Monday, June 18, 2012

Worth

None of them are me. This isn't even Portland. GOTCHA!!! :)Source


Dave's death has opened up a vein of long-buried hurts for me that I've been gently and not-so-gently forced to deal with in the past year.

The biggest is my negative self-image. I always go big with my neuroses, so this is the kind of low self-esteem that covers every aspect of me. My mind, my body, my heart, all of it has never been good enough for my biggest critic. Myself.

Something switched in my brain, when Dave died, though. Something about seeing myself as if from a distance, accomplishing each task before me that  previously I would have believed impossible. Watching Dave die in front of me and not being able to help. Surviving his memorial and actually taking and receiving love and affection during it. Getting up each day after he died and finding things and people to live for. Going to Camp Widow and writing on this blog.

If someone told me a year ago that I'd be able to survive those events and accomplish those tasks, I'd have said, unequivocally, no possible way.

But there I was, surviving and accomplishing. It couldn't be denied anymore that I had strength and courage.

Add that to the outpouring of love that I received from my community and I had to face facts. There must be some reason for it all. There must be something redeemable about me.

I've spent 36 years convinced there wasn't. Those neural pathways are carved deeply.

So, as life went on and the grieving wasn't always the glaring focus of every waking moment anymore, this self image issue of mine began to rear it's frustrating, energy-wasting head again. For some reason, the brunt of the negative messages I tell myself involve body image.

One night, though, while watching a burlesque show (really up close to the performers), I had a little epiphany that felt a little like a zap to my brain. Those women were confidently shaking their stuff for an audience of strangers.

Whether they were tall and skinny, short and chubby, round, jiggly, muscular, dimply, smooth, pale, tan, big busted, tiny busted, flat, bumpy, junk in the trunk, or no trunk to speak of...it didn't matter.

They each displayed such confidence that the specifics of their bodies and how well they fit in with our society's  definition of beauty just faded away in my mind's eye. What was left to witness was the beauty of bodies themselves, and what they can accomplish. And humor. The brash humor of women too confident to give a shit what anyone thinks.

I left that night thinking that the next chance I had to shed my inhibitions, I would do it. I knew that accepting my body was only part of the process of accepting myself as a whole,  but I felt like it was a big barrier.

So...along comes Portland's Naked Bike Ride.

Each summer, around 10,000 Portlanders get naked (variations of naked, but lots of 100% naked too) and ride their bikes through the city together.

A friend and I decided to do it and last night (I'm writing this on Sunday)...we did! My version of naked was bikini bottoms and pasties, but it felt pretty naked!

After the ride was over (this post would become very long very fast if I described the incredible hour or so of naked cycling that I experienced), and I was dressed again, and at a bar amongst strangers, I felt very different.

 A weight was lifted off of me somehow. The terrible weight of shyness and insecurity.

Sadly, I don't think that it lasted into today.

I'm looking at pictures of me riding with almost nothing on and already starting to pick apart my flaws again, but for last night, I felt like I was more than good enough, and not just physically. I felt brave and confident, and brash. I felt like my burlesque heroines must feel when they get up on stage and say "F*ck feeling shy about my body and my true, naked self! This is me. Take it or leave it. I'm taking it."

It felt good, and it's one little step on the way to feeling that way more often. Okay, maybe it was a big step. A big, naked step.

17 comments:

  1. I never had as negative a view of my body as I do today. My late husband made me feel sexy no matter what weight I was because he was turned on by me. I have been trying to date and all I feel is fat, old and ugly and rejected as a result. I do not know this for sure, but being on match- the candy store of dating, makes you feel that way when you repeatedly get rejected by the men you find attractive- believe me I am not just going for the the most attractive, but for the interesting. I hate it,but at 48 there seems no other real way to meet single men! I admire your courage to do what you did, because our society places way too much importance of female beauty- I just wish more men would see that isn't all there is. I am hopeful that some day I will meet one who gets it!

