Skin to Skin

 

Credit: en.wikipedia.org

When he first held her she was all skin and bones

Rail thin

Emaciated

Drawn looking with hollowed cheeks

He held her gently for fear she might break

She seemed as delicate as bone china

Seeds of romance were planted

Enriched in the soil born from gracious tending

Seedlings took root

Then were transplanted

Growing stronger with every lustful union

He wrapped her in white downy covers

Cocooning her and feeding her with the sweetness of his love

She began to bloom

A lustrous buttercup flower

Rounder

Displaying curves and small handfuls of flesh

She’s bursting

A luscious garden

Born again

Sown from seeds of love

 

Day 11. Inspired by one word: fleshy

Shifting Shapes, Narrow Escapes

Credit: pixels.com

Stumbling in a dreamscape

Sleep deprived nights illusively hot

Sweat soaked skin

A body in transition

Transforming and chaotic

Shifting waistline

Squaring hips

A new morning brings a new view

Changing perspective, acceptance

There’s a strength to these bones

Muscles and sinew firmed 

Mind honed by wisdom

Struggles vanquished

Evil extinguished

Still, I prepare myself 

This new day brought a tremor to my hands

A churning fire to my gut

An inner knowledge borne of past trauma

I dress adorned with a fetching scarf  that sings of summer

Alluring and potent

My voice proven right 

You’ve been seen once again in that store front distance

Marginally recognizable

Yet grace has given me my covert protector

He whispers quietly and holds me in his gaze

You approach and graze my arm with yours

Attempting to establish dominance

A marking of territory

Such a fool of  a man

Desperate and Depraved

Deprived

Lonely but not Alone, not quite

Yet still without awareness and tact

Your false bravado rebuffed and refused by this half century warrior queen

Transcended and Ascended

Fully realized, Divinely Inspired

Living at the Apex of  her new Incarnation

Defying Gravity

defying gravity

This is where we have come with our age

our knowledge such as it is

and our hopes such as they are

invisible before us

                     untouched and still possible ~ W.S. Merwin

I recently added another year to my fifth decade on this side of the world. I must say I love this decade most of all. When  I think about it, I spent the first decade in the warm embrace of childhood, the next in the weird and off center world of adolescence and young adulthood and part of my twenties being a true blue party girl before I settled down in marriage. My thirties were an intense period spent  raising my sons. I would like to write off my forties in some respects; I think that I spent most of that decade just surviving!  But then again, I believe that period set the stage for the freedom and peace of mind that I am now experiencing.

I was talking the other day with my fiance’ ( I totally love saying that by the way) about the fact that when you reach our age, you feel like you’ve lived several lives. I mean, really, I am old enough to remember the 1969 moon landing ( I was eight and the memory is quite vivid), the revival of the women’s movement (I used to get Ms. magazine in the mail when I was a teenager), the Vietnam War, disco, punk and eighties music (but seventies rock still rules!).  It sometimes blows my mind that I have lived this long, not because I feel old but because so much has happened in what seems likes such a short period of time.

For women in particular (but certainly not totally excluding men), our bodies are markers of our age and of the life we have led. Ignoring the media blitz of false body images is a constant practice of vigilance for many of us regardless of our age or size. Ignoring the images of youthful good looks for those of us who are past forty only adds to the mix.

When I think about it, my body has been reincarnating itself for as long has I have been experiencing each decade. I never was the girl who was slim of waist and rounder in the hips. My mother used to buy me “boy’s cut pants”  when I was young because none of the girls pants fit quite right. As I became a teenager, my body looked much the same due to the fact that I ran 50-70 miles per week. Zero body fat leads to low weight and no breasts (plus no menstrual cycle)! In fact, I don’t think I wore a running bra until I was nineteen! Of course, my college years were marked by less running  and more pizza and beer. For the first time in my life, I felt and looked fatter. Plus, I had finally reached puberty!

When a more regular work out  and less of a  party regiment began in my mid twenties, my body became more solid but never as slim as it once was. Then, of course, I became pregnant and that changed everything. It was a challenge to feel attractive and not fat. My pregnant body was huge on my 5’4″ frame and I gave birth to babies that were one-third of my height! Never mind their large weight. The pressure to return to pre-pregnancy weight and shape was present for sure. I had no trouble doing either as I love to exercise and eat well. But let me tell you, stretch marks never go away!  My middle bears witness to the size of my sons and I have learned to embrace and accept this fact.

It was during my mid to late forties that my body took on a whole new shape. The stress and trauma of separation and divorce caused a very dramatic loss in weight which lingered at a low point for nearly two years. Funny thing is, many of my friends, family and colleagues were worried and thought I looked seriously ill while my estranged and soon to be ex-husband thought I looked great. It wasn’t until the worse of the situation was over that I could begin to eat again.

