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Thursday, September 12, 2013

bold moves and the importance of good undies

A few months ago a friend told me that Geneen Roth, writer and teacher extraordinaire whose work has shaped my own personal journey of the past 9 months, was coming to Kripalu to lead a workshop.  Kripalu is yoga retreat center in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts and is a place I have been longing to go for years.  I have entertained visions of myself going to Kripalu to train to be a yoga instructor when my kids are older and my life is in a different phase of its evolution.

Geneen Roth mostly holds workshops on the west coast so for her to be coming to the east coast, and to Kripalu no less, seemed like an offering I couldn't refuse.  I was so excited at the possibility, especially when I learned that Kripalu offers scholarships.  Then I wondered how I would actually leave town and my mom post for three days.  When I learned that it is the same weekend that Sandi has her very important presentation on her massive senior thesis, I thought there is no way.

Then I remembered all the offers of help, all the people who love me who encourage me to take care of myself.  I decided it was worth pursuing further and not abandoning this deep desire when I hit the first obstacle.

I asked my sister to help with the kids.  She gave a, not surprisingly, enthusiastic yes.   When asked what I wanted for my birthday, I said a contribution to go to Kripalu.  I applied for the scholarship and I got it.  The scholarship covered 40% of the cost of the workshop and lodging ($210) and I needed to pay the remaining $311. 

Guess how much money I got from the incredibly generous people in my life?  $310.

I'm going to Kripalu at the end of September.  The timing isn't good and it makes life hard for Sandi when she needs her focus on these last few crucial months of school.  But we've worked it out and I'm going.

I spent a lot of time writing the essay to go with my scholarship application.  It was immensely difficult to distill my journey into a concise, readable format.  Here is the meat of it:

Personal transformation never takes the easy or convenient path and its timing is often seemingly very poor.  I never fall apart at a good time and I don’t get to hand pick the issues I would prefer to work on.  Inner work is not pretty or neat, is not designed to be tied up with shiny paper and a matching bow, and my deepest issues have a way of pinning me against the wall and demanding my attention.
This year, I’ve come to understand that the most fertile ground for my own transformation comes when external circumstances set off untouched, previously unknown, places in me. I can’t say I like it, or that it is comfortable, but I can say I do my best work here. This concert of external catalysts and internal readiness is perhaps not the terrible timing I’ve judged it to be, but rather the only avenue for my deepest work to be done. It is like being told my own secrets.
The last eight months have felt like the ultimate labyrinth of inner work.  Each road takes me to another which morphs into yet another as I trace my distorted ways of thinking and living back to their origins.  I have been stripped bare and stand raw in my life unsure of what is left when so much has been discarded.  It has been lonely and disorienting and I struggle to have words to describe the undoing of what I thought was myself in the pursuit of my real self.
There is no doubt in my mind that the circumstances of Sandi being in school has been one of the greatest opportunities of my life.  It has forced me to look inside, the strain has broken me open and through the cracks so much light has flooded in.  I wouldn't want to go back and do it again but I can tell you that, from where I stand, I am very grateful for the gifts it has brought.
We have 73 days until Sandi graduates.  We are in the home stretch, mile 24 of a marathon.  It is a period of distorted time and flagging energy.  It is a good time to take a break and rejuvenate.

On a related side note, I have been considering, disregarding and reconsidering some advice I have read over and over again in Geneen Roth's books: remove all the clothes from your closet that don't fit or that are uncomfortable to wear.  Throw away your old underwear with holes and buy new underwear.  Go out and buy clothes that fit and underwear you love. 


Finally, I became deeply willing to follow this guidance.  I was tired of pawing through my clothes and feeling demoralized if things didn't fit.  I told myself that I would give myself all the time I needed to figure this food thing out from the inside and that I would not rush or push by enforcing stipulations about food.  What is happening with my eating is nothing short of a miracle.  I am eating less, eating mindfully, choosing thoughtfully and dispelling myths about how and what I eat every day. 

It is also a slow, imperfect process and I cannot tolerate the external pressure of clothing size on this delicate journey.  In short, I decided I am no longer waiting to arrive at my "normal" weight to start living joyfully in this amazing body just as it is.

So I went out  and got myself some new pants so I would have more than 2 comfortable fitting pants in my closet.  (I compromised and sought out clearance buys so that I wouldn't feel guilty about spending a lot of money on clothes while we are still a few months out from a paycheck.)  I did not let the sizes, the harsh flourescent lights or the show-it-all changing room mirrors get me down.  I thanked my body for being all that it is and doing all that it's done.  I thanked it for being mine, only mine to care for and reside in.

 I felt so free and self-affirming that I did something very daring. I went into Victoria Secret in search of new undies.

Let me tell you the layers of self-talk I had to combat to be in there- about money, about my weight and how much more fun this would be if I were 10 pounds thinner, about frivolity and need, starving people in Africa and about being a self-respecting lesbian.  I discarded each act of sabotage as I made my way deeper into the silky cave of Victoria's Secret.  A very lovely young salesgirl asked if she could help me.  I told her what I was looking for: something pretty and sexy but comfortable. She all but took me by the hand and gave me a tutorial on cheekies, hipsters, thongs and all that is in between.  She showed me the fit of different styles on mannequins and shared her own personal underwear preferences.  She was like a lingerie Mother Teresa.

The panty sale (5 panties for $26) felt like a sign.  As I stood at the register with my daring purchase, I watched as she wrapped the delicate fabric in pretty tissue paper and tucked it beautifully in a fancy bag. I almost said, "Oh, that's okay, you don't have to go to all that trouble and waste."  But I stopped myself with another thought: yes please, I need a little luxury, a little just-because kindness, a little beauty.  I've been mean to myself for far too long and the pink tissue paper containing a lingerie peace-offering will go miles in apology. Please go to the trouble on my behalf.
It wasn't about the panties (which are in fact awesome by the way) or retail therapy or buying into cultural ideas of attractiveness.  It was about asserting my right to relish myself as I am and live now and not wait for myself or my body to be different in order to do so. 

So I'm taking my fancy-panty self to Kripalu in a couple of weeks.  I continue to work to discard the thoughts that tell me I am being selfish or self-indulgent. I am doing it anyway.  I'm not even telling myself that I am no good to anyone if I'm not good to me because that implies I am doing it with the end goal of caring for other people.  I am going because I need to, want to, deserve to. I don't need a justification for doing nice things for myself or caring for myself with tenderness, thoughtfulness and regard.

If you see me out there in the world doing something that seems self-serving, go ahead and assume it is because I have a lot of lost time to make up for.

1 comment:

Emilie said...

You're going to KRIPALU! And you're going to be wearing CUTE UNDERWEAR!

That's a very good thing. Love you so.

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