body work

my body SOM

I went on a beach retreat this past weekend. It was good and intriguing and stimulating. I feel really grounded and supported now. I’m not sure if I have new friends yet, but I at least got to swim a little in the Gulf of Mexico and be reunited with an old friend who moved to where we were staying. And, you know, get some spiritual downloads and healing and community. AND, beach time!

I may blog about my experiences later, but this is about my body, my fat body.

Ever since I came down to Florida, I got gwith a car and without a car. And the photos I saw of myself–I didn’t like them. I didn’t recognize myself.

These days, I’m rarely in situations outside of the land of selfies to see my whole body. It was really bewildering to see.

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So that’s me at the labyrinth at the Dali Museum in St. Pete. I loved it in there!

Sidenote: my retreat leader said that first pic with the sun on me is an orb. ” An angel is on your shoulder!” she said. I don’t even remember feeling that.

Anyway, I actually don’t mind the first two pics. It’s the last one. One of my retreat mates took it soon after I had ordered her to go sit with the others so I could take their pictures. It’s not a flattering picture, IMHO, even though I at least look really happy.

So, in this post, here’s what I’m not going  I’m not going pick my body apart. I’m not going to say I need to lose weight. I’m not going to say anything else negative. I’m just trying to semi-publicly wrestle with my self-image. I look like a Ghanaian woman, to be honest. My cousins on my mom’s side are around this size. I’m pretty sure I’m the average size of an American woman.

It’s just been weird to see myself from when I graduated grad school, probably 50 pounds lighter due to poverty and then looking at myself now. It’s good to reacquaint myself with this wider me.

There’s other stuff too–the PCOS acne/bacne. The hirsutism. The bloating. It’s just not things I’m used to, especially not being on the meds I’d take for PCOS.

And there’s that I look so much like my father. I don’t think my father is ugly, though. I think he’s a handsome man. But there’s a bit of an internal war when I see how much I look like him vs. how much I really don’t like him as a person, even though I have compassion for his mental health issues and how hard it was to acculturate into a white supremacist American culture as a doctor. It broke him. I feel that and acknowledge that.

But my body–my seemingly unwieldy body that isn’t that active but isn’t eating too terribly anymore. Even that sentence is very judgmental. It’s a body. It’s mine. It has carried me through so many traumas and triumphs. I’m really grateful that it has brought this far. I only want to be healthy–whatever that means for me. Healthy doesn’t necessarily mean skinnier, either.

At this point, I’d definitely want to be more active and eat more fruits and vegetables. The former is tougher (not enough safe space and it’s hot and rainy out), but the latter is happening. That’s really all I care about.

I’m so grateful for the many voices on Twitter when it comes to true body acceptance, especially for @OK2BeFat. That account has challenged my own perceptions of fatness and where one’s self-worth should be. Our society has made it so easy to judge each other and ourselves based on our bodies, to varying degrees: skin color and tone, gender expression, height, weight, hair texture and length–and on and on it goes.

It’s OK to be fat. And I am fat. 🤷🏾

Sidenote: I have to say–I don’t know how other people see me, though. My weight doesn’t usually correlate to how people perceive how much I weigh. I don’t know if I’ve being treated differently. Obviously, it’s a big issue.

I love the woman walking in the cool labyrinth, looking forward to the journey within. But do I love the woman with her hand on her hip, tossing her head back in laughter after she had a fierce queenly scowl? I do. I want to say “of course I do!” especially since the weight came on during an intense stressful period with very little support. But even if the weight came on during a happy marriage or a pregnancy or a fun-filled vacation…or through no joy or sorrow at all–my weight isn’t who I am. I don’t mean that in a dissociative way, either. I mean that as I am a spiritual being having a human experience. We all are.

Do I want to be less fat? Sure. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m more at peace about it, either way.

It was interesting to go into the Gulf of Mexico yesterday in a two-piece retro-inspired swimsuit. High-waisted with an underwire top. I was thinking about thinking about how I looked. I wasn’t really thinking about it as much as I thought.

