Eleanor Roosevelt had an idea. Pondering another communication breakdown, she could have been channeling our current dilemma when she said, in 1960(!):
“We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together. And if we are to live together, we will have to talk.”*
Last night I read this book to my little one:
“What is race?”
I had a simultaneous reaction of relief (many of his friends are of races, genders, and religions other than his, so hopefully he is choosing from heart-connection-similarities, rather than dividing-by-difference) and dread (my child is white. I’m almost entirely positive that if he were not white, he would know what race is. That is the invisible privilege he was born into).
My child looks at the police as his friends.
My child sees adults as people who are there to help him.
My child goes to school not questioning whether his teacher will be able to hear or see him.
My child believes that God is “a force of love that lives in everyone’s hearts,” regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or gender, and that “when you listen to that, you can always find love, not hate.”
When my child learns to drive, I will worry about him. But I will not worry about
him being shot if he is pulled over.
I will not worry about him being checked to see if he is undocumented.
My child has the freedom (aka privilege) to choose friends based on if he feels connected with them and not based on if it is safe/unsafe to be friends with them due to their skin color, ethnicity, religion, or gender.
My child lives in a world in which he doesn’t have to learn another’s language, religion, or culture to find belonging, to live safely, to have access to education, healthcare, approval, or belonging. That is part of the privilege he was born into. I will do my best to help him understand not everyone has that privilege. And that if you have it, it is your responsibility to understand it, and to share it.
This was my favorite part of the book:
“I want to tell you a story. But I need your help. Here’s what I want you to do:
Take your fingers and press softly against your skin right below your eyes. Be careful and don’t poke yourself in the eye. Okay. Now. Press gently until you feel the hard bone right beneath the surface.
Now, if your mom, dad, brother or sister or a friend is close by, ask them if you can touch them. If they say okay, take your fingers and press softly at the same place beneath their eyes. Press gently until you feel the hard bones right beneath the skin….
Beneath everyone’s skin are the same hard bones.
That’s right. The same hard bones. And, as my little one said “We have the same fingernails…and the same pupils inside our eyes.”
The same eyes. Eyes that are capable of seeing terror, horror, and redemption. Eyes that are capable of seeing, appreciating, protecting, and celebrating difference. Eyes that are capable of seeing through the eyes of compassion. Arms that are capable of doing the work of love instead of fear. Arms and feet that are working… working toward liberty and justice for all. There is work to be done. There is work to be done.
*”Why We Need to Talk About Race,” Oprah.com, Read more here
I had one of those moments today. As I was pulling on my jeans, I could feel they were too tight. My midriff was mid-drifting. And that first automatic thought – “I’ve gained weight!”- was quickly followed by a shitload of culturally conditioned fat-shaming judgements. The good news is that then I took a deep breath. And remembered this voice comes in when I am suffering in some way that needs tending. That I have over twenty years of eating disorder recovery behind my back (and in my stomach). That this fearful voice doesn’t pop up very much any more and I have another way of being with myself now. Compassionate-Curious-Recovery-voice kicked back in.
Might these jeans be tight because they just came out of the drier?
If you did gain weight, so what?
Here’s how the rest of that conversation went down:
Anxious-part-of-self: What do you mean so what? SO WHAT? My body is supposed to stay the same. This is my recovery body and it’s not supposed to change.
Compassionate-Curious-Recovery-Self: Interesting. Where did you hear that? Actually, your body has changed many times over the past two decades. Most people’s bodies do. Who told you your body is supposed to stay the same? I think I remember your very first recovery mentor telling you twenty years ago (when I was a young adult and she was middle-aged) two things:
1) The size of your body is not your business.
2) The only constant is change.
When I work with women on body image suffering, often there is a correlation with the uncertainty that come with the life-passage transformations such as young adulthood, marriage, pregnancy, postpartum, middle age, and elderhood- and body image. Life transitions can be challenging, and the culture we live in doesn’t have a container for women traveling through these rites of passage. We do have a body-shaming culture that tells us there is something wrong (with our bodies) and it is our responsibility to fix/change them (our bodies). In the absence of community, and of rituals that assist us in crossing these thresholds, a fearful body-shaming voice can come in to keep us “safe.” Safe from what? Safe from the scary changes of the unknown by assuring us that If you can keep your body from changing, then this (life-change) will not be distressing. Safe from having to go through it alone. Safe from facing all the mixed messages in a culture that feels ambivalent at best, and actively disdainful at worst, about supporting women through the rites of passage into adulthood, motherhood, middle age, and becoming a crone. But in practicing hating our bodies, we miss out on appreciating how wise they are in leading and guiding us through these life transformations.
Midlife Mid-Drift (and other women’s body/life changes)
In perimenopause, the ovaries produce less estrogen, which can cause the body to store extra fat (because fat cells can produce estrogen, which offers the body a safety net). Interesting. Thus the thickening around the middle. Pretty smart, body!
In adolescence, a hormone called GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone) is released, and then forms two new hormones that signal the body to gain weight and become fertile. Smart body!
In pregnancy, weight gain is distributed in all kinds of useful ways, including: increased
blood, breast tissue, fat stores for future breast feeding, amniotic fluid, the placenta, oh, and the actual baby! Wise body.
Just like postpartum, when the stomach carries shapes and marks that show it grew to hold a child. Successful body!
My body is changing again. It’s what happens for women throughout the life cycle. By the way, when I was researching reasons why a woman’s body changes in adolescence, the perinatal period, and midlife, guess what popped up on Google? You got it: 10 Ways to Diet That Away. (“That” being the inevitable changes in your body.)
A Recovery Reminder
If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, or any form of body image hatred (aka if you live in this culture), DO NOT visit Dr. Google for your answers to questions about life transitions. Dr. Google will always tell you that losing weight is the answer to complex life problems. Stop dieting, start rioting, and find your people. Find your support team of friends, professional help, and spiritual sustenance to help midwife you through your life transitions. Listen to the wise, fiercely compassionate and sometimes as* kicking part-of-you-that-knows and act on that voice. Now is not the time to let the weight on your stomach go. Now is the time to let the weight of holding up unrealistic expectations of who-you-are-supposed-to-be vs. who-you-actually-are go. Or, as Brené Brown so eloquently states about midlife:
I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders (or your midriff), pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.