Sunday, December 13, 2009

GUEST POST: On the Body


[image www.ithaca.edu]

[NOTE: NSFW]

The following guest post was written by Rhiannon, a regular reader of Adventures in Voluntary Simplicity. I think Rhiannon's post shows that embracing simple living goes beyond de-cluttering your house and eschewing materialism and consumering. It can be a process as internal and personal as embracing the person staring back at you in the mirror.

ON THE BODY
I, like you, have a story. And it can be told... but how best to get my point across? You see, some people’s story can be told by the company they keep. Some by the place they reside or the car they drive. Some by the job they hold or the degrees they display. Some by the photographs of family sitting on the mantle piece. Some by the way the walk or talk. Some by the words they write.

Me? I guess mine can be told by my clothing or, rather, the lack there of!

My story may sound similar to a soap your mom watched at home each afternoon while you were at school: mom and dad become alcoholics, mom and dad begin swinging, mom leaves dad, dad divorces mom, dad dies of cancer, their daughter gets married, has a few kids, husband has affair, husband leaves wife,
ex-wife/daughter, well... gets fat!

I guess it’s fair to say, my story can be told... in my thighs! The swell of my breasts. The girth of my waist. The movement of my curves.

Because within this story, within these full folds of flesh, between these lines. I fret. I fret about my health. About my looks. About the example I teach. Fret... Fret... Fret...

And... I doubt. I doubt myself being true to who I really am. That others will truly be able to see me. That I’ll ever feel beautiful enough, worthy enough, sexy enough, to get out into that big fish bowl of men again. Doubt... Doubt... Doubt...And... I am mean. Mean to my soul. Mean to my heart, my lungs, my knees. Mean... Mean... Mean....
And I wonder. Does all this, fretting, doubting, meanness, serve me?

A healthy self image is something everyone talks about. Something everyone wants. A sexy body is something women want and men desire. I'm no different than everyone! But there seems to be two of these images. One others see and one I see. The two merging would seem to benefit, would they not? But they won’t. No matter how hard I try, the me others see (confident, funny, strong willed, self assured, woman) just will NOT merge with the me the mirror sees (chubby, unsure, scared, selfish, single mama). And although I only see this other me when I happen to be standing in front of a mirror or looking into a photo or in a room full of "pretties," it's still there, looming!

So one day, as I stand in front of the mirror I begin to wonder. Is this image I see in front of me the same one others see? And I already know the answer. So then I question, how can I take away all this fluff? How can I see ME? Just ME?

And the thought hits me. Could it really be that SIMPLE?

So as I stand there in front of the mirror... I begin to peal. Peal off my shirt. Peal off my socks. Peal off my pants. And as I peal, I look! I look and I look. And then I do it... I take off the little bits. (Okay not so little!) And I stare! I examine. I poke. I prod. And I enjoy! I enjoy this piece of art, this vehicle of mine. I spend the rest of the day, walking around the house, cooking meals, doing laundry and I realize I LIKE MY BODY! I like me a lot! Is it super model? No. But it’s mine! My very own story... of making it through.

Will it ever change? Sure! Hard work has proven that. Will I like it even more. Probably! But this body, the one I have now, it’s served me. Because I've lived and I've loved and I've cried and died a million times over. And my body has enjoyed and hated it all, right along with me. My spirits vehicle, will do my every bidding. So for sure I can! I can love me for who I am right now at this moment. The me I see, the me others see. They are all, after all, just me!

Would YOU dare take it all off and see? It is Voluntarily Simple!


28 comments:

Linda said...

Rhiannon, thank you for a beautiful post.

Loving, or at least accepting, your body can be almost impossible (especially if you're female and surrounded by retouched images of underweight women and weird diet tips everywhere). But I believe it's crucial to your physical and mental health.

My experience is that hating your body makes it hard loving the rest of yourself - soul and mind. Being a prisoner of self-hate is awful. It's such a waste of life and it makes me sad that so many women (and men) waste precious time on hating their bodies.