As I pulled off my light cotton cover-up, I walked in the powdery white sands with a retreat mate and was greeted by the surprisingly cool aquamarine waters of the Gulf that almost drowned me as a teenager over 20 years ago. I hadn’t been in there since. I had lost my float, though. Or maybe I wasn’t calm enough to float.

But in the water, my size didn’t matter. Out of the water, my size didn’t matter.

I could use my weight as an excuse to not love myself fully, to not find a life partner, or new friends, or anything else that I wanted. I use excuse as a word just for me because this society is fatphobic as fuck. It’s very discriminatory and unflinchingly cruel to fat folks.

We collectively are.

I’m really OK, in my body, right now–even if I don’t feel like it. OK means–valuable, accepted, loved, adored, worthy, all those fucking fabulous superlatives. I do not have to hold my breath and wait for the weight to come off and then all this good will come.

“I’ll start loving myself if–”

“I’ll wait to start that new business because–”

“I won’t fully accept myself until–”

No. There are no conditions for love, for good. I don’t need to fix myself. Good can come right now. I can go seek the good right now.

My body is precious and valuable. And that’s that.

no one/the drift

no one1

No one will take care of me but me…

It’s a steely truth that I have been in slow acceptance of throughout my 30s, and especially during and after grad school.

I keep writing about this time I’ve been in, going on seven months of job insecurity and underemployment. It’s become boring and painful at the same time. Boring because it’s repetitive–even though, I’m so grateful more work has shown up. Painful because I don’t feel any closer to stability than I did on October 1st.

But there has been one hallmark of stability. Two years ago today, I moved into this house. This is the longest I have lived at one spot in Florida. That is worth celebrating. When I first came here, I was hoping for a stable, chill, no drama dwelling. I moved here because I didn’t have a car at the time and I could walk to the job I had.

I didn’t really get any of that.

I have survived an overbearing elderly landlady, a long house sale, an infestation, two stoners, two major water leaks. Currently,  I’m surviving lackadaisical landlords and the roommate who has a disgusting, chronic cough. Noise-canceling headphones have been a saving grace for me and for that old man. Although it seems like this home seems like a step away from hospice or the old folks home, it’s still my home, and two years of residence is something I had to fight for, especially this year.

Back to the past: I had posted on my Patreon for my $10 and above readers an old post from 2012, right before I moved down here. Money concerns were pressing–I wasn’t even sure how I’d make it down here, if I could buy a car. I did and I did, and then I lost things on the way and lost the car. I’ve been bobbing up and down here, nearly drowning so many times…

The reason why I left Chicago, besides that I had been thoroughly chilled from 15 winters, was that my friendships had started to end, mainly though people moving on with their families. I had no real sense of my own family–soul family or otherwise. Chicago is a transient city and I had never planned on staying for so long. I wanted to live in New York City after college–and then 9/11 happened. Chicago wasn’t a bad city to overstay in. Dreams change, die, transform, and are reborn–sometimes.

I let go of all expectations…

I came down here to follow my dreams and was shocked to find that no one really gave shit, either way. There was no welcome party or parade for following my heart–just a lot of heartache. I was the only one who could propel myself towards my goal of becoming a writer. If only I had known it would be cost so much–physically, emotionally, financially–I would have saved up for a few years.

But this continental drift of people away from me is not geographically bound. Grad school was a shameful and excruciating experience–a reintroduction in white supremacy and the underside of humanity (a little dramatic there, but I lived with and still with some really awful people). The tribe I was supposed to find did not exist. I’ve been able to accept that the relational reasons of why I came down here are now not what keeps me here.

I keep me here. My love for the land: the lack of snow, the curious, unique creatures, my own curiosity of the beaches. I came for a cousin and a friend and neither are here now. My safety net was left in Chicago. I never really had one here and I can’t seem to weave one that lasts. I’ve resented it a lot, but resentment is melting into wisdom and a newfound appreciation of my grit.

For now, I keep me here, and that is more than enough.

