Now coming up on my tenth year of sobriety, I am learning to like myself, just as I am. I come from a family of women who are round. Zophtique is my favorite word for it, it is Yiddish for curvy. And so I am. In my family I am considered "skinny". In downtown Santa Barbara, where I live, I am not. My body issues have haunted me since I was a teen. A lot of my drinking was about my inability to accept my body. The reality is I have a great shape and I carry some extra weight. It has not been easy for me to "love" my body, just as it is. At forty-eight years old and nine and a half years sober, I think I am finally getting it. Alcoholics by nature are slow learners. These days, most days, I can look at myself naked and at last, smile.
How did I do it?
A couple of years ago I went through a difficult and painful breakup. Not that all break ups are not miserable life experiences. I am using this to give an emotional position to my point. This break up was with my fiance at the time (he is now my Ex) who had had a traumatic brain injury. More than anything the brain injury made him a danger to himself and others. The break up left me drained. By the end of the relationship and the move out, I was shriveled.
All the "juice" was sucked out of me. I was drained of love, fluid, money, hope
and self esteem. I felt guilty about leaving my man. Devastated about the warlike situation my ex's family had put me and my son through, I was a physical and emotional prune.
Many nights I would end up with my cheek pressed against the cold tile on the bathroom floor asking God for a teacher and somewhere safe to heal. The cold tile soothed me. I used to lay near the fridge in my parents house when I was sick.
The freezer was on the bottom and the floor was so cold and soothing. I am certain my mother thought I was nuts. Knowing where you can find comfort in your life is a great gift for a human. The floor near the freezer is still a healthy option.
Better than a martini.
After the wreckage of the breakup I slowly reconnected with a network of sober friends, sober brothers and sisters.There was a man I had known for awhile. He had an idea for something he thought "would wake me up to myself". People who know me, know I believe in muses. We are all muses to each other in some way.
This man was such a muse for me. He started talking to me about the ancient practice of nude sun bathing. My old skin and my less than firm body prickled at the thought of being naked anywhere. Especially not in bright sun light. I like dim lighting. Smokey amber and red dim light is my favorite.
His words distilled, were like fireflies in the twilight sky. " Let your skin drink in the sunlight and fill the empty well of your spirit". The luminous words were like neon. I knew this was something I had to do.
It was mid-June and warmer than usual. I Googled More Mesa Beach and packed for my journey. I drove up Hollister and took a left on Puente and followed the road. From the dead end I walked the half-mile or so through the open brush. There are two trails that end up in the exact same place. The path that descends to the beach is a steep, twisty, turny kind of a "snake trail". It demands good shoes. At the end of the trail I turned right, as instructed. "Nudists" to the right and the "family beach" to the left.
I found a soft sweet enclave with a leaning palm that acted as a canopy. It would be handy if I quickly needed to hide. My nerves were rattling. I quickly threw down my turquoise stripped beach blanket and laid quickly on it. I had my bathing suit on under a batik sarong. If I panicked I could use the sarong to hide under. I laid flat on my back and removed the sarong.Squirming and wriggling out of the wrap was un-nervibf in itself. In the old days this would have been the time I took a BIG drink of liquid courage. Instead I practiced yogic breathing. Sober and frightened I quickly untied the top of my bikini and slipped it off. A wisp of warm summer air slipped over my body like a veil. My big black hat securing my anonymity.
My exposed chest drank in the sun. It felt heavenly. Free from the pressure of the top, my body longed to be completely free. I am a large woman. Clothes are not always my friends. They pinch, pull, indent my skin and make me aware of my weight. The elastic pressing into the bone and creating bulges. This new feeling of nothing pushing against my skin but the warm sea air was emotionally and spiritual liberating. Like the water babies story, when the small boy free from the worlds grime, feels clean and real. I was free.
As the sun soaked into my skin, the heat created sweat. And so the next part of my journey presented itself. I needed to get into the water. Time to get seriously freaked out. Time to hit the surf. I held my breath hard and stood up. I felt the weight of the more than ample flesh on my bones. I am forty eight, it doesn't hang like it used to. But I have a great feature, lots of long hair to soften my sins. And I used it. I strategically placed it like the Venus De Milo. I walked into the ocean. Waves breaking against my ankles, my thighs, and my hips. I jumped and dove deep under water. It was magic. A spiritual teacher once told me to "put my head under the waves. It will clean the bad karma away".
I dive and dive again. I feel the water over every cell of my skin. The water washes away all the grime and the gristle of the last year. I feel young. Like a child. For a moment I feel like God has found me and is focused on my being completely. She is looking down saying,"I see you sweet girl,I know you are there and I love you."
I feel like a Water Baby. Cockleshells blooming from my ankles, wrists and the sides of my neck. Like a Water Baby I am empowered by the sea and God. Alive, clean and full of life.
I have told several of my female friends about this place and this experience. Cautious yet curious, some will go with me. Some will do as I did and by themselves.
One friend tells me, "Oh God, I used to do that when I was young" and as she giggles.
The light in her eyes tells me she will do it again. And so will I.