I believe that you MUST love your body, even if you have to brain wash yourself into doing it :)!

(And, by the way, to me you look like a beautiful renaissance lady :))

Miles To Go Before I Sleep...... said...

Really nice guest post! Loved it... It is all so correct as well... our bodies are outfitted to serve our purposes. I didn't just "get" what some of us call "muffin tops" or stretch marks didn't just appear on my stomach... Every little inch of us tells a story, has reason, and our bodies served that purpose....

As a matter of fact... I just recently did some self analization.... and I actually STOPPED DIETING. Sure, I try to pay more attention now to what food I'm putting in my mouth but not JUST for the purpose of having a thin waist... it's for the purpose of having a much healthier body, plain and simple.

Thank you for sharing! And your picture is beautiful as well!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. I'm glad your self esteem and body image have improved, but if it were only that simple as disrobing in front of a mirror. Most of us have much deeper issues to work on that have lowered our self-esteem to the point of not liking ourselves. We need to love ourselves both inside and out to have a full and wonderful life and not waste time fretting about the small stuff. So keep on working on liking what's inside of you and the outside liking will come naturally.
J.
PS I don't think that photo added much to your story or was very appropriate in a public blog. That might not be setting a good example to you kids.

Todd in Temple said...

Rhi,

You look FABULOUS!!!!! Wow!


Todd in Temple

GreenRanchingMom said...

WOW!!! Brave and well written. To expose your thoughts as a woman. We've all felt the same way, now or in the past!

Thank you!!!

Nancy said...

Part of living the simple life is to realize that you don't have to be like everyone else. Whether it is by your career, your home, your income or your looks, society seems to dictate what is considered "desireable."

Struggling with body issues is not just for those who are fat. I know women with great bodies that don't like the way they look. The average American woman is a size 14 but society seems to think that anything greater than a size 4 or 6 is "overweight."

What you offer to this world is not measured by the size of your dress but rather the size of your life is where it matters. Living simply to me means living without holding back what you give to the world.

SF Kid said...

Let me be another male to say I appreciate your openness to discuss a topic that causes so many so much trouble. It can be hard to overcome your own perceptions even if others tell you you're a wonderful person, even a beautiful person, if you don't believe it inside. Sounds like you are well down that path to believing in your inner AND outer beauty and I hope it continues smoothly for you.
Also, your picture is beautiful, as is your name, so there is nothing inappropriate about it. In fact, it shows just what a strong, confident person you are becoming.
Good luck on your continuing journey. You have many fabulous years ahead of you.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story to share and common among so many women in life, it would have been more profound though minus the tit shot. Your eyes say so much more...

tejas-threads said...

YOU GO !!! And the picture is awesome. You are truly a beautiful Soul, inside and out.

Just at the time I had come to terms with my body having curves instead of angles, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After months of looking at the gaping scars on one side of my chest and having my body thrown off balance (losing that much body weight and mass does that -- something they forget to mention BEFORE surgery)I elected to have reconstructive surgery. Ten years later I still struggle with looking at myself unclothed in the mirror. It is a challenge, but I take it in small steps.

Rhiannon YOU are the image our daughters need. YOU are the healthy role model. Thank you so much for sharing this, and Jack thank you for having guest posts like this.

Namaste'

tejas-threads

Jack said...

@Linda,

I have to be honest, I don’t think I have body issues, at least the type that Rhiannon is describing. But I can see the wisdom of saying that you have to love your body in order to be able to accept the rest of you. All aspects of self are interconnected. When one is sick or suffering, the others are affected.

@Miles,

That’s the best way to think about diet. On the other hand, it does not really resolve this whole body image issue. I just don’t know how that could be resolved from a practical standpoint.

@Anonymous,

That’s quite a nice comment. I’m sure she appreciates it.

“PS I don't think that photo added much to your story or was very appropriate in a public blog. That might not be setting a good example to you kids.”

I think whether the photo adds to the post or not is probably debatable. I personally think it emphasizes her core message very well.

