|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.