Monday, July 23, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

in defense of woman flesh

Here is my plan. I have been thinking, as I drive and shop and clean and work, that we need a plan. We need to build a defense around our woman flesh. What do you think of this?

I know - it is silly!
We need to get to know our bodies again. We hide from ourselves, most of us. I know I HATE to see pictures of myself, hate to sit in a restaurant if there is a mirror reflecting my presence, hate to be naked.

So - will you join me?

Get to know her again. Your body.

1. Look in the mirror every morning and really look at everything. You don't have to like her. Just look at her. Look at the back and the front.

2. Choose one part of your body and pay attention to it. Say, your hands - if you are artistic, set down and draw your hand. Study it and look at every spot and wrinkle and nail and muscle and bone. Write a poem about your hand. (When my mom was lying in a bed in her last moments and I was holding her hand I realized we have exactly the same hands - same size, same lines, same everything. What could that realization do to help me know and love my hands?) Choose another part, your feet. If you get brave, do a breast, or, GOD FORBID, your asspidastra. (When I was a girl if you wanted to swear you could make it a longer word and no one could really give you trouble. :)

3. Take some pictures - just for yourself, don't post them!!!! of parts of your body. Do it one afternoon when you are alone and take your big toe, your knee, your shoulder, dozens of them. Then look at them and study yourself. Be gentle. Don't look with hate. Look with love, like seeing a baby. NO one looks at a babies chubby legs or wrinkled face with hate.

4. Do something naked. I tried this this week - I spent a whole hour making my bed, cleaning the kitchen, picking up, all naked. Try to choose something to do privately if you don't want to get into trouble. I did it because I always hide. I dress in the closet and never walk around naked. But men, in my experience, have no trouble walking around naked for a bit. I put on beautiful music and just did my work and then got ready for my day. It was liberating. Interesting. I chuckled at myself.

5. There are the usual things - luxurious baths, rubbing cream on yourself, having a pedicure. But I am trying to think of new things. So one more - Take your body on a date. Instead of it taking you and you ignoring it, you take it! Take it out for ice cream and tell it to enjoy - and feel the ice cream on your tongue and in your belly and on your lips. Walk in grass and feel the grass on your feet. Tell your feet to enjoy the grass. Lie on your back and look at the sky and feel the weight of your body being pulled toward the earth and remember that you are embodied, as well as spiritual. Feel your body's presence, give it joy, be with it in peace.

So...those are my ideas for reacquainting with our bodies. I know you are reading this - do you have any other ideas? You can be anonymous. :)  Am I all alone out here?

I don't think we can recover alone.

I am writing about this because I don't think we can recover alone. I think we need an uprising. We need to see each other, and see ourselves in each other.

I was pastoring a church in Canada in l996 and after one beautiful service a woman came to the front with uncontrollable sobs. She was probably in her seventies. Single now, I seem to remember.

She cried. I held her. Then finally I was able to ask her what she was thinking. Her reply shocked me. "I am so ugly."

I am so ugly. 

I was 41. I thought women in their 70's were over that. But over what? Over being a human? Over knowing themselves and living in the bodily experience of self as reflected by others?

She was not a 70 year old woman. She was a woman. She had lived 70 years. She carried a mountain of abuses and insults and diminishments, some pointed at her and some floating through the air and caught by her like a dust mote on her sweater.

We talked and God showed her a different self. I looked at her and God showed me a different self too.

Later I heard she had joined the the youth ministry, had been taking mission trips with several teams, and was one of the most beloved, outrageous, fun youth leaders in the church. She lost her self consciousness. She became free. She lived with eyes looking outward instead of standing with shame and looking in.

"My body became the sacrifice."

Marilyn - After reading your blog, I thought the net would be flooded with response.  I suspect your comments have probably touched other women, as they did me.  What a hot button you hit, one that rushes to our most tender and intense depths.  Yet, it’s in a venue where we are hesitant to participate.

Those “body thoughts” immediately brought me shame.  I started an internal exercise of trying to hide my body, in fact, become invisible.  I didn’t want anyone to see me as I was, and as I am.  For some, there are tons of guilt layers.  Guilt that took root when our bodies sustained the first misuse and damage.  That body was all I knew of my existence.  Through learned behavior, my body kept guard over my spirit.  My body eventually became the sacrifice ….. and my spirit was laid bare.

