“Can we create a space where folks can show up, they can hate their body, not be at peace or at ease and still be welcome? Can the dark parts of people, the self loathing parts of people, the shameful parts of people be welcome and not feel like the price of admission is peace and self love?” ~ Jenn Turner, LMHC, TCTSY-F
on wednesday afternoon, my sister and i buried my little buddy in a hidden spot in rustic canyon park in LA before coming back home to SLO yesterday.
the night he passed i held him in my hands until he took his last breath. seconds before he was gone his presence was so slow, quiet, sweet and receptive i wanted to capture what i knew were his last few moments.
he had lost all mobility in his legs and his body was incredibly weak. i elevated his little head to help ease his breathing and he settled into being loved, caressed and held, as he always has. i tried to film his quiet whisper but right at that moment my family burst into kitchen movement and sound. instead i snapped a photo hoping for the return to silence and then he was gone…
i watched death pass thru his eyes and caught the final exhale as he left his body…
i miss my little buddy. i feel it to my core. i’m at peace with his passing. i miss him incredibly in my living.
i didn’t sleep until three in the morning that night. my heart felt heavy and tired – at some point in the early pre-dawn i tried to snuggle up with my kiddo who was sleeping on the couch in my sister’s living room. he was hurt and angry and wanted nothing to do with touch or me.
my belly feels swollen and unsettled. i feel 10 sizes larger than i am and i sense a phantom goiter-like chin that has taken over my face and completely hidden my clavicles and cheeks. i want to curl up like a hibernating bear in a ball of soft, quiet, thick padded comfort and just let the sad move through me. i want to slow down and be still.
i have no shame that the passing of my rat buddy feels so profound; i know how deep our love runs. i know how blessed i was to be in deep relationship with such a spectacular being. at the same time i am aware of a world that might have empathy, compassion, understanding until i say the word “rat.”
he was our family. he was the tiny furry heart that beat outside my chest.
i’ve noticed over the past few years, sometimes i feed my grief till my body feels over-full and uncomfortable. i’m left with a pervasive sense of shame in my body… or i flip to hyper-exercise mode and practice 3-4 hrs of yoga / movement a day and control or track what i eat and how much i move until i get to a sense of power and emptiness that temporarily brings relief.
in moments of self-care, tenderness and compassion i can curiously enter the watery landscape of my body to explore how grief has touched me and how it wants to move. at other times i can slip into old habits and work my body into a smaller, more chiseled, more “acceptable” size and managed shape. i prioritize attacking the soft, squishy parts of me in favor of a body that has been made harder, leaner, stronger to chase a shape i have never managed to find, to create a body i have never managed to have… it’s exhausting and fueled by control, removal of love and and old habit of self-rejection.
this past year i have come to realize that this lifetime of body dysmorphia and shame have less to do with the size and shape of my body and more to do with stress. when i was very little i learned through relationship that it was ok to reject, abuse, belt, spank, hit and beat my body. one of the ways my behavior was re-directed was thru the removal of love. i unconsciously internalized this lesson and when i feel stressed i historically tended to “beat” my body in some way. when i’m not paying attention, when stress comes, my body is the first place i attack.
i don’t want to do that anymore. as i write this i feel swollen and that old yet familiar sense of being embarrassed of my shape. i can hear a whispery inner voice wanting to tell me that people won’t love me if i am this size. people won’t love me if i am this shape. for the last few days i have fed that voice vegan coconut chocolate ice-cream, salty multi-grain tortilla chips, rich dark chocolate, in-and-out grilled cheese and fries, decadent portions of indian food and a pervasive sense of shame. i’ve gained 4 lbs in the past week. i know that because i got on the scale this morning. i know that because sometimes in moments of grief, i expend time, energy and emotion on my weight, size and shape.
i want to “stop it!” (tracking, not tracking / caring, not caring.)
my default brain wants me to aggressively prioritize exercise, track my steps and hide my body until it’s acceptably “fit”
AND I will not give
i move my body because i love feeling vital, powerful and alive. i will be gentle with the parts of me that want to get big, curl up in a ball, retreat from the world and self-protect. i choose to gently tell my body, “it’s ok. you are just experiencing some stress. i promise not to attack you, beat you, control you, stuff you or love you any less.” i choose to surround myself with people who can offer me the same.
last night a person i love reminded me incredibly compassionately that i can be hard on myself. their softness with me met the place in me that is calling for softness with myself. the mirror they are allowed me to land in that softness.
i refuse to hide any of these parts of me. none of them are less valuable then the other and they aren’t proof of my inadequacy. they are evidence of my humanity.
all of me gets to be with this grief: my fat-girl, my fit-girl, my yogi, my scared little kid, my task-master, my warrior, my visionary, my healer, my critic.
all of me is mourning the loss of the force of love and light that was shaped in the body of a black and white rat named cinder.
maybe i’ll cry about it. maybe i’ll yoga about it. maybe i’ll vegan ice-cream about it. maybe i’ll sit with it. maybe i’ll ask for a hug. probably a combination of all of the above.
it’s a process. i’m a process. i’m holding all my selves as we continue to move thru grief.