that? Total craziness! But I realize have been carrying around for a very long time this inner protectiveness about people relating whatever I do wrong or imperfectly to my weight, no matter how illogical that connection would be.
I got made fun of for a lot of things in school, my physical appearance being prominent in that array, and I always sort of felt like largeness was my biggest handicap in terms of being liked. Of course, at the time I wasn’t fully aware of how freakish I probably acted due to my extreme shyness, and how that undoubtedly contributed to the general state of affairs. But right or wrong, I carried away from school the strong impression that weight works against me in basically all circumstances.
But I even though I believe(d) that, I didn’t want to let it stop me from being bad ass! I have always admired big butch lesbians and wanted to have skillz like them. Handiness, agility, physical strength, instincts about how stuff works — somehow having these qualities made up for, maybe even exceeded, whatever I felt I lacked in prettiness, a word which to me is(was) exactly synonymous with thinness. I could see — especially after I left school behind (whew! Thank God, and thank the Goddess for Girl Scout camp) — that there truly was a place for such women in the world, and indeed they could even be hot!
So did being fat spur me to become more handy? Who knows. But from this remove, I bet it didn’t keep me from having everything I needed to live the life I’m meant to live.
Day 23: Sunrise Belly
It’s also funny how I can be all “I’m definitely not celebrating Easter” and then end up more fully immersed in the holiday than I have been for years. I think the Friday night zikr just put me in a contemplative space about Easter and got me thinking once again about the Easter rituals’ significance in my life. Death, forgiveness, and resurrection — rebirth into a new life. At home, we started calling it “New Beginnings Day.”
Taking in the rays of light after the Easter sunrise “Resurrection and Renewal Dance” at Starhouse on the canyon rim above Boulder this morning, I felt like I’d been through a journey this weekend, going into my shadow places of guilt and shame and sorrow — of perceived separation — and coming out cleansed, my heart washed and rinsed and wrung out hard. I felt the clean of garments pounded on the river rocks.
Ouch. But whew. I’m so happy to be cleansed.
At choir last week our director to introduced a new song that goes like this:
Create in me a clean heart
And purify me, purify me
Create in me a clean heart
So I may worship Thee
And one person standing near me said she didn’t like it: “Don’t we already have clean hearts?”
I didn’t disagree: I think we do have inherently pure and perfect hearts, and mostly these days I prefer to honor other people’s perspectives. But I also think that for myself at least, it’s a grace well worth asking for. There are things I hold in my heart, by means of which I keep myself from knowing and living in the full presence of the Divine. I DO want to call on a higher power to help me create a pure heart in myself and to help me release what doesn’t serve me, what prevents me from growing in joy and love. That’s the rebirth and the recommitment I feel and hope for myself this Easter.
Guess I’m not done with this holiday, after all. I may resist — but eventually I get where I need to be.
Day 22: Belly Visible/Invisible
It’s funny how some days I feel like being way out there, and others I want to abandon the whole project and hide in bed. Today turned out to be one of the latter type of days. I just didn’t feel so much like being out there in the world of people. And I got myself back in an old mental wagon-track — that the world of people doesn’t want me to be “out there,” either. That the world would rather just not see me.
It’s kind of odd and oxymoronic to have a disappearing complex when you’re large-bodied. Most of my school years I alternated between feeling horribly conspicuous and wanting to be invisible, and believing that I actually was. Maybe I thought everyone was doing what I was doing, glancing over my body without its making a strong impression of its existence.
In retrospect I suspect I’ve always been more present in other people’s landscapes than I thought.
Maybe I just couldn’t handle what I imagined they thought of me, so I told myself they didn’t think of me at all.
I think it must be the same with me and my own gaze. I fear my judgments about myself, so I don’t let myself look long enough to see what or who is actually there.
But that’s what I’m trying to change. I’m trying to look with honest attention at this quirky, inconvenient, intriguing belly that’s not claiming to be anything other than itself. And then when I look at it with the willingness to see something positive — an archetypal image emerges — a connection to the Divine Mother, full-bellied and open and strong — a richness to explore, a life teacher, a secret map that was hidden in plain sight.
Nonetheless, for getting out of the way for a while (when the seeing and being seen is too much), I’m so grateful for the woods.