So. It seems as if I’m in a season of deep solitude, which is hard when you need help to pay you bills. I’m very self-reliant, so the quote above is an internal mantra that I live by. But I’m also very resourceful. It’s strange for me not to find work easily. It’s strange for me to not find a new group of people to belong to–even if I battle waves of existential angst and dread. It’s strange that my elasticity and resiliency has some slack in it; I’m not bouncing back. I feel like a deflated foursquare ball and last week stomped me flat.

Two weeks ago, I had a great job interview that amounted to…nothing except a rather insulting rejection email. I’m only insulted because it came at 7pm last Friday, after I had a conversation with the interviewer who said that he wouldn’t leave me waiting for news.

I had a feeling on Thursday that this job wasn’t mine. I could go back over and over in my mind as to what I did wrong. I was utterly charming. I pwned that interview. I sent a handwritten thank you note, which usually clinches it. I did nothing wrong.

But because I wasn’t feeling it, I needed some spiritual confirmation. I did some divination (oracle cards) that showed me emphatically that it was a no, but I kept asking until I got a yes. Not very wise–it’s a waste of time to do that. I really needed to accept that this was not going to happen.

I was livid to be sitting around all day, like I was waiting for some guy to call, and then getting a “Good afternoon” email. Fuck you, dude. I really wanted to the opportunity to grow, to be stable, to have health insurance again. I hated that connected to this person that I will never see again. I hated wanting anything so much. I hated that this was so out of my control, that this invisible white hand may have, once again, smacked me down. And that “fuck you” maybe should be directed at the Universe?

Friday was the six month anniversary of this underemployment season. I was hoping to end 180 days with a fist pump of victory. I got a punch in the gut that sent me to the floor instead.

It doesn’t piss me off as much now. It’s been said that underneath anger is hurt. So the anger lid has been unscrewed, and now it’s just sad. Disappointment. Fear. Anxiety. Defeat. Dread. When will this end? If I can rely on life being ever-changing, why am I going in this straight line towards my *gulp* destruction? What is going to knock me off of this calamitous trajectory of where everything continues to go tragically wrong?

And usually, I’d turn to Twitter to share my woes, but after going on nine years of sharing, I feel the drift there, too. So I mentioned it in a couple of tweets. One person followed up with me, a tarot reading friend that I’ve known since 2015. It was nice to know that she was rooting for me. I shared in on FB and another friend said she was praying for me–one that has been admittedly too busy to keep in touch.

Maybe the drift is mutual.

The lack of caring doubly hurts, especially since I know that I’ve sown seeds of love in caring in others. Where is my harvest? Where is my return of investment? So many unanswered rhetorical questions…

After consulting at least five different tarot readers about my job outlook, there has been no inclination that I’m doing anything wrong. Things will improve. One day? Will it be in this lifetime?

I believe there’s a couple of things going on.

1) Aging. People my age (I’ll be 40 this year) tend to focus on their families. It makes sense since kids these days have schedules that rival their parents. If adults my age don’t have families of their own, making new friends, let alone sustaining the old ones, becomes harder and harder to do. Competing schedules and priorities are the main culprit. I can’t really throw a tantrum over this anymore. I acquiesce to it, even though I feel so unprepared on how to handle it.

2) We’re not all the same. I think about my brother. He’s gone through emotional hell, but even with his behavioral issues, I still find him to be the most caring person I’ve met. He cares, period. There’s no sense of needing reciprocity or balance. He just cares because that’s who he is. He knows when people needs hugs and gives them away freely. He has an innocence that is worth protecting and fostering.

Because growing up, my intellect was what was praised and even taken for granted, I never thought that my brother and I were cut from the same caring cloth. I thought of myself as hard, cold, steely–very Capricorn traits. My brother is a Cancer with a Capricorn moon, and I have a Cancer moon.

I’ve been accused of being selfish and not a good friend–ironically from people who were selfish and not good friends. So as a Capricorn sun and rising, I work hard to not need anything from anyone. When I do, it feels like there’s a power imbalance. Being vulnerable is awkward, even for a compulsive oversharer like me. If the roles were reversed, where I give care, then I don’t feel the power imbalance. It feels like being a human being, having a human experience.

