In my 5th year of sobriety (2004), I learned to like myself... just as I am. I come from a family of women who are round. "Zaftig" is my favorite word for my body type... 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 though I carry a little extra weight. It has not been easy for me to "love" my body, just as it is. At forty-four years old and five and a half years sober, I think I finally got it. It may have taken a tragic miracle,but at least I got it.
Alcoholics by nature are slow learners. These days and most days in general, I can look at myself naked and at last, smile...or at least laugh.
How did I do it?
Seven years ago I went through a difficult and painful breakup. Not that all break ups are not miserable life changing experiences. But this was HUGE. My once fiance' had suffered a Tramatic Brain Injury (a TBI from here on out) I am using this to give an emotional position to my point. More than anything the TBI in the end, made him a danger to himself and others. I had to take my son and leave. I did not leave the man as much as his condition. It tore deeply and would mend slowly.
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 devoid 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 a child and I was sick. The freezer was on the bottom and the floor was so cold and soothing. I think I liked the little humming buzz of the freezer motor too. Okay, I was an odd child and am now an ever odder adult. I am certain my mother thought I was nuts. Who cares?
Look! 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.
Somewhat 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. We possess in ourselves and for each other, qualities of light and energy. We can be creative,spiritual and emotional guides...muses.
If this is a little "Celestine Prophecy" for you-bare with me.
This man was just 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.
And even worse, how could I even remotely consider standing up and walking around in front of God and everybody el buffo!
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.
(I know,I know...me again with the James Redfield.. argh!)
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-nerving in itself, my heart was pounding and I think I spoke a little mantra right out loud. "You can do this, you will do this."
One sunny day in 2004
In the old days this would have been the time I took a BIG drink of liquid courage...or nine. 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.It was a hot day and beads of sweat glistened between my breasts.
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 more 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 and stood up. I felt the weight of the more than ample flesh on my bones, slip down to gravity's pull. Oh yuck. I was forty four, it did not hang like it used to. But I have a great feature, lots of long hair to soften the lines and create a better visual. 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,
"put your head under the waves. It will clean the bad karma away".
I dove and dove 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 alone. ***
Now, about alone time with God - yes it is available, you just have to go through and survive... no bridge jumping or guns..that demands a different meeting with the "deity". No you have to "live through" something really sh**y to get a meeting.
And so... I did.
She (yes SHE...hey my deity, my gender... thems the rules!)... so madam deity goddess of light and love, looked down saying,"I see you sweet girl,I know you are there and I love you."
I felt like a Water Baby. Cockleshells blooming from my ankles, wrists and the sides of my neck. Like a Water Baby I was empowered by the sea and God (or Goddess divine). So there I was restored,recovered, clean and full of life.
You know every once in awhile you just have to say WTF and go out there, guns blazing.And do something brave and unconventional... for you. Just for you. Just for the Water Baby inside of you longing to be free and clean.
To recover is to take back what was already yours. We all have worth and it is our divine purpose to, like fisherman mend our nets, repair, redress,restore and move the F*** on!
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 it 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.
It isn't just about being naked. I wear a bikini on public beaches and I am 51.The thing is I know I am not 21 and that it is okay.
Just be, who you are where you are. Naked or dressed. And always be brave. You see the trick is,if you feel deep inside "I am worthy"...than that is what people see.
We are all worthy,loved,divine...fear not!
All of us!
So get nekkid and dive baby, dive!
2011...in a bathing suit...but feeling the breeze,just the same!