This afternoon (writing Thursday, publishing later) I pose topless. Yvonne, my friend and photographer, will chronicle the experience as we continue the Body Catalog Project. (This is my way to manage the unmanageable. I wrote about it here.) Carrie will film the shoot for a documentary.
Today’s shoot marks my one-month post-thymectomy surgery milestone. Yay!
I feel wobbly and full of butterflies.
Butterflies about the shoot — not because of Yvonne. She put me at ease on our first shoot. I love working with her; she is professional, wise, fun & compassionate. And she gives the BEST hugs.Not because of Carrie. She brings a sense of calm to the process along with years of professional production experience. She also appreciates medical misadventures and body issues. One more safe person.
Why the Butterflies?
Because I’m still figuring out how to move as my body, mind, and soul find their way back into sync.
Because it’s been weeks since I’ve practiced yoga — and my muscles know it and show it. I just started my period. I’ve tried to cancel my monthly subscription, but no luck! So hormones have me sensitive and bloated. And, oh yeah, I’m over fifty. Top that off with feeling like a Woman In Pieces as I wrote here. Yes, butterflies swell to the size of bats that might burst out through my still-healing chest.
Butterflies most of all because I’m still in the trenches of a personal campaign to celebrate and honor my body. As it is. Celebrate and honor my body As It Is. (Yes, I wrote that twice.) This is tough slogging because culturally, a woman’s body is discussed in two broad categories:
- As a morality measure: to be seen/objectified, or not seen/kept secret, approved, shamed, used sexually (and judged), criticized, and always to be fixed.
- As a clinical specimen: to be regulated, examined**, diagnosed, treated, and often to be fixed. **For interesting reading on this idea, read more here.
Without thought I absorbed these views early in life. Someone in my family of origin cemented them with frequent comments about appearances — mine, or any other female — positive or negative. It was always open season for visual critique.
I spent years feeling self-conscious, self-critical, body-hating, fleetingly pretty, or ashamed.
Or I related to my physical self like one more impersonal responsibility — similar to a car that required fuel, cleaning, maintenance, and the occasional major repair.
Body as Home
Somewhere around 40 I began longing for more — a new category, a different kind of relationship with my body. Something beyond moral or clinical. Something holistic, more whole, even holy.
I didn’t recognize the longing at first, and didn’t have a word or phrase for it. But now, as I speak the word H O M E, I know. This is what I’ve been seeking.
My body is my home.” ~ R. Waring-Crane
Yes, you may quote me. 😀
My body plays a vital role in how I show up in the world as me. I see my body — scarred, healing, strong, fragile, bloated, responsive, aging, surprising — as a place of safety, a form of expression, a vehicle of wholeness, the location of my mind and soul, a trusted source of communication — informing me about how I feel as well as expressing who I am to others.
In the process of helping myself come into sync & building my relationship with my body as H O M E, I rely on the natural body-mind connection. Yogis get the body-mind connection. But in case that’s too woo-woo for you, meet Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School. Cuddy argues that Our bodies change our minds. She supports this claim with fascinating findings about the relationship between the body and mind in a TED Talk she gave in 2012. She’s especially interested in power dynamics. Those who feel powerful & empowered — confident, optimistic, apt to think more abstractly — take up space like this:
and like this:
Those who feel powerless — unworthy, helpless, vulnerable — shrink like this:
or like this — me two days after successful thymectomy surgery:
These physical expressions don’t only indicate how powerful or powerless you feel. By choosing how you pose, how you move your body, you can alter your sense of power. (Cuddy proves this by measuring hormone levels — testosterone and cortisol.) The body changes the mind.
I am the Butterfly
For this afternoon’s photo shoot, I’m taking up space. I’m using my body to nurture my mind. Claiming my body, my home, as my own, I tap into my own quiet power. I am the butterfly emerging from my post-surgery cocoon, unfurling my wings. My still-tender scar highlights the midline right over my heart.
As Yvonne’s camera catalogues my body and Carrie’s camera captures both of us, I honor the still-healing, sometime-hurting miracle I call H O M E. I celebrate My Body as My Home. My movements may be grand gestures of celebration, or small, intimate poses of appreciation. All of them nurturing. All of them empowering. All of them ways of saying to myself, Welcome Home.
Do you feel at home in your body? Would you like a small guide or ebook to help you find your way H O M E? Let me know in the comments or by email. I’d love to create something for you!