I didn’t know this at the time.  I instinctively aimed toward survival.  My body bore the burden, and I lived.  Now I wonder if I’ll live long enough to reclaim, recognize and retrieve the flesh, bones, muscles, nerves residing under this tough skin.  I wonder if I will able to tend my inner spirit, to give that person a chance at experiencing peace and at-home-ness before my life ends.

Thank you for addressing the body issue.  Sounds and feels very God directed.  Maybe altogether, we as women can share wisdom, counsel and compassion for the soothing of our  bodies and inner spirits, that have served us well.   I doubt this healing can be accomplished in isolation.  It will require a deep trust level, and God direction.  What an awesome process,  needing the watchful care of Almighty God and the understanding companionship of our sisters.

(Written by a dear beloved beautiful woman friend of mine.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh body mine.

I thought I was perfect until I was eleven or twelve. Well, maybe not perfect. I knew my bangs always flipped up on one side no matter how straight my mom cut them, and one day my gramma told me they were awful. And I knew sometimes I couldn't run as fast as I wanted to. But from my vantage point, looking out from my eyes at the world full of wonder, and living in my imagination I knew I was probably a princess. I know - the princess thing is over done right now with pink and sparkles. I didn't have even the tiniest princess like possession. I just thought maybe I would fly someday, or find magic. My body and I moved through time and space completely free-of-self-consciousness.

When I was eleven, or twelve, my girlfriend brought me a message from "the boys" who we had started hanging out with. "You can't be part of the group, Marilyn. The boys don't want you. They said you are too flat." Too flat. Hmmm. Because of my body I lost my girlfriend group and the new group with boys. Suddenly I started thinking of myself from the outside in. I stood watching my body instead of being inside my body enjoying the life it engaged in. That was the first rip in the fabric of my peace with myself.

I learned other things later. I don't have thin ankles. I have big feet. I have a bit butt. My hands are big. Notice how 'big' is the dominant adjective. Big is not pretty. Big is ugly.

And beyond that - my hair brown, like mouse brown. Cow brown. Poo brown. And it is poker straight.  Except for where it curls, on the left side above my ear and in the three - count them! - three 'cow lick swirls'.

And even though I prayed, I stayed pretty much flat. Raisins on a breadboard kind of flat. Sigh. I really prayed in faith. I prayed claiming and believing. Many mornings I woke to grave disappointment, cracks in my faith at a tender age.

When I was 24 and had given birth four times, during a pap test I asked the doctor if I was normal. "Normal?" she said, surprised. "Yes, could you just tell me if I am normal?" She laughed. I felt embarassed but it had taken all my courage to ask her. "You are normal." I was glad, sort of.

And at 52 I was reading in National Geographic and started to cry. National Geographic! Can you imagine? I was looking at five black skinned women sitting in a circle around a fire. Five women with no clothes on, mostly. And there I was, or rather, a woman who was built just like me! I started crying and my husband said, "What on earth are you crying for?" I answered, "I see myself. There is a woman like me. She looks normal."

This morning when I was getting dressed I actually stood in front of a full length mirror. BEFORE 'everything' was on. I turned one way and another. I said, "Okay. This is a good body. I am grateful for this body. It is healthy and does tons of work for me and enables me to love. Thank-you for this body." And then I got dressed.

I have decided to make friends with my body. I have never, ever, felt satisfied. I have thin friends who insist on saying how fat they are. I have friends who cannot take a compliment even if it absolutely true. I have friends who literally hate their bodies. Women of faith, women of age. Let's take it back. Let's move back into our bodies and stop looking from the outside. Women arise! This has got to stop. We are cursing ourselves and damning the best gift of our lives.

Trying to be Honest - my own ponderings about my body

For Making Me a Woman
(by Marty Conner in Woman's Uncommon Prayers.)

For making me a woman
in what still so often
seems a man's world,
I thank you.
Because you taught me by example
that power is your gift
and not my possession.

For giving me a body
thought it sometimes fails me
and is not all I wish it was
or rather, a good deal more
than I wish it was,
I thank you.
Because you taught me
that I am much more 
than my body
and yet my body is 
your holy temple.