BTW, there are plenty of public blogs that are actually pretty distasteful. I don’t find Rhiannon’s photo distasteful in the slightest. Also, personally, I find people who teach their kids that nudity is somehow wrong or disgraceful to be doing them a disservice. Some of those kids grow up to have body image issues themselves.

Jack said...

@Todd,

I’m sure she appreciates that.

@GreenRanchingMom,

Brave, and not just for the pic. To open yourself up that was is hard. Believe me.

@Nancy,

“Struggling with body issues is not just for those who are fat. I know women with great bodies that don't like the way they look.”

I’ve dated plenty of women who are just stick thin and still have problems with their bodies. I don’t really get it. But I can sympathize.

Julia said...

Well said, Rhiannon. You are beautiful!

-PP said...

I definitely struggle with this quite a bit. I never really thought about relating it to living more simply, but it makes sense when you think of how the society we live in bombards us with images of women with "perfect" bodies. For me, part of wanting to live more simply is definitely a way for me to dispose of the false notions shoved down our throats throughout our lives.

Moving towards this idea seems like such an easy process for me with the exception of the body image issue. I'm a pretty petite girl (size 3) and would be horrified to be caught in a two piece bathing suit. And if I'm wearing something fitted you better bet I'm sucking in or folding my arms to cover up my belly. I keep telling myself that I'll be comfortable once I tone my stomach. But why do I need to wait for that to happen first?

It's something I am trying to be better about but am not succeeding, but hearing about stories like yours definitely helps. I can't wait for the day I can just "peel off the layers". Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I get Rhi's point that living in voluntary simplicity means releasing both self judgement and fear of judgement from others.
Your ability to discuss this and post a photo speaks to your ability to recognize and confront your own judgement of yourself, and then confront any fears you may have of judgement from others. It sounds like spring cleaning, and judgement got peeled off with the pants. And doesn't saying "I am who I am", without any conditions clauses or pardons, feel so simple, easy, and liberating!? I love it!

Anonymous said...

Clearly I'm in the minority here (at least amongst the commenters), but I couldn't really relate to this post that much. And considering someone posted here who is a size 3, it's not just because I also err on the side of skinny.

One of the things I've been noticing is that most of the comments seem to allude to their self-esteem problems stemming from America's unrealistic standard of beauty. Well, almost every Western country has the same standards, which is underweight women with airbrushed faces.

There's one key word in that -- unrealistic. Why let it bother you if you know it's fake? While I may be skinny, I still don't like things about my body, but I don't let the fashion industry standard affect my opinion -- because the fashion industry isn't about the beauty of HUMANS, it's about the beauty of clothing. The models are just clothes hangers. That's why they all avoid food for coke. Not because they want to be skinnier, but because they want to work. When designers choose models, they don't want them to take away from the clothing. They want a blank canvas. Literally.

I don't understand why this isn't more obvious to more people.

Also, I'm not against nude photography (I've even posed for some now and again), but this one doesn't suit my taste. I prefer less amateur, more art.

Rhiannon said...

@Anonymous #4
I wrote this in regards to my own feelings of insecurity, which in my case, have shown up in the form of a thick waist. Everyone has something. Fat, skinny, happy, sad. And really it's only myself that can judge something as good or bad! Not any society! This is about how I feel I look!

I for one, have never followed the norm. In fact I tend to swim upstream in most ways. (I tandem nursed two babies of different ages at the same time for hell's sake!) I have no time for fashion, magazines or for caring about what anyone else thinks of me. Being a single mom and a full time student consumes most of my time. And yet this happens. And it happens to everyone in some form. Whether or not we are talking about weight or some other form of insecurity of our choosing!

I just stumbled on a new way to see myself. To experience myself. And to realize that no matter what I actually look like in the mirror or feel like under my clothing or feel that others may think of me (when in all actuality I could have no idea what that would be, nor should I even care!) . I'm grateful! Without this amazing body, I wouldn't be here to experience life!