The confluence of healthy weight gain and peri-menopause was at first quite jarring. Not only had I gained weight but my shape became more square. I was extremely self-conscious of this new look.  A colleague recently shared it was like “my boobs falling and my stomach exploding!”  I have come to accept that this is the natural order of  growing older. I take good care of myself and work very hard to stay in shape. I look fine and most of the time I feel young-maybe thirty or thirty-one.  The writer Anna Quindlen would call this my “resting age rate.”

And I take care of my face without breaking the bank. Wash, tone, moisturizer and a little makeup work well. I color my hair and recently added foils to the hair care list. They enhance my look-according to my hairdresser-and do not hide my age. The way I look at it, I am being born again. I have gotten another chance to start my life over. It is not only fun but filled with laughter, love and true happiness. My hope is that I can spread this kind of energy to others and live my own life as if I were going to be born again tomorrow.

Parts of me that I never even knew I had sometimes ache- but parts of me I never knew I had in my brain sing  ~ Robin Morgan

Zero is Not a Size

“By choosing healthy over skinny you are choosing self-love over self-judgment. You are beautiful!”
Steve Maraboli

Last week I  went to my doctor’s for my annual check up. As part of the routine, I, of course, had to get weighed. Of all the things that are done in the process of  a woman’s visit, I find this to be the most dreaded piece.  It is the one part where I wish that I could be totally naked in order to get the “most accurate” reading of my weight. Of course, this is impossible so the only part of my clothing that I can remove is my shoes.

Although I possess a scale, I never weigh myself. I feel that I will note any poundage fluctuations through how I fit into my clothes. So far this method has worked fairly well. After all, I am very fit; I exercise about 7 hours per week and I eat very healthy food. I am well aware of my body changes as I have entered my fifties and have come to accept these shifts. In fact, I really believe that middle age is called that because we all (male and female) get thicker in the middle!

Still,this number sort of freaks me out despite my doctor’s assurance that I am the right weight for my age and height (5′ 4″) and the amount of my body’s muscle mass. (I have been strength training 2-3 times per week for at least 17 years.) So what is the deal here?

I believe that some of it stems from the fact that my weight reached an all time low of 109 lbs just over four years ago. I had not weighed that little since my senior year in high school when I was a running maniac and just entering puberty. The weight loss had everything to do with the trauma of the divorce process followed by my mother’s fatal diagnosis and subsequent death. As a colleague of mine said to me recently, “It hurts to eat.” That was certainly true in my case.  There would be days that I would actually forget to give myself nourishment. Other times when I did eat, I would immediately get sick. I had to be carefully monitored by my therapist who eventually diagnosed me with borderline anorexia. As a result, I had to strategize ways in which to feed myself. Part of it, of course, was to keep a food diary of the items that I ate each day. Another- more unique way- was to ask my friends to feed me. There were times when I would literally call someone and ask them to stop at the store and buy me a meal ( my therapist encouraged me to give in to my cravings). This was especially helpful during those times when the legal matters of my divorce were especially intense. Other times, I would happen to stop by a friend’s house to drop off something and subsequently (upon taking a look at me) be invited in to share a family meal. As a part of the strategy, I also had to weigh myself in order to keep track of any more loss or perhaps some gain in weight. It is a strange feeling to watch the numbers descend when you are making (what you believe at least) your best effort not to lose, but to gain pounds.

Yet, underlying this so-called “effort” was the reality that I needed to buy new clothes in smaller and smaller sizes. No woman in her right mind would scoff at  clothes shopping of course! And shopping for clothes because of weight loss is usually a celebration and not a burden. So, I had lots of fun trying on clothes that were a size 2 and fit like a glove (especially the little black number that I got on without having to unzipper it). The piece de resistance, however, came when I was about to go on my first romantic date with my now finance’. The black lace skirt and deep pink one shoulder satine top were a size 0!

Truthfully and biologically, however, I was in the wrong state of mind. Anorexia (no matter how mild a case) changes your brain. What you view in the mirror and what others see could not be more different. And this is the image that has stuck with me even until this day. When you are caught in the anorexic vortex, weight gain is seen as a failure of control. It didn’t help that my body was at the same time undergoing its middle age changes. It was only through therapy, yoga and the love and concern of my sons and friends (as well as my beloved) that helped me get back on the road of normalcy.

Our culture celebrates ultra- thinness even while we as a nation have a severe obesity epidemic. What a paradox! In fact, being thin is part of white girl culture. Latinas and black women proudly display their beautiful curvaceous bodies and we should too. As Gloria Steinem says: “Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms.”

The black lace skirt and pink top still sit in my closet. The photo of our romantic date sits atop the dresser. The romance lives on but I will never wear those clothes again. And I am not afraid to reveal my weight: a strong and healthy 130 pounds!

“…..this very body that we have, that’s sitting here right now…with its aches and its pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.”                                                     ~Pema Chodron