First of all,
I gained about ten pounds, just by not living consciously. By feeling like I could eat anything since I boxed so hard about five days a week, not really noticing (except to be very grouchy and unsettled about it) when boxing went down to two days a week. I didn’t accept that boxing, my boxing, the particular boxing I needed which was not drills or punitive, but was joyous, a kind of dance, and also deeply challenging so that I could push myself hard until I got into a beautiful meditative space — MY boxing was gone. I didn’t move on and find something else to fill that need.
I also forgot about eating to feed my body, not my mind.
I developed a kind of inner-kid rebellion about it. There’s definitely a kid in me who wants to eat anything she damned well pleases, and it’s a luxury to her to know she’s in an adult disguise now, so no one can say “no” to her. (I need teach her how to feel good in other ways.)
I chewed things when I was stressed. I chewed when I was avoiding. I chewed things out of rattly plastic bags when I was tired (and really actually needed a nap instead.) I advised my clients about their own compassion and their own habits, and I didn’t notice mine…or when I noticed, I excused. “Well, whatever. I’m tired…it’s just right now.” or, (my favorite excuse) “it’s organic!”
Then, all my health coach training and maggid training and deep work on self-compassion and process and psychology didn’t just fly out the window, it completely imploded in a few hours of utter self-loathing. The battle was still here, and it hit me in the face with its intensity. All of a sudden I *needed*. I needed reassurance from my boyfriend that he still found me attractive (whaaa??? this goes against everything I’ve spent years saying, about finding strength, empowerment and complete wholeness within ourselves alone.) The more I looked outside myself for words of comfort (which by the way I am blessed in that there were so many friends and a lover so willing to give me those words) the more frantically pulled-apart I felt. I was coming undone.
This is not a story about ten pounds.
This is a story about being seen.
A little while ago for my birthday, I did something utterly mad. I asked my Mom to go on a journey with me into the desert to take photos, because it was my birthday, and she is Pooh to my Tigger- she says “yes, let’s!” to the mad adventures I propose. Also, she was the most important person that kinda made that day (my original birthday) happen. An artist and person I highly admire just magically happened to be there, taking photos of people, on the very day of my birthday. (I’ll have to write another story about this soon, as I can’t cover it all in this one, I seem to be saying “my birthday” a lot.)
This was a meaningful birthday to me – an important number. When I was a little girl, I said to myself, “When I reach THAT number, I’ll know what my life is for.”
So I felt like it needed to be marked. I had thought of getting a tattoo…but somehow, that wasn’t it.
No: I needed to be seen. seen as I am in the world. For a moment, completely just myself with no fears and no hiding.
I didn’t know that was what I needed. I thought I was creating illustrations and covers and things for my books, both to motivate me to work harder and faster, and to bring some joy and play into the book-creating process (which can be a very lonely process.)
Someone I showed these photos to asked me “Does it bother you at all, that your body can be seen, that it could be on the internet?”
“No,” I said, “Because this wasn’t a case of me being nude in some play, feeling weird about it but doing it anyway for pay. I’ve felt terrible in that situation because I was changing my own body to be more what people ‘wanted to see.’
When I saw this dress, chose it and put it on, I felt incredible. I felt for once completely at home in my body. This is on my terms. There is no shame here – there I am, with no hiding, no pretensions, nothing to lift me up, pad me out, make me look more like society would choose (but I wouldn’t), there I am on my own terms in my own skin and feeling more comfortable than I have ever felt.”
I don’t know if these photos will be reported or taken down or criticized or lewdly remarked on…I don’t know, and I don’t care.
I felt so safe at Kate’s house. I felt seen, heard, and most of all, accepted for exactly who I am. I have never felt so un-judged in my life. I have never felt so free of anyone *wanting* anything from me. Even though no one knew me, I felt welcome … I have never felt this way since I was a little kid, when it was natural.
Remember that? How you’d walk over to join the game, and someone would simply shift over to make room for you? How little kids see other little kids and just … play? At very young ages before society has begun to make kids question whether they’ll be accepted, there is an unspoken and totally unconscious understanding.
It’s very matter-of-fact. It doesn’t seek to bind, hold, cajole or tell anyone who they should be. It simply accepts. Yes, play with us. You are seen here. You also get to change the story, since you’re here.
When I was in England, we played a theater game at RADA called “Yes, Let’s!” It was simply this: someone would call out anything (within common sense safety rules, of course, keeping it innocent, as adults need those)
such as “Let’s all go pick up the umbrellas!” Then everyone would shout “YES, LET’S!” and we’d all follow suit with the greatest enthusiasm. At first it was awkward; we were self-conscious and laughing…very quickly, it awakened the most beautiful, unbridled joy. This was not an exercise of “following” or mob mentality ..this was an exercise of acceptance, of play, and of the beautiful thing that happens when you know if you call out “Let’s go look for the Wizard!” everyone will yell, “YES, LET’S” and they’ll bloody go look for that Wizard. With you.
Kate has a gift. First of all, she gathers people around her who have their own dreams. Even those (like me) who somehow got a little lost on the way to their fairyland…who lost confidence, or started talking to themselves in stern ways, saying things like “You should grow up.”
She gathers dreamers. She enters into their fairyland and she makes it brighter. If they’ve lost theirs, she shares her own. “Look!” she always seems to be saying, “Isn’t this wonderful! Isn’t it beautiful!”
I had dampened my joy in many ways. I had become “practical,” (well, for me-) I had even stopped creating my Jules Verne bathroom – it sits there incomplete, hastily hung with paintings of Venice, without its porthole and giant cephalopod tentacle mural. I had shelved all ideas for creating my own beautiful, whimsical kingdom – just let them dwindle away in the focus on Making Income.
Truly, I didn’t know it, but my birthday found me in sad need of shining-up and repair.
Kate’s Place and Kyle Cassidy’s photos crashed through my inner ceiling which was getting lower and lower…
So here’s the thing I have been fumbling to say since then: (well, ONE of the things)
We all really just need to be seen.
Not really by anyone else: by ourselves.
We also need to be Accepted. and ditto.
Not many people have a Kate and a Kyle (and a Ryan and a Michael and a Doriot and a Judy and a Robin…I see you all, and you all Matter…)
So I want to help people do this on their own. We CAN do this on our own. It just takes a bit of waking up.
Standing there in my body that had put on ten pounds, feeling like it was just time I felt good about myself, really good about myself,
I wasn’t conscious of wanting to feel that way. I simply was that way. I was seen, I was safe, I was comfortable, I was completely me, shyness and all – because we aren’t just made up of the parts of ourselves that are Brave; we are also the things that hide, the wild creatures that peek out from behind trees with curiosity and a kind of wild, shy joy- we are the awkward parts, we are the angry parts, we are the wounded parts —
We are ALL of those things. And if, for even one moment, ALL of those things can come sit in a circle together, just moving aside to let everybody in, and ALL of those things in us can be seen, can count, can be invited to make up part of the game, and all the other things can embrace each one,
then every single bit of ourselves, for once, can join in a joyous shout of “YES, LET’S!”
all photos by Kyle Cassidy (www.kylecassidy.com)
settings by Kate McKinnon (check out her incredible jewelry. she’s a magic maker)