As far as nude photography goes. I am not a professional photographer. And tend to leave that to someone else with the passion for it. I took this photo of myself, by myself, in that moment I realized I'm ME and I'm totally in LOVE with me. No matter what! It was for my own personal remembrance of the moment. But no matter how you photograph it, I am a work of art!

@Anonymous #1
For better or for worse, I enjoy my body. And can see it as a work of beauty. In that way my children can also see it and in turn see themselves. I have no issues with nudity in our home. It's a personal choice here. I find that by being open and honest about ones body, it's forms and it's many functions creates a healthy respect for oneself and ones neighbor. To each his own.


@ Anonymous #2 (Ha, there's lots of you!)
Tits, breasts, bosoms, jugs, what ever you choose to call them, serve as an object of beauty and sexuality and an incredible gift to humankind. By giving nutrition to infants. In my experience, many forget the latter. I enjoy my breasts and am as grateful for them as I am my eyes. They are a part of me and are just as powerful and as important as any other part of my body.

@ Jack
Thanks! It's been very freeing and empowering to just get the words and thoughts out of my head.

@ Everyone else.
Thanks for sharing. Everyone has something unique to share. And I enjoy it all! If I don't agree, it gives me good cause to look inward and ask myself why. Those are some of my most powerful and insightful times.

Hey life! Bring it on!

Helene said...

Hello Anonymous at 8:11, your comment:

..."Also, I'm not against nude photography ... but this one doesn't suit my taste"...

I suspect that Rhiannon's purpose in writing this blog entry got eclipsed by your interest in talking about yourself.

Anonymous said...

Rhiannon,

"I wrote this in regards to my own feelings of insecurity, which in my case, have shown up in the form of a thick waist. Everyone has something. Fat, skinny, happy, sad. And really it's only myself that can judge something as good or bad! Not any society! This is about how I feel I look!"

OK. Got it. But I think you should be aware that my comment is directed toward the entire support group that seems to have been started here re: warped body image. Although your line about "pretties" falls into what I was addressing. That is, if I even understood it correctly... Your writing is honestly a bit unclear. Not sure if that's simply because of the rampant misuse of commas or sentences like this: "My spirits vehicle, will do my every bidding." (Does "spirits" need an apostrophe? Even with one, it still is unclear. Also, there's no need for a comma in this sentence.)

"I for one, have never followed the norm. In fact I tend to swim upstream in most ways. (I tandem nursed two babies of different ages at the same time for hell's sake!)"

That example of *how* you swim up stream tells me that you truly do...

"I have no time for fashion, magazines or for caring about what anyone else thinks of me. Being a single mom and a full time student consumes most of my time. And yet this happens. And it happens to everyone in some form. Whether or not we are talking about weight or some other form of insecurity of our choosing!"

First of all, there's no need to shout. I get it. Insecurities -- everyone has them. So do I. Mine just don't come out in what seems to be a growing cliche among American women -- body image issues. My comment was simply a rational explanation about WHY. I thought it added an interesting perspective to the conversation, however, I should've known commenting something like that among several vocal members of America's growing fat acceptance movement would garner a few unnecessarily defensive responses.

"I just stumbled on a new way to see myself. To experience myself. And to realize that no matter what I actually look like in the mirror or feel like under my clothing or feel that others may think of me (when in all actuality I could have no idea what that would be, nor should I even care!). I'm grateful! Without this amazing body, I wouldn't be here to experience life!"

Good for you. It's great to feel good about yourself, but considering your unnecessarily dramatic and defense response to my simple explanation of the fashion industry, this has a ring of Stuart Smalley to it. Maybe if you put in the hard work necessary to achieve the body you want (and, yes, it is hard work -- something many American women with weight problems seem to "have no time for" while they make up excuses), maybe you won't need to waste time (something you say you lack anyway) and energy trying so hard to defend yourself against anonymous strangers who meant no harm to you in the first place. I thought you didn't care what others thought anyway?

