This article by Marion Woodman in Parabola helps us understand the pattern of addiction that is rampant in our culture. Her analysis helps to explain how we have arrived in this moment. Marion passed away in early July and left her students and her writings as her legacy
For the last number of years, my body has taken on a different shape. I have grown wider and my stomach has rounded into a mound. My already crooked spine has gotten more crooked and places that used to be so flexible are starting to lose that ease I once had. Places that were once angular are now sharp, and places that seemed strong now feel rigid. It has been very easy to feel angry now that I have “more junk in my trunk” as they say. My photos reveal someone I hardly know. When I look at them, I do not like what I see, and I often ask “who is that?” I feel disgust or complete rejection of my own image, but that is my new edge. I have not yet fully accepted who I have become or what I see, but I am beginning to delve deeply into the self-criticism and self-loathing that is showing up.
If my body is my best friend, then how do I befriend this person inhabiting this Body?
How do I name it? What do I call myself? I used to simply go up and down five pounds, now I just keep growing. I love food and eating but it’s more that that; I eat whenever I can as if I am fueling a huge machine. Sometimes I think I am stuffing down the pain of my fears of the future; a world my grandchildren will not be able to live in, my fears of elephants and dolphins disappearing. How can I not be terrified by that?
I am also not moving as much as I did in the past. I am not walking every day because walking hurts my hip and my back. I am not motivated to jump up early in the morning to do my yoga or my stretching. So am I all of a sudden lazy? Or am I in a different rhythm?
I am writing this to you because my assistant Maddie suggested that this is a conversation that tends to be kept private. Few people want to talk about what happens to our Body as we age. Few people are willing to verbalize the ongoing struggle with shame and rejection of the Body.
What happens to us as we find ourselves different form before? How do adjust our expectations and our inner perceptions? How do we continue to be in a healthy Body Dialogue if there is disgust, loathing and anger as our new behaviors?
Now, I can only call on love and compassion; full acceptance. It was not this hard before, but now it is a daily practice. I am starting a loving kindness practice between me and my body. Not a deprivation regime but a strategy of indulging in unconditional love.
Can I challenge myself, not to thirty days of lemon juice and olive oil, but thirty days of loving kindness? Can I use my will in the service of love, not power? Can I invite my animal Body to speak and tell me what she wants and needs? Can I feel the shape that I have become as Janice too?
I release the inner critic when I see a new me!
I write this letter to you because I want to model a new way of thinking of our aging bodies. I am writing to teach a new course of self-correction based on love, acceptance and invitation. I am imagining this new energy as a gift to my body. My guidance tells me that now is the time to release all the phony ways we have been dominated and told what beauty is. Beauty is truly from the eyes of love.
This invitation is for you and me and any others who want to join me.
Try this when you have a voice inside that is filled with shame:
Sense into where you first heard that voice. Is it truly your own? Whose voice is it? Where in your body do you feel the messages of this broken voice?
Then ask your body to show you the opposite of that voice.
For example, if in my mind I hear my mother’s disgust at my family members for having no self-control and gaining weight, I replace it with remembering how I feel when I am swimming as a positive reinforcement for a new behavior. I bathe myself in this more life-giving feeling. After-all, our friendship with our body has very little to do with how we look, and a lot to do with how we feel.
Ask yourself: When do you feel the most at home in your body? When do you feel the most alive? The most energized? The most at peace? How can you make space and time to support these positive feelings?
We hope you will enjoy this poem by Sonya Renee Taylor: The Body is Not an Apology
PBS special Breaking Big with Roxane Gay, a leading voice in the feminist movement