For calling me to be
more than I believe I can be,
and less
than I sometimes pretend I am,
I thank you.
Because you taught me 
that being is more than doing,
that who I am
and whose I am
are more important than
what I do 
or what I have.

For all that you are 
Great "I Am,"
I bless you
as you have so greatly blessed me.

This poem touches me and speaks almost perfectly to the heart of how I see my life, and how I have experienced God. I will write more - I am going to take two or three blogs to talk about my own love/hate affair with my body. I would love to publish your thoughts too, my friends. Send them to me if you like.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Love Letter to my body - from another woman I love


Dear old friend,

It goes without saying; there has not been a moment in my life when you have not been there. Of course, in my youth I did not notice you. I ran across the playground with reckless abandonment, sometimes falling and injuring you. In those moments, you would softly let me know that you were there, for a moment. But you were quick to heal and fade back into the background of my life.

Then I entered my teens, and I finally began to notice you. But when I looked at you, I did not see you through the eyes of my youth and innocence, instead I began to view you through the eyes of the world. This lens seemed to distort you. Portions of you looked too big while others seemed too small, nothing seemed to match the ideal body of the women of the world. I was dissatisfied with you. I went through periods of reckless abandonment, not valuing you. I lived fast.  But you remained faithful and sat silently in the background.

I then entered my twenties, and you still didn’t match the ideal woman, so I began to abuse you, to try to squeeze you into the body of this “perfect” woman.  I went for long runs, I worked too long, I didn’t give you any rest, I refused to feed you and the little food that I did provide, I refused to let you digest, and instead I took pills to force it out of you. But you remained faithful and sat silently in the background.

As I neared my thirties, I decided it was time to ask you to step up and do something quite miraculous. I asked you to incubate another little body. And even though I had abused you, you did it quite beautifully, several times. Those years I neglected you, not giving you rest, not eating right, chasing after these three little children, and you remained faithful and sat silently in the background.

When my forties came around, I stopped chasing children but continued to feed you as though you were chasing them. I watched you grow larger and larger, and you began to softly tell me that this was too much. But I ignored you and continued to neglect you.

As I near my fifties, I realize that even though you have remained faithful, you can no longer sit silently in the background. It is impossible for you to hide the abuse anymore. You are still faithful, and you always rise to the occasion, but afterward, I hear your moans.

I am sorry my dear friend. I cannot undo the abuse, but I do want to stop the abuse and neglect. I thank you for all the years of service to me. Let us walk gently into the future.


a Love Letter to my Body

I challenged some of my people/friends to write a love letter to their body. Here is what my daughter wrote.

My (dear?) Body,

I am writing to you under protest...but you already know this, and I would rather not try to start healing our relationship by telling you lies.

I don't love you. Yet. But for the first time, maybe I'm willing to try. 

I hide you, disguise you, despise you for not being flawless. But you have never betrayed me. I have been carried by your strength and health without bothering to notice or to offer thanks. You have embodied more Love and Grace than I ever imagined a body could. But I have been blind to your beauty, willfully, turning my head away from mirrors and rejecting gentle hands reaching out to run along my skin. Somewhere along the line, I bought the lie that I should not love you, and that I wasn’t worthy to be loved, because you are not smooth or taut… that you & I are somehow less.

How can I learn to love you, to make us friends and lovers instead of enemies? How do I stop fighting you at every reflection, every meal, every touch?

Maybe you are not less. Maybe you are more.

That scar, maybe it means that Love lives in you. Those lines, maybe they mean we have laughed hard and smiled at strangers. That cellulite, maybe it marks feasts and celebrations with family & friends, babies carried and born, wine and joy and chocolate licked off beaters and not ignorance or shame. What if the curve of our hip and rounded waist are the wondrous mark of a life gifted with plenty and not lack?

I am ready to learn how to love you. I am tired of fighting against you…I want to know what it’s like to have peace between us. I want to live into your strength and beauty, however faltering my first steps may be.

Sincerely, with affection,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Women over 40

Andy Rooney of 60 minutes said this on air a few years ago - I found my treasured copy in an old file I am cleaning out. It is worth sharing. I quote...

As I age, I value women over 40 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why: A woman over 40 will never wake you up in the middle of the night and ask, "What are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you are think. 

If a woman over 40 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do, and it's usually more interesting. 

Women over 40 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can get away with it. 

Older women are generous in praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated. 

Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 40. 

Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 40 is far sexier than her younger counterpart. Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off that you are a jerk if you a re acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her. 

Yes, we praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy, relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize." 

I enjoy this because it is from a distinctly male perspective. It is about how a man experiences women.

I wondered what I would write from a woman's perspective? Any over 40's out there have any ideas? I will post them if you send them. Here is mine:

Women over 40 have issues with their bodies but these do not seem to dominate their lives. They can put their own insecurities aside and get on with a great day.

A woman over 40 is willing to risk to do life in a way that is better for her, healthier and safer. She will speak up, walk away, take a chance or make a hard choice. Maybe this is because she knows life is not going to last forever.

Friendships between older women are not competitive - they enjoy the success of each other. When they get together the conversation is rich and hilarious. Women over 40 find men intensely amusing. 

Women over 40 can laugh when things go wrong. They have enough 'in the bank' that they don't feel like a failure when something they do goes south. A woman knows she is much more than what she is doing in any given moment.

(this is just off the top of my head... I will think more. What comes to you?)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Favorite moments - not in any particular order

- All my men standing together, clean and suited up for JV - the grand kids together beside me on the pew - Blaise (7) dancing up a storm all night - Big Steve entering into the party just like his dad did for us - ride home in the car w Bill and Annie getting totally lost and laughing our heads off - the makeup lady who was helpful and friendly to me just when I needed her - mustache straws - the 'chef hat' dance - walking down the isle w Ben - seeing all the grand-daughters loving and playing - watching Rae own her individual dance style - our friends rescuing us w lodging - seeing V happy


We are staying in an incredible home. I don't use the word 'incredible' casually here. We are on a ski mountain in a home built and furnished out of wood and stone and the most lavish fabrics and pieces. The bedrooms have walk out decks and the main stone deck must surely cost more than our home. I sit on the deck in the shade since AC is off, and remember in my body that nature heals me.

I don't covet the house or anything in it. The deck and view are the treasures to me. I was thinking , surrounded by all these things, that we have lost the intimacy of things because we have so much. A treasured mirror, a pen, a small leather bound book that fits into the palm of the hand - who even notices these things anymore let alone ponders all they present or remember how they came to us?

We have lost our companionship w small treasures and our minds hunger in a way that cannot be satisfied. I think having a lot, living in a world with so much, is the reason this has happened. I never stop to be stunned at all the stuff a family can haul out into a driveway for a garage sale. Or how much is in a house we clean out after gramma dies. We have stuff. Stuff. Such a good word - it is a noun AND a verb. Our treasures are lost in our stuff.

Egg Benedict

Driving up toward our very recently secured vacation rental we stopped in an "historic" town to eat. Happily we came upon a nice little local cafe. The matron w flour on her shirt boosum and belly told us they had re- opened w a generator the previous afternoon at 4:00.

I ordered perogys and cabbage rolls and Steve ordered Eggs Benedict. "We only have one egg, she told us. But I will make it good." My plate of two perogys and one cabbage roll was yummy but sparse. I should have guessed she was precious about her food. In my enthusiasm I asked if she would sell us 12 perogy and 12 cabbage rolls to take. "Yes, of course."

The bill came as we stood at the counter- breakfast and two dozen hand made treats - $121.00! Apparently the perogy were $3.50 a piece and the cabbage rolls more. We gulped, apologized, rescinded the order and fled, laughing. In Alberta, Uktainian country, a dozen perogy is $4.00 or so.

Anyway, Steve's Egg Benedict was lovely.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Friends don't let friends sleep on the curb

Our best laid plans can sink like a stone. I planned this time like an old woman laying out a quilt pattern. Getting five families , six kids, fifteen people into the same place happily relaxing and well fed for 10 days is a challenge. The very first night a tornado wiped it all out. Our wedding accommodations were w/o air, water, light and our holiday rental was completely wiped out. We could only find two rooms in Charleston and we only got them because Curtis stood in front of the front desk and, uncharacteristically, demanded they give us their last two rooms. But we have friends!! Friends who Love unselfishly. In a lighthearted generous negotiation two great couples abandoned their rooms, left the wedding early and everyone in the family had a bed. What can I say? The generosity, love, joyful participation from our friends who love us and love God is one of the most beautiful gifts of this wedding.