"As far as nude photography goes. I am not a professional photographer. And tend to leave that to someone else with the passion for it. I took this photo of myself, by myself, in that moment I realized I'm ME and I'm totally in LOVE with me. No matter what! It was for my own personal remembrance of the moment. But no matter how you photograph it, I am a work of art!"

If that's how you feel, that's how you feel. It doesn't change my opinion that the photo comes off as a teenager trying too hard to get attention on Facebook.

Helene,

"I suspect that Rhiannon's purpose in writing this blog entry got eclipsed by your interest in talking about yourself."

Your defensiveness is unbecoming. (See my above response.)

Anonymous said...

Rhiannon -

"For better or for worse, I enjoy my body. And can see it as a work of beauty. In that way my children can also see it and in turn see themselves."

I too believe, the body, in all shapes and sizes, is work of beauty, and what we do in our own homes is our business. I'm glad your children are becoming comfortable with nudity and the human form. But now your "work of beauty" is out there on the Internet and to me, that says a lot about you - I wouldn't want to see my mother out there like that, especially if I were a child.

J. (Anonymous #1)

Helene said...

Anonymous at 10:46,
Thanks for the tip! I'll remember to pick up my petticoat next time I have a muddy road to cross.

Kerry said...

Thank you for sharing... you are beautiful.

Rhiannon said...

@Anonymous #4
All is well. I enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for the insight and for being bold enough to say what you think.

@Anonymous #1
To true. And should my children see me in all my glory one day. I'll get the chance to speak to them about that when/if that time comes.

Life is Good.

Ugly White Girls said...

Hubris is a terrible thing

Jack said...

@SF,

"Also, your picture is beautiful, as is your name, so there is nothing inappropriate about it. In fact, it shows just what a strong, confident person you are becoming."

I also don't find anything inappropriate in the photo. I actually was more interested in publishing this post BECAUSE of the photo. It adds a great deal to the post and makes her point quite nicely.

@Anonymous,

"it would have been more profound though minus the tit shot. Your eyes say so much more..."

Matter of opinion, I guess. see my comment to SF Kid above.

@tejas-threads,

No problem. Glad you enjoyed it. I am sure the author appreciates the kind words.

Jack said...

@Julia,

I'm sure she appreciates your sentiments.

@PP,

"For me, part of wanting to live more simply is definitely a way for me to dispose of the false notions shoved down our throats throughout our lives."

That's a very good way to phrase things. It's sort of a way to disentangle oneself from the various societal and cultural expectations that have imprisoned our minds in ways that we aren't even aware of. And it extents beyond just body image issues.

@Anonymnous,

"Your ability to discuss this and post a photo speaks to your ability to recognize and confront your own judgement of yourself, and then confront any fears you may have of judgement from others."

Agreed.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

"The models are just clothes hangers. That's why they all avoid food for coke. Not because they want to be skinnier, but because they want to work. When designers choose models, they don't want them to take away from the clothing. They want a blank canvas. Literally. I don't understand why this isn't more obvious to more people."

Maybe because while you may be right, people have a natural tendency to internalize what a culture considers "ideal." I know that I have. I'm all about that body shape and size and I'm pretty sure that I have no idea how I internalized it.

@Rhiannon,

Thanks for commenting on your post.

@Helene,

"I suspect that Rhiannon's purpose in writing this blog entry got eclipsed by your interest in talking about yourself."

Not sure what this means. If this was an attack on Anon, I guess that's fine. On the other hand, most of the commenters have approached this post by focusing on the core issues through their own experiences.

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

All legitimate and defensible points.

@Anonymous,

"But now your "work of beauty" is out there on the Internet and to me, that says a lot about you - I wouldn't want to see my mother out there like that, especially if I were a child."

See my original comment regarding the detrimental effects of prudishness above.

@Helene,

Ok.

Jack said...

@Kerry,

I am sure she appreciates that.

@Rhiannon,

Well said.

@Ugly White Girls,

I wish there was more context to your comment to be able to respond.