Declaring Independence From Society’s Idea Of Beauty

“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”   – Amy Bloom

I can’t think of a better day to post this blog than on America’s day of Independence because what I am writing about, is a bit of my own independence and freedom. My body’s independence from 43 years of struggle and oppression against my cruel and abusive thoughts and my own freedom to love and care for my body just as she is, even though she doesn’t doesn’t look anything like what is presented on the covers of magazines. I decided to share this on the studio’s website because this all suddenly made sense in the middle of a painting workshop. The process works in a deeply subtle way. And even when I think it hasn’t made a bit of difference… something like this happens.

A few weeks ago Creative Nectar had a combined workshop with Sumya Anani. The morning began with yoga at Sumya’s yoga studio, Learning To Fly. The afternoon was process painting. I had the afternoon off and was able to paint while Jenny facilitated. I was painting. It was great. Also, I was in some serious pain. I had been dealing with chronic pain for a year and a half and that day I think it was as bad as it had ever been. Still, I painted.

I was painting the face of a green man with a snake wrapped around his head. I didn’t know where it was going and I didn’t care. I just wanted to be there with the paint and paper because it was keeping the pain in the background. However, by the time I started painting the green man’s neck, I was in a great deal of discomfort. My neck literally felt on fire and that familiar feeling of hopelessness crept up from behind me and took over. I decided to paint the pain in bold, red streaks. A large black dot wanted to appear in the middle of the figure’s neck so I painted that.

 After painting the black dot I took a break. I went into the bathroom and just sat on the toilet feeling like I was losing some sort of fight with my body. I literally asked in a hushed and desperate voice to whoever was listening, “Why is this happening and why won’t it go away!?” The answer came in an instant and was as powerful as a bolt of lightning.

 I suddenly knew with every fiber of my being that my body was responding to 43 years of severe verbal abuse. An image of a dog being kicked came into my mind. If you kick a dog too many times he will finally bite back. My body was biting back. Tears took over as I realized just how demanding and relentless I had been about body size and weight all my life. Years of looking down at my little belly with disgust…sometimes going so far as to give it a disdainful little slap. Memories flooded my awareness. Memories of how I’d starve myself in high school and even before in grade school. Memories of shame because I wore bigger sizes than most as a preteen. And memories of a life being on one diet or another just like my mom had been. So there I was….crying on the toilet, apologizing to my beautiful body. Letting her know I understood the pain and that the abuse ended then and there. I kissed my thighs and gave my belly a big hug. I wiped my tears and returned to my painting.

 I felt lighter….free from trying to shape my body into something it wasn’t. Happier because that idea of perfection had melted away.And although the pain wasn’t gone, it wasn’t as intense. I had made peace with my body. The war I had been waging internally was over. It was the end of an awful era.
 What I realised that day was no matter what amazingly good stuff I chose to put into my body, or how many walks I took each day didn’t matter if my internal dialog was one of constant shame and belittlement directed towards my body. The beautiful body that had done an amazing job getting me where I needed to go for 43 years; an incredible miracle, had  been rewarded by my focusing only on what I perceived as ugly flaws.

 Once again,painting had cleared the way for me to strip another layer of myself away and uncover a dark truth that found it’s way into the light and shone as gold. Alchemy!

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