As weird as it seems to declare it: I care, a lot, and reciprocity of said caring is not necessarily why I was created. We’re not all the same. Most of us really don’t know how to hold space for people who are going through tough times. It’s something has to be learned over time. And one day, I’ll be more than OK with that. But for now, I’m not really OK with it.

And maybe that’s why I’ve been in positions of asking for help so many gotdamn times in my 30s, to the point I’m trying not to associate myself with being extremely needy. Per usual, Capricorns are extremely hard on themselves and self-compassion is very hard to cultivate until you’re forced to.

Well, I’m being forced to.

At the same time, asking for help so often has almost hardened me from the resounding rejection that comes through silence and unmet needs.

Very almost.

After Friday, feeling so angry and upset, and then feeling angry and upset for not having any real resource for help or comfort, I had no choice but to look within.

Although I’m in a severe friends and family drought, I have Spirit and guides and angels. and ancestors, all here, all ready and willing to help me. Even writing this makes me feel really destitute, but I know that the circumstances, whether created by the Universe or by an apathetic world, guided me to stop looking outside of myself for support.

It feels, very pathetically,  like having imaginary friends and it feels like a human failing. All these acquaintances, none of the real intimacy that I’ve had in the past. But if reaching out only leaves my hand empty, then there’s a reason for it.

I love and accept myself.

It’s not because I’m a horrible person, because even horrible people have friends and family. It’s not because I’m not deserving. It’s not because I’m not worthy. It just is–but it is for a reason, a really good reason: that I’m enough. I’ve got enough; I’ve got to love myself through this season in a way that I’ve never had to before.

I realized last week that although I have been through hell and back many times, the difference was having a community who rallied around me. I don’t have one, really, at present. It feels like I have individuals, but not a group.

I know that my perspective can be warped, too. Years ago, before I moved down here, a former friend and I were chatting and he was offering love and support, but it felt like whatever he and his family was offering wasn’t enough. Maybe that’s the biggest reason why we’re now former friends.

Maybe I was a walking black hole of love then, a lot more busted up and raw than I am now. We all have our limits of love, but I know that whatever this is now is not that.

It’s a bit of a mindfuck for me, the drifting away from groups. I’ve had to re-define my self-worth and what I base it on. It’s been rattling me to re-establish who I am without the influence of others. As someone who has been proudly independent, I’ve been slowly realizing how much my identity was formed by the people around me. We all are formed that way, so there’s nothing wrong with it. But I must be somehow imbalanced.

When things go chronically wrong, it’s very easy to keep fighting against the current that is guiding you along in another direction. I’m not sure why my finances are taking so long to become stable, or why this part of the journey is like The Hermit tarot card. I didn’t sign up for the solitary sojourn through loneliness and despair, but here I am, sojourning. I’m still alive, which always feels miraculous because there hasn’t been much to grateful for or to look forward to. It’s been sheer will to stay here on this plane.

And since this has been such a horrendous, disappointing time, I need shelter and protection. Whatever I’m feeling doesn’t need to be broadcast into the void. My feelings are precious. They really do matter, even if no one ever affirms them or sees them or cares for me. Because I’ve been speaking into the wind for so long, at least for now, I’m taking this concrete self-care step of sharing here only.

I hope soon, as I continue to commune in the spiritual world, I don’t consider it to be the consolation prize of isolation. I want to view this as a foundation-building time. Right now, I really resent it, but I’m tired. I want to go with the flow and find the new inner resources that I’ve had at my fingertips all along. I want to be able say that “I’m never alone” and really mean it.

As I make my way through Aries season, I’m learning how to really be self-reliant and self-sufficient. I may not be able to do anything about this social drift, but I can make sure that I access the Source to everything I need, and just keep going–even if I’m in that space beyond hopeless, beyond exhaustion,  beyond the end of myself…