Tonight I was working out with hand weights. Exercises for my upper body. I haven't done them in so long I couldn't tell you when I last did them. I suspect it is twice as long as I assume it was. Tonight I felt my muscles breathe a sigh of relief.
"We thought you'd never remember."
It hurt some, sure. But greater still was a following ache of delight at having been used. Tonight I learned muscles want to work. I suspect I learned about "muscle memory" and my response to tonight's workout might have been very different if I had never worked out before. It might have felt a lot more painful. Instead, I felt my body posture shift. I felt my limbs stretch and move without judgement. I know if I step on the scale or look in the mirror nothing will appear to have changed, but my awareness has shifted. It was like rediscovering once again who I really am.
Lately, I am forever bumping into or touching something that I am suddenly reminded is actually there. Inside I am the same as I ever was. I see the world through the eyes of a perpetual twenty-year-old. Then my triceps brush against flesh that my ego judges shouldn't be so thick under my breasts. I catch a glimpse of my reflection and I see my breasts, take in their adult width and suddenly I am visualizing my mother. Seeing myself as my mother. Everything I swore I would never be. Later I speak and I hear her voice in my ears. When you've experienced the worst of someone, even if you have grown to a place where you no longer categorize them as a villain, it doesn't mean you're ready to sing their praises. Tonight gave me distance. Exercising felt good and with it some physical self confidence I had been missing returned. So it was from a place of self acceptance that I could watch myself begin the steps to loathing myself. It was educational. You see, it works like this. I notice something in myself that reminds me of my mother. Without thinking any more deeply about it, I make the choice to dislike the thing in me that reminds me of my mother.
Deep at heart, I am a slayer. I don't manage my anger. I figure out how not to be a slave to anger. I figure out how not to be anger. I face my demons and evict them. Naming one of them or understanding how it works, means I have it on the run. You can no longer deceive and influence an audience who knows what you're doing and how you're doing it. It's when I brush against those wider, softer bits, my demons, sensing I have been knocked off my game, make me think of my mother. I've never been this age or weight before, but I've witnessed my mother at this place. If I have a feeling I find unacceptable or that gets me into trouble, I examine it. I shine a light on every bit of it that I can.
What had happened right before I noticed it?
Is It possible I am feeling a dump in self confidence? What am I feeling?
Is how I'm feeling justified or could I be telling myself stories?
In this case, my arm brushed against the softness under my breasts. It made me feel vulnerable. It made me feel weak and uncomfortable. It reminded me that for some time I have not felt myself. Inside I am as I ever have been, but outside, it's like I've been stuffed into a Staypuft Marshmellow Man suit. Perhaps not completely inflated, but just the same. Somewhere around then, I usually make some sort of noise. Mostly, just an intake of breath and that's when I think of my mother. There is something about my voice, listening to it when I'm feeling vulnerable, that sounds very much like my mother. Sometimes when something brushes my face and I become aware of the soft peach fuzz of hair that runs along my skin. How it feeds into the hair behind my ear. How I can almost pet it with my fingertips. All of which are neutral things. There is no expressed bad here. Except I am thinking of my mother. I am hearing her tell me how that same benign fuzz had made Marilyn Monroe more beautiful in her photographs. I'm picturing my mother's face. The peach fuzz on her face. I always appreciate myself better through someone else's eyes. In relationships, I nurture the aspects of myself about which my partner has expressed appreciation. Suddenly I realized it might be because it is hard for me to view me, without seeing my mother.
I'm pretty sure this is a deeper place about forgiveness. Because I've forgiven my mother. I know that she was doing the best she could with the materials with which she worked. You can't expect a meat cutter to perform brain surgery. Most of the time I genuinely hope there is reincarnation and multiple chances for my mother's sake. She didn't seem to really enjoy the one I saw.
But that is not the same as liking her or loving her or admiring her. We say forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Forgiveness gives us permission not to feel anything about the past anymore. It allows us to set down the weight of things that can never unhappen. For most of us, life consists of being open, being hurt, and closing some to protect ourselves from being hurt. At some point we either need to make the decision to open our hearts and risk being hurt again or emotionally barricade ourselves.
When I was a child, my mother once said to me, "I love you because I'm your mother and I have to, but I don't really like you very much." Like so many hurtful things I have heard in my life, it rolled around in my head until I was faced with the truth. Which was I had come to feeling the same way about her. I felt a joyless love built out of obligation. Essentially the same way I have always felt about my body. Rather than looking at my assets, I look at the things I see as shortcomings and wish they could be better or different. A fine way to treat a companion who has always been there for me!
Love is acceptance. An unconditional acceptance. I love you no matter if you're skinny or chubby. I love you even if you are cranky or argumentative. I love you even if you have been a jerk. Because it is only through my judgements and point of view that you've been a jerk. You've just been doing the business of living. You've just been a human who is alive, with your own judgements and point of view. We all of us wear our own home forged invisible goggles, crafted from our reactions to life's experiences.
Exercising made me realize two things: First, that the more things you try, the more things you will have some sort of muscle memory about. In other words, the more things you try to do; the more things you can do. Second, it is time for me to aim some unconditional love towards myself and my body. It's time for me to be grateful for all I am rather than despair at what I am not. It's time to love myself because I'm alive and I'm creative and enthusiastic and strong and dependable and intelligent and loving and caring and it's time.
It's time to love me like I would love you.