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    1. I think you will! Every one of us deserves to feel that way. I aim to believe that it'll happen for me again, too. Hang in there and sending you lots of love and hugs.

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  2. This post made me smile!
    Congratulations on such a brave act.
    I understand why you did it (being in this club and all...) but I don't think I would have had your courage. I wish I did.
    To me it is a preview of all the wonderful things your life has in store for you.
    Bless you. I always look forward to your posts.

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    1. It feels wonderful to hear that you look forward to my posts. Thank you.
      And, you have courage you don't even know you have!

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  3. Love it Cassie!
    I think the more courageous we act in our daily life, the more courageous we actually become.
    Fear falls away when we really take it in that "WE" are the only ones who get to decide what we do with our lives. We only have one.
    Facing the fear is part of the journey.
    I bet you are far more critical of your body then anyone else would be.
    You took that healthy body for a semi naked bike ride and felt free. . . perfect!
    For me - I went to a womens festival and danced my ass off and felt so light that whenever I hear a particular song from that weekend - I smile so big remembering that brave step.
    every step keeps us upright and alive.
    So good for you! Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Thank YOU!
      It makes me smile to imagine you dancing at the festival. Good on you!

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  4. Cassie,
    You are Fantabulous!! I just may have to come to Portland for the next ride...they don't do this in my town...damn!! Now it's time for naked swimming in the ocean...you MUST if you have not. Tim and I swam naked as often as possible and I continue the "tradition". It feels wonderful, the fish don't mind naked bodies and it's GREAT for a tan. When you show people your "tan lines" just on your fingers underneath your rings, eyes pop out...such fun!! Thanks for a smile today thinking of you and your beautiful body and soul having a transcendant moment in time!!

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    1. Next summer, Anne Marie! It's a date.
      I skinny-dipped at Camp, right after the heart release! Where were you? ;)

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    2. OK, how did I completely miss the skinny dipping?!!!! TOO funny!!! And a great post, Cassie.
      Hi, Anne Marie. I may have to join you in the next swim!!!
      :)

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  5. I think we go into survival mode when necessary, and we do what we gotta do, sometimes amazing ourselves. There is no one else to do the tasks, so we try; maybe we fail, but the trying gives us strength and empowerment. And maybe we do have to ask for help, and that is ok. Many of my friends say "what can I do to help you?". Well, I'm finally able to call them back, and ask for help.

    I love the naked bike ride! Maybe we could have a widow/widower's contingent! I also follow AnneMarie and swim with the fish. You *ARE* good enough and brave enough to do anything you set your mind to. Keep on going, and keep on writing, for you and for us. Thank you!

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  6. Cassie!! Congrats! You are my hero. When my husband died, so did my self-esteem, as Anon said above my husband made me feel exceptionally attractive regardless of what the mirror indicated. So, I am trying to throw caution into the wind and accomplish something like riding that bike scantily clothed. Good for you for taking that ride for all of us!

    As an aside, it is too bad that men can't look at our inner beauty, I too have been trying to date and have felt the sting of rejection. But I'm staying on the bike and not giving up!

    Thank you Cassie!

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  7. Brave, Cassie!! Each time we do something we once thought we could/would NEVER do, we heal a little more and we believe a lot more that fun and excitement awaits us if we simply dare to look for it and take a chance. Life doesn't wait for us so we need to grab onto it and enjoy the ride.

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  8. What a timely post. I went to a music festival this last week and saw lots and lots of bodies hanging out. And lots of boobies out for the flopping. You know what - none of them were "10's" but nobody cared. I hoped that I would have the courage to do the same, I never did. But I felt like I definitely took some of that confidence home with me. I'm totally impressed that you did it!

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  9. Great Post, shedding inhibitions can help shed many other long held beliefs that you cannot survive! Saw you right after yoru camp dip. Next year, mass CW skinny dip. Congrats! This si why we love Portland and look forward to retiring there. or as close to retiement as a life in social service will provide! LOL

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